Suited up, I walked with Lynda down Hudson Street through SoHo and into Tribeca to dine at chef David Bouley's restaurant (ahem) Bouley. It was a near thing - a thirty minute walk under threatening skies and thunder; we got a little rained on but found and made it into into the restaurant before the downpour.
The restaurant is nicely appointed under a vaulted ceiling, antique-ish furniture and a fondness for large impressionist paintings and spring colours. We were seated at a table for two, me on a padded chair and Lynda on one end of a lounge which also served as two seats for the adjoining table. There was a little lamp to one side with a sparrow motif, which unfortunately would go out from time to time if the cord was kicked.
I didn't take photos of the venue nor the food; while there was no explicit prohibition, I guessed that the 1% don't embrace the concept and the general air of snootiness prevailed. We slack-jawed yokels hate to be spotted, we'd dressed up to pretend otherwise. There are pics on the website which suffice. The restaurant has been converted from something quite monumental, and extends downstairs for apparently private rooms nearer the washrooms :-)
We decided to go with what the restaurant refreshingly describes as a tasting menu, with matched wines. This disturbed the head waiter a little, because he could not bring us a bottle of wine to drink while we looked at the menu. The wine list wasn't that extravagent in the bottom range, though there were $1000+ wines for those who wanted them.
To start, we were served more than usually fancy sparkling water and two different warm dinner rolls with a silver pot of fresh, sweetened butter. Two amuse-bouches - a small dish of lobster in almond yoghurt and sweet sauce, and a crisp with truffled puree "to open the palate". Success.
The bread waiter then brought around the Normandy butter, saltier and better, and promised to bring the restaurant's 8 choices of in-house bread later.
For the tasting menu one chooses 6 courses from a list of more than a dozen, pacing from appetiser to dessert. I chose:
Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms
Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro, Black Truffle Dressing
Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi
Organic Connecticut Farm Egg
Ibérico Pata Negra Ham, Wild Ramp Broth
Organic Long Island Duck
Organic Golden Nevada Dates
Hudson Valley Hand Milled Polenta, Brook Farm Organic Cherries
Chilled Rhubarb Soup
Santa Barbara Organic Strawberries, Homemade Almond Milk Sorbet
Bergamot, Passion Fruit & Pineapple Soufflé
Pistachio Melting Core, 10 Exotic Flavor Sorbet
Lynda chose four different dishes for courses 1, 3, 4 and 5:
Cape Cod Oysters
Chilled with Kiwi and Hyssop
Chatham Day Boat Lobster
Fresh Morels, Spring Asparagus
Pinot Noir Sauce
Organic Colorado Rack of Lamb “En Cocotte”
Soubise of Cipollini, Zucchini Mint Purée
Tangerine, Clementine, Mandarin Parfait
Chef also sent to the table another amuse-bouche of a slice of turbot over carrot puree with a shaving of "Australian black truffles - the only ones we can get in summer" before the "mains". Bread waiter also sneaked in with his bread cart, and I chose the hazelnut and pistachio bread. Before the two dessert dishes, Chef sneaked in a "White Chocolate Cloud" which looked like a small block of icecream, but melted into nothingness in the mouth.
The sommelier told us little stories about each wine, and why he had chosen that one to be matched to the food. I do not believe he just walked up with whatever was open in the kitchen.
Serving waiter and cutlery waitress worked hard too. The restaurant has plenty of staff and they all had one job to do. Cutlery waitress has a big tray of silver and bone-handled antique cutlery and changed our working tools every few minutes.
Each of the dishes - smallish, in a unique dish or bowl - was exquisite. I got lost in some of the flavours, and the excitement of the meal grew as each course came out. I think the mushrooms and the egg souffle dish were the best, but the dessert souffle was the best too. Oh, and the duck was the best - apart from the petit-fours with the coffee - they were the best.
As we left, the greeting waitress gave Lynda a little bag with a sweet french cake in it for Ron. We walked about 5% of the meal off on the way home, with the skies now clear and all well in the world.