I have fond memories of my first dining experience at a restaurant by world-acclaimed, award-decorated chef Daniel Boulud.
It was late 2009, merely a couple months after Tiny Urban Kitchen was christened. I was a young food blogger, excited to be visiting New York City for all of its incredible sights, sounds, and (of course), phenomenal food.
Chef Boulud's flagship 3-Michelin starred* restaurant in New York, Daniel, turned out to be one of the most memorable birthday meals I had ever had up to that point. Everything was perfect - our elevated table overlooking the gorgeous dining space, the friendly servers, the exquisite food, and the overall timing of the entire evening. I remember leaving the restaurant feeling completely satisfied and happy on every single front.
I have since become a fan of Daniel Boulud's restaurants, visiting his more casual (now closed) DB Brasserie in the Wynn at Las Vegas and Boulud Sud in New York City.
It took awhile, but finally in 2014, Daniel Boulud decided to open his first restaurant in Boston, Bar Boulud, inside the Mandarin Oriental right in the heart of Back Bay. About a year later, Bryan and I finally managed to stop by for dinner one night when we were in the neighborhood.
The menu consists of dishes that are mainly French at the core, influenced by New England ingredients. There are small snacks you can get (like olives, gougeres, or crispy pork snacks) that cost between $6 - $11. Appetizers range from $13 to $18, and entrees range from $25 to $40. You can also get more casual entrees like burgers or sandwiches ($17-$19). If you want to do a prix fixe, a two-course costs $36, with each additional course costing $6.
The wine selection is very good, with a special emphasis on wines from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, Chef Boulud's favorite wine regions. There are also lots of new world wines, from the United States, Austria, and Germany.
The menu has a huge separate section set aside for charcuterie. We were extremely impressed with the charcuterie plate. The various house cured meats had complex flavors and were filled with interesting elements inside, like nuts for example.
The most unusual slice we ordered had a pastry-like shell on the outside and was filled with veal and foie gras on the inside.
The bread, which comes from A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem, MA, was very good.
Bryan's Mediterranean appetizer consisted of shrimp tossed with roasted tomatoes, beans, and garlic chips. The texture of the shrimp was perfect - it was firm, juicy, and it "popped" when you bit into it. The beans had excellent, al dente texture, and overall the dish had really nice flavors.
I had ordered a Spaghetti with Bottarga. Unfortunately, the dish was unbearably too salty. I tried to eat it, but couldn't and Bryan encouraged me to send it back. They came back and acknowledged that the dish was too salty because the water in which the pasta was being cooked had gotten saltier and saltier over time. They now had to reboil an entire new pot, so they apologetically told me it would take awhole before they could bring me a new dish.
When the new dish came, I noticed they left off the bottarga, which is a salty fish roe that's such an integral part of the dish. I think they left it off because they thought I was overly sensitive to salt. I asked them to bring me the dish with the bottarga. Unfortunately, even with the bottarga, the dish was undersalted. I think they assumed after the first time that I was super sensitive to salt and over compensated a bit.
They were nice enough to take the dish off the bill for us and also offered us desserts on the house. Their gesture made me feel much better leaving the restaurant after the disappointing course.
The pork entree, which consists of both pork loin and belly, was delicious. The meat was tender, and the jus was very flavorful. We also enjoyed the nice assortment of seasonal vegetables, like yellow and green beans, pea shoots, and peppers.
We ordered one lovely green side dish, a "creamed" spinach that consisted of cooked spinach tossed in a blended spinach sauce. The dish was a bit buttery, and reminded me of creamed spinach but without the actual cream flavor. The fried shallots added a nice crunch and pop of flavor.
For dessert, we tried one of Daniel Boulud's signature cakes, Gateau Basque, traditional Basque custard cake consisting of a buttery, double-shelled pastry crust with a rich vanilla pastry cream inside. It is accompanied with brandied cherries and vanilla anglaise. Accordingly to pastry chef Robert Differ, this particular dessert is very "near and dear" to Boulud's heart and is the restaurant's most popular dessert. It was definitely my favorite dessert of the evening.
We also tried a chocolate mousse topped with chocolate sauce (and gold!). It was fine, but not as special as the Bateau Basque.
All in all, we had a pleasant meal at Bar Boulud Boston. The food was a bit inconsistent, but there were definitely moments that shined. I think the restaurant's strengths are definitely in its charcuterie program, wine selection, and certain desserts, like the gateau Basque. If I were in the area again, I would be inclined to sit at the bar, get a nice glass of French wine, and enjoy it with a fancy charcuterie plate. I truly think that's the best way to enjoy this restaurant.
Bar Boulud Boston
At Mandarin Oriental Boston
776 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199
*The restaurant had three Michelin stars until 2015, where it dropped down to only having two stars.