[REVIEW] Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach (FL) Restaurant Review
Open:Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
-Palm Beach’s Café Boulud is 1 of 14 of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s establishments and 1 of 3 of them with the Café Boulud brand (the other two of which are in NYC and at home in Toronto).
-Located between Palm Beach’s swanky Worth Avenue and the beach within the historic Brazillian Court Hotel, Café Boulud has been busy since it opened in ’03. For the past four years, we’ve made a point of visiting, and we’re always glad we did.
-The restaurant has been honoured with four stars in the Forbes Travel Guide and Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence”.
-Café Boulud may be located in a dainty boutique hotel, but like everything in America, it’s pretty damn big! Upon leaving your car with the valet, the first space you walk through is the sexy rouge coloured lounge area leading the way to the shimmering bar with regal cushioned chaises, elegant coffee tables and couples enjoying cocktails and snacks.
-The main dining room (where we have sat a few times) is more elegant, warm and comfortable. Citrus coloured wall lights illuminate the canary yellow walls, the terra cotta banquettes and the crisp white linens on every table- a homage to the sunshine state.
-Likewise, the stunning Mediterranean courtyard keeps the patio season alive with heating lamps so powerful, I can get by in just a sleeveless dress. If only they could invent them strong enough for Toronto at 30 below.
-The demographic here is fairly broad. This is by no means a “scene” like Café L’Europe on Christmas Eve where a bright red pants suit seemed to be the norm. Nor is it necessarily the kind of spot you want to bring a rowdy bunch of kids. It’s elegant, and the people dining here are well put together, but there’s no need to go to any extreme to dress up. We saw predominantly couples ranging in age from their 30s to maybe even their 90s. There were also a number of larger groups of adults, including a very rowdy 12-top (or so) of middle age men playing Two Truths and a Lie. Things were getting pretty crazy over there.
-Every year we leave Café Boulud in PB with the same main conclusion- my goodness, they’ve got service down to an art. This visit was no different. They must have a very good history keeping system, as they remember our names, and our likes and dislikes from year to year. All of the service staff on board had their own set of simple responsibilities and the result is a well coordinated, very attentive meal. Upon being sat, water was poured by one gentleman, bread and butter was delivered (regularly, if you’d like) by another, and cutlery and plates were replenished so quickly I barely needed to glance at a soiled dish for more than an instant. Drinks came mere moments after ordering, the courses were very comfortably paced, and the whole meal took about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Perfect!
-Our server was not only incredibly well versed and passionate about every food item, wine and cocktail, but he was incredibly friendly and personable, too. Sometimes it’s harder than you think to find both!
-Sommelier Mariya Kovacheva has put together a massive 400 bottle wine list, spanning the globe with a French and American focus. Prices for a bottle range between $39 (2010 Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu from Loire) to $1927 (2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti) and between $8-22 for one of the 18 selections by glass.
-Beer drinkers can choose from a dozen bottles ($4.50-12) from regions including Germany, Holland, Spain, Belgium and Florida.
-For me, it’s all about the cocktails, and what I love about the Café Boulud brand is how their menus are divided by themes. In the case of the cocktails, those are La Tradition (Classic and Country), La Saison (the Rhythm of the Seasons), Le Voyage (Saveurs du Monde), and Le Plus Simple (Simply Prepared).
Hecho de Mexico ($15)
Illegal Mezcal, Caramelized Pineapple, Lime, Brown Sugar Syrup, Cayenne Salt Rim
Sirene Noire ($14)
Whisky Rye, Fresh Berries, Basil, Lime, Whisky Barrel Bitters
We both started with the Hecho de Mexico which we had a hard time moving from. It packed a serious kick of tequila, but the heat of the chili on the rim, the acidity of the lime and the sweet caramelized pineapple helped it go down smooth. It would be too easy to knock these down. Likewise, the Sirene Noire was incredibly well balanced, with just enough refreshing sweetness, acid and herb flavour. My partner moved onto an easy drinking a Francois Carellon Chardonnay from Burgundy ($15), and later, his favourite, a Sauternes.
-Like the cocktails, Café Boulud organizes its food menu by one of four themes: La Tradition (in the Spirit of Classic French Cuisine), La Saisons (The Rhythm of the Seasons), Le Potager (Inspired by the Farmers Market) and Le Voyage (World Cuisine). Each section features 2 apps, 2-3 mains, up to 2 side dishes and 2 desserts, ensuring there’s something for everyone’s palate.
-They also offer a number of Market Specials each day like oysters, caviar and truffle add-ons, and a $45 3-course pre-fixe running from Sunday-Thursday.
-While we thought the pre-fixe was an obvious steal, there were too many temping regular menu items to pass up, so we ordered a la carte.
Burgundy Escargots ($18)
Baby Artichokes a la Gratinee, Crispy Rillons, Fine Herb Garlic Coulis
Perfectly cooked supple snails and tender sweet artichoke hearts were complimented by a punch of bold garlic flavour and crunchy croutons. I’ve had a lot of mediocre escargots dishes, but this was pretty solid.
Tagliatelle con Funghi ($17)
Chanterelle Ragout, Soft Poached Egg, Pecorino Pepato
I had been craving a comforting bowl of pasta for days and this really hit the spot. The tagliatelle was cooked a satisfying al dente and the combination of the chewy mushrooms the luscious egg yolk and the salty pecorino made for a savoury umami delight. This dish is also available in main course size, but I found this little bowl of carby goodness just enough.
Grilled Loup de Mer ($36)
Potato Confit, Grilled Romaine, Chanterelles, Brown Butter Lettuce Cream
A beautiful cooked piece of fish that was divine when swooped through the nutty vegetal lettuce cream. I also loved the little “tater tot” like potato puffs on the plate.
Seared Pekin’ Duck Breast ($43)
Red Wine Braised Cabbage, Serviettenknodle, Honeycrisp Apple Celery Salad
Having had eaten a lot of duck with braised cabbage this winter (I guess it is a pretty common pairing), I would say this was one of the most successful preparations. The duck was remarkably tender and well seasoned and had a perfectly rendered crispy skin. Unlike many versions I’ve tasted, the braised cabbage here was perfection- just enough acid to cut the richness of the duck without overwhelming the palate. I also loved the serviettenkodle. which was a bit like a rich moist stuffing. My only criticism would be that I found the apple celery salad a little bit odd and undone. It was awkward to eat such large chunks of raw apple, even though they did provide a necessary level of crunch.
Artichokes a la Romana ($9)
The sweet chokes were deliciously tender inside to juxtapose the delicately breaded and crispy surface. A truly addictive snack.
Nutella Candy Bar ($12)
Caramel Cremeux, Coffee Gelato
This came recommended by our server, and we were very happy it did. The candy bar was densely packed with layers of alternating textures, which while rich, were oh so easy to eat.
Pear Gateaux ($12)
Poached Pears, Chestnut Chantilly, Poivre Williams Sorbet
A stunning fruit based cake with an elegant spiced flavour and moist texture. I particularly loved the bright fruit flavour of the sorbet against the rich chestnut cream.
A lovely gesture from our server and the kitchen- my favourites of course were the jam-filled macaron and the angelic homemade marshmallow.
Boulud’s Classic Madeleines
Served warm, with just a hint of lemon- always a nice way to end a meal.
-For 3 cocktails, 2 glasses of wine, 1 glass of dessert wine, 1 cappuccino, 2 apps, 2 mains and 2 desserts, the bill came to about $290 including tax and tip. In Palm Beach, this is fairly standard, but I stand by that it’s one of the best spots for the price.
-We have yet to be disappointed by a meal at Palm Beach’s Café Boulud- from the attentive and personable service, to the comfortable atmosphere and outdoor dining, to the creative cocktails, and of course, the reliably delicious food. I am all for trying new things when dining out, but Café Boulud is one of the only restaurants on my must-go list every time I’m in town.