My spouse and I dined at Café Boulud for lunch on a weekday afternoon in early August 2016. Operating as a hotel restaurant, Café Boulud is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can make a reservation at Café Boulud using the Open Table system or via telephone.
Café Boulud is located on the Upper East Side in the Surrey Hotel at East 76th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue). The street-level restaurant is positioned at
the front of the hotel, with its entrance door located just inside the main hotel entrance doors. The restaurant and its dedicated restrooms are handicap-accessible. You can choose to sit at a regular table towards the center of the room, or at one of the tables lining the perimeter of the room that share a leather banquette. The décor features modern circular chandeliers, neutral walls and carpet, dark wood moldings and chairs, and several mirrors to give the room a more spacious feel. (The space is a bit cramped because it contains so many tables, and every table was occupied on the day that we dined.) If you want to enjoy a drink before your meal, Bar Pleiades is located across the lobby entrance, with seating both indoors and outside on the sidewalk. (Café Boulud does not have a dedicated bar at which you can sit and have a drink.)
French celebrity chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, who is New York City's longest-tenured four-star chef, operates the Café. The restaurant, which opened in 1998, is named after a restaurant near Lyon France that was once owned by Daniel Boulud’s family. The Café Boulud franchise has other locations in Palm Beach Florida (at the Brazilian Court Hotel) and Toronto. In Manhattan, we have eaten at Daniel Boulud’s other restaurants including Daniel, db bistro moderne, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, and DBGB Kitchen and Bar.
Café Boulud serves French cuisine, although the menu features other cuisines as well. For example, on the day that we dined, the menu offered some Colombian dishes on the “Voyage” section. At specific times of the year, a special Restaurant Week menu is available (which actually runs for several weeks, not just one week), and guests can order a 3-course meal for a reasonable price. The restaurant was overflowing with guests on the afternoon that we dined, and many seemed to order the special menu. (A prix-fixe multi-course menu is available when the Restaurant Week menu is not available.) The regular menu a la carte menu is divided into four sections, with each section offering about four choices. The sections are called La Tradition (which feature classic French cuisine), La Saison (seasonal dishes), Le Potager (selections from the farmers market/vegetarian), and Le Voyage (international cuisine). When we paid our bill, we received a postcard that offered us 15% off any other Daniel Boulud restaurant in Manhattan (excluding Daniel) within the next three months. Café Boulud holds one Michelin star, as well as three stars from the New York Times.
The chef presented a risotto ball amuse bouche, which we popped it directly into our mouths, only to find that it was two bites (not one) and that it was too hot to consume (we expected it be delivered at exactly the correct temperature, not that we would have to wait for our bite to cool before eating). We ordered the rabbit porchetta (with huckleberries, mustard, pistachios, and sourdough bread) and cazeuela de mariscos (a sort of Spanish seafood bisque served in a volcanic molcajete placed atop a wicker basket) as our first courses. The porchetta was amazing (we are fans of the terrines and pates at Bar Bolud)! The cazuela was a bit disappointing in that we did not realize that it was a soup, which is our own fault for not asking for a better description (we knew that “mariscos” was seafood, but we did not know that “cazuela” meant “stew”.) As our main courses, we chose the bacon-wrapped halibut (set atop finely diced celery, peppers, and corn, with some tiny clams alongside, and then sauced with a chowder broth) and the chanterelle risotto (with corn, pecorino romano cheese, and tarragon oil). The risotto is available in a smaller portion as an appetizer, and we would recommend the smaller size over the main course portion, which while delicious, was a bit heavy and rich in such a large quantity. The halibut was terrific and beautifully presented with many detailed components – we would love to find a thick fish “steak” like that where we live! We passed on dessert, which had many offerings. We were intrigued by the Colombian cholada on the menu, but when we questioned our (heavily accented) French server, she described it as a “fruit salad”; since dining there and seeing an online photo of the dessert, it is more of a complex shaved-ice fruit granita, which we would have ordered. A roving server offers an extensive bread tray. When your server delivers your check, he also brings some freshly-baked and still-warm madeleine pastries to end your meal – delicious!
We are pleased to have dined at Café Boulud, because it was the completion of eating at all Daniel Boulud restaurants in Manhattan. It was a lovely meal, with good food and fine service.