With curtained windows and a thick wooden door Bouley has one of those exteriors that seems to suggest, "don't come in unless we're expecting you." But don't let the uninviting facade fool you...just make sure you have the right shoes.
J packed a fabulous black suit for our date at Bouley; he just neglected to pack an equally fabulous pair of shoes. When he put his suit on that evening we realized that his lace-up oxfords that were great for walking the streets of Manhattan were not exactly up to par with the suit. He elicited an emergency wardrobe opinion which I willingly provided: ditch the suit, put on your Diesel denim, and you'll be fine. Unfortunately for J, the rest of the crowd at Bouley might not have shared my perspective. He felt uncomfortable all night. I tried to appease him with my report that the bathroom actually had a cheap bottle of Dial on the counter, but my efforts were thwarted once Harvey Keitel sat down a few tables away from us.
The tasting menu at Bouley is $90. We decided to also add the wine pairing, which made it $160 each. Buzzed off a glass of wine from the bar, $160 each didn't seem too bad. Reality did set in when the bill came, but we'd do it all over again.
Bouley is dimly lit for all you romantics, but the low lighting and crimson walls make it hard for those wanting to photograph their meal...which, that evening, was just us. In fact, the server finally came over and mentioned that he'd noticed our camera and since it must be a special occasion, could he take our picture. Mortified, J slid onto the bench with me and we posed like a couple of idiots for Harvey and the entire room to see.
Here are a few highlights from our meal (please excuse the poor lighting):
I started with the Phyllo Crusted Florida Shrimp, Cape Cod Baby Squid, Scuba Dived Sea Scallop and Sweet Maryland Crabmeat in an Ocean Herbal Broth
I was born in the Pacific Northwest and I view seafood as being as important to my existence as water. So this dish was right up my alley. But the piece of squid was so big (and so thick and rubbery) that I simply could not get it to divide in my mouth. J kept telling me to spit it out but being the seafood lover that I am, I refused to part ways with a good piece of squid. After two minutes of chewing--and the aid of a gulp of wine--I finally swallowed it whole. The embarassement had me as red as Bouley's walls. That said, the stew was still phenomenal.
Sashimi Quality Tuna with Shaved Fennel Dressed in Herb Oils and a Spicy Marinade
J loved this dish. The micro greens were spicy, which accentuated the natural spiciness of the tuna. The fennel was subtle yet provided a sweetness to the dish.
Chilled Maine lobster, mango, fresh artichoke and Serrano Ham with a passion fruit and tamarind sauce
Organic Pennsylvania Lamb: Rack Baked in a Black Truffle Crust, Loin Steamed in New England Wild Ramps with Jumbo French White Asparagus
The lamb was cooked perfectly and the white asparagus had a smokiness to it that was unexpected but intriguing.
Let's not forget about dessert:
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé, Vermont Maple Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sorbet. The maple ice cream really took the edge off the rich chocolate. Divine!
I'll be honest and mention that while they graciously comped us a third dessert for reasons unknown (maybe because it was a such a special occasion) we were so caught up in our soufflés that we honestly couldn't tell you what it was! We seem to remember the pastry having an almond flavor to it.
Upon leaving Bouley that night they also provided us with a sweet lemon poundcake to enjoy in the morning. The gesture was touching; a party favor of sorts.
Our budget blown we walked back to our hotel, across the Brooklyn Bridge. Our driver from the night before had promised that a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge would change our perspective, and there was some truth to that. By the time we reached the other side we were no longer stressing over how much coin we'd just dropped at Bouley; instead daydreaming about what we will order on our next visit.