Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Travel Dish: DBGB Kitchen and Bar

Continuing reports of “The Single Guy and The City” as I blog about my vacation in New York.

Daniel Boulud Brings the Kitchen to You
299 Bowery (at Houston), New York
East Village
PH: 212.933.5300
Lunch Tues.–Sun.; dinner nightly
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

In today’s economy, it just makes sense for restaurateurs to have casual and somewhat affordable dining establishments. Chef Daniel Boulud is the French chef whose fine dining restaurant is among the standards of formal French service. But lately he’s dressed down his establishments, first with Bar Boulud and now with DBGB Kitchen and Bar.

Boulud opened DBGB Kitchen and Bar earlier this year as a cross between a French brasserie and an American Tavern. I decided to check it out on a Friday night, but because of Boulud’s popularity, any project with his name attached to it gets a lot of attention. That meant on a Friday night, I could only get reservations at 5:30 p.m. Even that’s early for me.

When I arrived, DBGB struck a casual but whimsical note with quotes and hand-written notes all over the glass entrance and then along the mirrored walls of the front bar.

The front bar does seem like a tavern, offering a long list of beers along with specialty cocktails. The front area gets filled with the afternoon light, unlike the main dining area that glows in a warm ember like the copper pots that surround the dining room.

As part of the kitchen and bar theme, DBGB is decorated with pots and other cooking vessels of some of the best chefs around the country, many I’m sure who are close personal friends of Boulud. Where I sat, right in front of me was a well-used copper pot from Alice Waters. Just a few pots down was Thomas Keller. A server confirmed that these were actual pots used by these chefs.

For the menu, Boulud has provided a variety of items, from a raw bar to charcuterie. The menu also dedicates a full page to house-made sausages and links. And one of DBGB’s specialties is supposedly Boulud’s burger options, with three specific burgers called the Yankee (Vermont cheese and bacon), the Piggie (BBQ pulled pork), and the Frenchie (confit pork belly).

For my dinner, I started with the cucumber soup ($8) just because it sounded so refreshing for a summer day and it was just that. In a beautiful green base with darker green swirls, the soup also had dill tapioca pearls for an added bit of texture. Cucumber, as you can imagine, doesn’t really have a lot of flavor, so the soup is accentuated with a smoked salmon “grissini,” which is smoked salmon wrapped around a thin bread stick. The saltiness of the salmon added definite flavor to the soup, but I just enjoyed the cooling freshness of the creamy cucumber base.

I also ordered the special appetizer, which was a plate of roasted figs with prosciutto di parma ($13). When I heard my server described the dish, I imagined roasted figs wrapped with prosciutto. Instead, it was just a plate with roasted figs (and a few sliced fresh figs) and some prosciutto slices on the side. The plate looked beautiful when it arrived, but it seemed unusual presenting it in separate parts. Still, I enjoyed the prosciutto, which had a high quality taste.

For my entrée, I ordered the Duck Duo ($20) because I generally order duck whenever I see it on a restaurant’s menu. Boulud designed a dish with duck prepared two ways: duck breast that were seared and duck confit leg that was falling off the bone. The dish was simply but elegantly presented, with the duck breast perfectly tender and slightly pink and the confit with a slight herbal flavor. The only nitpicky comment I had was the forced addition of the green color, this night coming for a sautéed baby bok choy. The vegetable was cooked to the point that it was stringy. I would have been happy with some other green, maybe spinach, because the bok choy really seemed like an after thought.

I was ready to leave happy with a meal that was elegant and satisfying, but I couldn’t resist the dessert menu that listed a Grand Marnier Souffle ($10). At most places soufflés need to be ordered at the start of your meal to ensure that it’s ready by the end of the meal, but DBGB promises that it can come to your table 10 minutes after ordering. It actually arrived in less time, and I thought it looked so beautiful in its airy raised fashion. It came with crème anglaise on the side that I poured into the fluffy center.

While I didn’t really detect any flavor of the Grand Marnier, which granted might be difficult since most alcohol cooks off so you’re just left with sweetness, but the soufflé had enough vanilla flavor and it was enhanced with the crème anglaise. But I loved the texture, which was light and fluffy. It was eggy because, well, that’s what you make soufflés with, but it wasn’t a kind of eggy flavor that was off. Instead it was so on, and such a perfect ending to a wonderful meal complemented by incredible service that continues the French dining tradition of Boulud’s many years of serving New Yorkers.

I can see why this latest restaurant from Boulud is garnering a lot of interest. Its warm vibe and efficient but friendly service makes this a meal worthy of any French meal but without the pretension.

Single guy rating: 4.25 stars (Refined pub fare)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

DBGB Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

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agent713 said...

Oooh this place looks awesome!

I love this line "because I generally order duck whenever I see it on a restaurant’s menu" great rule of thumb :D I love duck too.

Cookie said...

We always order duck whenever it's on the menu too. Our favorite in SF used to be Circolo but they seemed to have changed their menu last time we went and the new duck dish just wasn't good. Your duck looks REALLY good! I love it when restaurants try to use the same ingredients in different ways in the same dish!

Single Guy Ben said...

Agent713, I rarely break that rule of ordering duck when I see it on the menu. Every. Time.

Cookie, yeah, I love when they mix it up and show you multiple preparations. Makes it more interesting.

foodhoe said...

Single guy, that cucumber soup sounded amazing. looks like a wonderful meal. I am enjoying reading about your eating adventures.