Boston: Bar Boulud

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman, photos by Lan Dennie



Courtesy of Bar Boulud

boulud Bar Boulud comes with provenance. Boston joins the Manhattan locations of which there are eight, along with Florida, Las Vegas, Washington, London, Singapore, Toronto and Montreal. Boston's location, Boylston Street, follows the lunch trade, travelers and people like us who live for adventure; managed adventure to be sure and nothing like skydiving or river rafting. Because it's in a hotel, you can start your day here at 6:30am and show up for dinner as well. If I were hosting a power breakfast with say, my banker or my agent, I would have it here.

Wine woods

boulud I stopped in the day after they opened but not to eat. I came in to see. I was greeted by an exhausted host who had been at her post for hours, maybe days. I'm not sure what I expected exactly but vaulted ceilings and bars for drinking, meat and schmoozing are well thought out. I was thinking you could talk deals here. We chat, I admire the wine woods. It happens my epicurean friend Lan, also curious, says 'let's go' and we are finally here to eat. Today there is a different host, of course.

It can't be easy living up to hype and the hype around the arrival of Bar Boulud was tremendous. There were invites to the opening, one of which I got. I don't know how they do it in other cities but it seemed extraordinary in its own way and I was, I admit, impressed. It is hard to wait and I wanted to go at once even though I know better. Their PR bill must be enormous.

Windows on Boylston Street are great. At least they are to me. I mean, who might go by? When the weather's good, they're open and anything could happen. Meanwhile, after being seated on a banquette, we change our minds and ask for a table by the windows. Bread is French - they describe themselves as "French-inspired." I amend my earlier comment about this being the place for deals and private conversation. Where we're sitting, I can hear everything from everyone. It's not a bad thing really. Maybe there are tablecloths at dinner and maybe, since it is a bar, it should be loud. We're not talking deals today. Lan's starting with Champalou Vouvray Loire () which I plan to make a part of lunch every day, even at home in the kitchen. I know it would enhance the tuna. I also know I wouldn't get much work done but I wouldn't care.

Shrimp al ajillo

boulud Today's appetizer is shrimp al ajillo sauteed and plated with garlic polenta (). It's Spanish, with barely cooked shrimp and crisp onions all nicely done. Entrees like the spaghetti au citron come in two sizes (, ) of which Lan takes the smaller: Wellfleet clams, lemon fava beans, dandelion greens and bottarga. Botargo is Italian cured fish roe that comes from mullet or tuna. It has the feel of anchovy but it's more subtle.

You want to eat here when you have lots of time. It's leisurely with solicitous service, which is useful since the purist can't decide what to have, and at the same time annoying because we are interrupted: is everything okay, do you want something or 'can I clear,' which I never allow. (Ask my friends what I do when servers go to clear too soon.) So, will it be steak frites with Niman ranch hanger, or the classic burger which won't be the same after they hold the onions and Cheddar? How about wild salmon or risotto or even coq au vin? Too much for midday. At last I decide on brioche de homard façon which is Daniel's lobster roll with horseradish, tarragon and lots and lots of lettuce.

Lobster

boulud I do have something to say about it, Daniel, and here it is: if you steam lobster, add plain mayo and celery and serve it to me, I'm happy. If I'm famished, I might eat the roll. Yes, Boston lettuce looks fabulous but it is after all a lobster roll and I can't get the lettuce or the lobster anywhere near the roll. For , I think it could heap and have some plate company. So I'll give you a mulligan. Skip the fou fou: a toasted roll, butter it if you must, amp with lobster, frites okay, and please . . . nix the spices and lettuce. With all due respect, I feel bad.

That's it, that's all we had. The menu's changed some since our lunch; start with onion soup, smoked trout, escargot and steak tartare. Main courses: risotto, salmon, roast chicken, lamb and steak frites. Sandwiches include hamburgers and a hot dog. If you're on an expense account with time, there are lots of wines by the glass and dessert. By then, it's dinner. Start over or hop the escalator to the shops in the Pru.

As we're leaving, I stop to chat with the host. And it is here that I get my story. She tells me Daniel was here yesterday. Lan and I missed him by a day. She said, 'I turned around and there he was.' Which is, I guess, the way those things seem to go. She added that he went into the kitchen and prepared a seven course tasting menu with chef de cuisine Aaron Chambers and it sounded like the staff lucked into tastes.

Spaghetti au citron

boulud The wine racks are chic and the bar's swank. I like the wall of woods from wine suppliers behind the host stand. Booths are big enough for eight, or ten if you're close friends. Which means you can bring a gang, or your banker or your agent: someone with a deal they plan to lay out with dessert. I don't remember what they have for dessert. If you're not sure what to have, try something with pastry, fruit and dark chocolate. Send me a note and let me know how it is.

Bar Boulud
776 Boylston Street (at Prudential)
Boston, MA 02199
617. 535. 8800

© June 2, 2015 Photos by Lan Dennie. Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. See more of their food adventures at Corporate Edge and on Twitter
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