When Café Boulud opened in July 2003, it brought a new and exciting dimension to Palm Beach dining. Daniel Boulud may not have been spending the winter at an island condo, but the kitchen was in the hands of Zach Bell, one of his longtime protégés. Like its Manhattan namesake, the menu was divided into four distinct parts: La Tradition (classic French and country cooking), La Saison (the rhythm of the seasons), Le Potager (inspired by the farmer’s market) and Le Voyage (world cuisine).
Bell departed toward the end of 2011 and was replaced by Jim Leiken, who had worked in Boulud’s New York restaurants since 2001. Leiken has brought a light and graceful style to the menu, an aura of elegance compatible with the decor and service. Dinner at Café Boulud today is a delightful experience, and no one in Palm Beach is doing it better.
Begin with one of the classics, such as the signature smoked salmon (right)—so light and fluffy you may find yourself reflexively reaching for a bagel—or a trio of roasted red, golden and Chioggia baby beets. An appetizer of ricotta agnolotti ($19) is perfectly cooked al dente and garnished with corn, smoked mozzarella and tomato confit. A Thai version of lobster bisque ($16) is spicy and satisfying, infused with lime, mint, basil and fried ginger; the texture is augmented with rice noodles.
|Café Boulud's lobster salad.|
For a seasonal entrée, a whole Maine lobster ($41) is grilled and shelled, accompanied by wild mushrooms and fava beans and scented with chicken stock and tarragon. Grilled loup de mer, or Mediterranean sea bass, arrives with eggplant baba ghanoush, crushed zucchini and fried artichokes. A dry aged rib-eye steak ($48) is expertly cooked and remarkably tender, topped with savory porcini butter and served with pommes frites cooked in the traditional duck fat.
Desserts stand alone. The seasonal classic Peach Melba ($11) features fresh Georgia peaches, raspberries and a raspberry beer sorbet, sitting atop a whole-wheat cookie stuffed with raspberry jam. The mint chocolate pavé is a dark chocolate terrine oozing chocolate, infused with the flavor of mint and served with a chocolate sorbet. If that’s too rich, try a trio of house-made ice creams: pistachio, chocolate and calisson (also seasonal) that will transport you to Provence. Just when you think you can’t handle another bite, a basket of warm madeleines materializes, dusted with powdered sugar, escorted by a small tray of mignardises.
Compiled by sommelière Mariya Kovacheva, the wine list is a collection of nearly 500 carefully chosen gems, with the bargains clearly marked in the Sixty Under $60 section. You may indulge in a bottle of Domaine Leflaive Montrachet for $2,596, but you can also enjoy a delicious Whispering Angel rosé from Château D’Esclans for $36. An excellent selection of wines by the glass is available as well.
Service is gracious and relaxed, beginning with the greeting at the door and extending throughout the evening. If staffers feel the pressure of maintaining an experience at this level, they don’t show it.
|Café Boulud's famed Madeleines. Get the recipe here.|
As with many other aspects of the restaurant, there are tempting choices in seating. The main dining room is warm and comfortable, decorated in rich autumn tones and framed with modern art. In good weather, though, the lush courtyard is the place to be. In season, especially, you’d be wise to reserve—in more ways than one.
WHERE: 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach, in the Brazilian Court Hotel (561-655-6060, danielnyc.com)
OPEN: Lunch Monday through Friday, noon to 2:30 p.m.; dinner daily, 5:30-10 p.m.; brunch Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
FOOD: French contemporary
ATMOSPHERE: Elegant and comfortable
SERVICE: Relaxed and gracious
DRESS: Resort chic