Tasting Café Boulud
I am feeling very French these days:
particularly as it pertains to French food. Next week, followsummer flys to France to report on the country’s Fête de la Gastronomie. Overnight to Paris on Air France, arrive for le petit déjeuner and un café and at which point told our final foodie destinations. Just like the Amazing Race! We will then be fanned out across France for five days of eating glorious food, sipping celebrated wine, cooking classes, food challenges and enjoying the passion and hospitality of everything France. Last week, we had the great honour of meeting renowned French Chef Daniel Boulud, in town to helm a hectic re-opening of his signature restaurant Café Boulud and to help Sara and Adam Waxman celebrate the 10th issue of their popular food, lifestyle and photography magazine DINE. FSTravels gave Chef a ‘salut’ and a shake of the hand and engaged in a brief chat about our time in Lyon experiencing the incredible food of this popular region of France. Last Wednesday, a select company of Toronto food and lifestyle bloggers were invited to Taste Café Boulud and followsummer was part of that ravenous group.
Café Boulud shut its doors
In June, Café Boulud closed its doors for a major design and menu retrofit. Reviews and the general word on the street had been positive but frankly they just did not seem to be pulling a loyal crowd. I must admit being disappointed with both of my visits to Café Boulud. The food was beautiful, the service stellar but I never felt entirely comfortable in the room. Those out of date, stark, pop art posters stealing focus from that admirable food and worthy service. The room itself did not live up to the crisp, classic, clean lines made famous by the Four Seasons brand. And the food didn’t seem that French to me either. Fancy foams and risottos? Mon Dieu!
Café Boulud is Reborn
After a whirlwind seven-week, 2 million dollar renovation, Café Boulud is reborn and rejuvenated with a fresh new look and brand new and very French menu. “I think the restaurant called for a friendlier atmosphere,” says Boulud, “We wanted Café Boulud seen as a modern French bistro, in the style of so many of the great cafés of Paris and Lyon.”
The facelift, designed by Martin Brudnizki, (for whom our Gin-based welcoming cocktail was named), offers a totally modern but warm, bright, and colourful French brasserie feel. And in typical French fashion: wide, welcoming banquettes in burnt orange and racing car green, your waiter or Maître D’, sliding your table out and seating you beside chatty restaurant strangers. The walls, decorated with whimsical food-focused prints and with another French nod, Hermès wallpaper, glow with a welcoming warmth. Gone are those unoriginal pop art creations. “We wanted to connect the upstairs and downstairs in style. Downstairs, d|bar offers a very casual menu. Upstairs, it’s elevated but still approachable, friendly — certainly more French and Lyon in its feel.” says Boulud of the design and menu changes.
Café Boulud feels and tastes like the French bistros we have come to love.
And we couldn’t agree more. Except for some odd lighting choices, Café Boulud now feels and tastes like many of the French bistros we have come to love. A boisterous, familiar, engaging room, it’s attendees enjoy some excellent French bistro food, some good wine and each other’s gossipy catching up. Wednesday evening the room was full and jumping as we said ‘à la prochaine’ and our ‘Bravos’ to Chef Boulud and his team for a superb evening.
One need only travel to Yorkville for a little taste of Lyon.
Here is a run down on our fabulous Tasting Café Boulud feast: (‘rotisserie’ being a consistent feature of the newly- imported and headline-stealing Rotisol oven.)
Anchois and Poivrons Rouges (sublime)
Beignets de Calamar: beer battered, pickled hot pepper
Kale Grillé and Romaine: w/ carrots, cumin, black olives, spiced yoghurt
Escargots Persillade: garlic, parsley butter, mushrooms
Charcuterie Board: pork, chicken, goose, duck and rabbit..(supremely executed)
Flétan Grenobloise: Pacific halibut, cauliflower, capers finished with a chicken au jus finish
Homard aux Choux: rotisserie lobster, bok choy, ginger beurre Blanc. (a table favourite)
Quenelle de Brochet: Lyon-style pike quenelle, cognac lobster sauce
Blanquette au Vert: veal stew with herbs and green veg (best of the evening!)
Poulet à la Broche: rotisserie chicken, potatoes green salad (classic, satisfying, French!)
Cavatelli Ricotta: lamb ragu, broccolini, pecorino cheese
Île Flottante: steamed meringue, maple-carmel, creme Anglaise
Rôtisserie Golden Pineapple: rum-baba, raisins, coconut sorbet
Soufflé Grand Marnier: orange creme Anglaise
Profiteroles: vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, candied pecan (speechless!)