An evening at Cafe Boulud

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click to enlarge Pompano, a local favorite - M. Price
M. Price
Pompano, a local favorite

I recently had the opportunity to feast at Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud in Palm Beach, FL. Joined by two of my favorite friends from culinary school, we settled in for a long night of eating and ordered all around the menu. Chef de Cuisine Zachariah Xavier Bell is currently in contention for a James Beard award for the Best Chef in the South. If he wins this year, he’ll be proving once and for all that the third time really is a charm, as he was a finalist with no award in both 2008 and 2009. From what I can tell, he’s certainly a master of his craft.

After a warm greeting, we were seated in a quiet spot outside. Looking over the menu, it is at once overwhelming and exciting. Divided into four sections, it starts with La Tradition, the chef’s venture into classic and country cooking. The pate de campagne was richly smooth and true to what I’d expect from a country-style pate. The delicately smoked salmon was served wrapped up with pickled beets and accented with a deviled quail’s egg. It’s amazing how much flavor was piped into that little guy. The combination of pickled beets and smoked salmon was sublime. Perfectly balancing each other in texture and flavor, it was an excellent way to start the meal.

Moving into the seasonal menu with the wild burgundy escargots, a nod to the modern kitchen is appreciated. Warmly nestled on top of a creamy turnip puree, the escargots, piquillo pepper and asparagus "LOVEPIE" is topped with a carrot foam. Normally, a foam on a classic dish puts me off, but here, the foam is so flavorful and bodied, I greatly appreciated the addition. In the Le Plus Simple menu, I found myself irresistibly devouring the local tomato risotto. The risotto was cooked perfectly (why does Top Chef make this look so hard?) and the olive oil confit heirloom tomatoes were so good that I couldn’t get upset at the bastardization of the confit technique.

In the final section of the main menu, Chef Bell shows off international culinary skills by breaking from French dishes. The tuna tartare Japonais was glimmering in its ruby color and as clean and refreshing as a tartare can get. The shiso leaf and ponzu gel add wonderful dimension to the dish, but the tuna is outstanding on its own. Continuing the journey, the Moroccan spiced black grouper was full of flavor. Unfortunately, the fish spent a little too much time on the heat, however, the other components and overall strength of this plate made it worthwhile as the roasted cauliflower was sublime.

After much debate, we ordered two desserts: orange panna cotta and rhubarb cobbler. Both Philippe and our server decided we needed more than that to finish our meal and sent out the seasonal rhubarb crème brulee, white chocolate citrus terrine, and the warm upside down chocolate soufflé with pistachio ice cream. All of the desserts were thoughtfully and masterfully prepared. The orange panna cotta was silky, flavorful, and with the avocado oil biscuit it was the perfect way to end an exquisite meal. Saving a little bit of room for Pastry Chef Arnaud Chavigny’s final plates was a wise choice. I may even visit again just for a round of desserts!

From start to finish, Café Boulud is a breath of fresh air. Every member of the Café’s staff was knowledgeable, attentive, and professional — a great testament to fine dining.

Cafe Boulud
301 Australian Ave
Palm Beach FL
561-665-6060

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