I think I’m going to stop paying attention to food critics who decide to review a new spot within their first few months of opening. For some strange reason, I decide to listen to them. And what I’ve found is that those initial reviews are normally wrong. You need to let new restaurants work out their kinks before you can have a true experience. Such was the case with Bar Boulud in the Back Bay area of Boston.
My boyfriend Doug surprised me with reservations here for my birthday. The spot is actually located inside of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Upon entering, we first spotted the wine cork walls, which essentially looked like giant wine corks (engraved writing and all), and a giant wall made of bottles of wine. There were copper lights hanging from the ceiling above each table. And Doug’s favorite piece of decor: the vaulted wood ceilings.
But enough about the atmosphere–it was time to eat.
We decided to start with a few appetizers. I had heard that Bar Boulud had its own charcuterie, so I knew we needed to try one of the boards (you can sit at the bar overlooking some of the charcuterie specialities for crying out loud!), and I also opted for the gougères with gruyere cheese. For our main dishes, Doug got the traditional coq au vin, made with red wine braised chicken, bacon lardon, and pearl onions, and I ordered the loup de mer grillé, which was a whole grilled sea bass, with artichoke, fregola sarda, and sauce vierge.
First came the apps: Our charcuterie board was made of chicken pâté, duck leg pâté, lamb terrine with Moroccan spices, the homemade ham, and the ibérian bellota cured ham. Three words: A-MA-ZING. I thought the chicken liver pâté was my favorite, but then I tried the duck pâté and I loved that, and then when I tasted the lamb terrine with moroccan flavors, I fell in love with that. If I haven’t gotten my point across, the charcuterie board was delightful. It came with grainy mustard, horseradish beets, and cumin carrots. Heaven. Then came the gougères, which are essentially cheesy cream puffs (without the cream). Doug had no idea what they were when I ordered them, so the look on his face after one bite basically summed up his feelings: They were a winner. Come on! They were bread and cheese … Doug’s favorites.
Now it was time for the main event. Doug’s coq a vin was rich, comforting, and just what this dish should be. My fish came out whole, which may seem daunting to many, but it really wasn’t at all (and the bones were removed so no need to worry about spending the meal cleaning it out). The skin was still on the fish, and it was the perfect amount of crispy. It was divine–but I could only eat about half! (maybe that’s because I ate almost the entire charcuterie board).
Although I was stuffed, I made an important decision: Since we were at a French bistro and celebrating my birthday, we had to have dessert. Our waiter told us that Daniel Boulud’s favorite dessert (Tarte Basque) was unavailable, so we decided to go with the dark chocolate coupe, made with chocolate panna cotta, bittersweet cookies, and cocoa sorbet. Just look at the picture. Yes, it was as divine as it looks.
All in all, I would definitely return to Bar Boulud. And let this be a lesson for you, too. Never trust someone else’s opinion (unless it is someone who is normally right). You might just be pleasantly surprised.