Last week, we made our second visit to Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Back Bay. A quiet lunch at the bar made us feel right at home. Our bartender was a gem and the newly expanded bar menu made us smile.
Here's the Roasted Cod with Pomme Boulangerie that Penny chose from the "Lunch Menu Bouchon." Curious about the term Bouchon to describe this menu offering: "Two Courses $28 • Additional Course $6," we tracked down the origin of the term.
First, we found a review of Bar Boulud in London that explained that this menu was, "...inspired by the authentic Bouchons of Lyon, Boulud’s home town..."
Next, we found a lovely description of the authentic Bouchons of Lyon in Saveur. (The article is by R.W. Apple, Jr. and is a great piece of food writing. It's worth reading just for the love of good wordsmithing. Thanks to Saveur for keeping this posted.)
"Bouchons are bistros of a sort, but with even more limited menus. Their decor tends to be modest to the point of austerity. Some have paper tablecloths, and some don't change the cutlery between courses—but the food and ambience of any good bouchon will warm the coldest heart. The majority of these establishments are family-run, and most of the chefs are women—the spiritual descendants of Mère Brazier, Mère Fillioux, Tante Paulette, and other female master chefs who contributed so much to the glory of Lyonnais gastronomy earlier this century. Bouchon prices are always reasonable..."
We love having this concept offered in our neighborhood and look forward to seeing what Chef de Cuisine Aaron Chambers will create for this special menu.
Ed's choice was a Pâté Grand-Mère (chicken liver, pork, cognac) to start and the Salade Niçoise (above) for his main. We shared everything so Penny's second course was a Tiramisu Tart for dessert.
Our bartender suggested a French Pinot that was open but not on the by-the-glass menu to match Ed's meal. And, that was a big hit.
Our first visit was opening day for their lunch. We had intended to dine at the bar but were disappointed by the then skimpy bar menu and took a table.
Lamb Burgers are one of Ed's favorite foods. This Boulud Sud Lamb Burger with harissa, grilled eggplant, tzatziki, and a mountain of fries tempted him to try a glass of a truly great Châteauneuf-du-Pape, quite pricey but a rare treat.
Penny put the kitchen to the test by ordering one of her favorite preparations, Lemon Sole Meunière with cauliflower, lemon, capers, marcona almonds, and brown butter. So many places overcook the sole. This offering was perfect in every way.
The crisp crust covered a moist, nearly translucent, fillet that was cooked exactly as she would have wished. The variety of cauliflower types made for a touch of whimsy and an opportunity to test taste for different flavor profiles. (Not much difference, in case you've ever wondered!)
Under the Friandise section of the dessert menu we saw, "Freshly Baked Madeleines." We envisioned a couple of warm Madeleines on a plate. What arrived was a beautiful linen basket of tiny, tempting morsels. Our first bite made us hope that an Épicerie Boulud might be Daniel Boulud's next Boston venture.
Since opening on September 16th, the Bar Boulud team has made some changes that we love. More choices at the bar is important to us and to a few other bar dining lovers over on Chowhound. (You will also find more opinons on the restaurant in this conversation.)
When it's just the two of us, we almost always dine at the bar. This makes menu choices important, especially for those times when one of us is starving and the other, not so much.
On both visits, we had only good things to say about the food. We like the value and portion size of the Bouchon menu. We are already hearing neighbors sing the praises of the area's newest restaurant.
Finally, the all important sound levels are great. You can hear your server and enjoy conversation with your dining companions. That will put this destination high on our list of options.
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Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photography: © 2014 Penny & Ed Cherubino