After a wonderful Friday with new friends and stellar dining Saturday would be another day of food and friends plus a meeting in the morning and hockey in the evening – still plenty of time for three good meals. With the day beginning in New Hyde Park and progressing to my midtown meeting, Tribeca lunch, and Forest Hills dinner before ending in Uniondale the agenda was certainly aggressive, but entirely doable with a map and a little planning.
Waking early for a long jog and then hopping the LIRR to Penn by 7:00 a quick walk would place me at my first destination, DB Bistro Moderne, just after 8:00. Too early for brunch but with eyes set squarely on one (or three) particular menu items I’ll note here that my menu was pre-ordered by special request and as such from the moment I arrived until the moment I left the service was beyond reproach. With the city (and restaurant) quiet at such an early hour on the weekendI was greeted promptly and seated by one of the two server/hostess/bussers and with coffee (La Colombe) filled and remaining filled throughout the meal the experience was underway without me even having to look at a menu.
Sipping my coffee while reading a complimentary copy of the New York Times and listening to soft French-pop overhead the entire feel of the room was decidedly haute-New York – elegant without being “fancy” and warm yet also stylish and modern. With affluent Italians occupying a pair of tables next to me and conversing exclusively in their native tongues I made small talk with my server who noted the 1970s Kings jersey sitting at my side and shortly thereafter I was informed it would be “no time” before my first course would arrive.
With the clock just shy of 8:20am and Boulud branded napkins and tableware awaiting my first course would indeed arrive from the kitchen quite quickly – a basket of three warm viennoiseries by Eric le coq, L’Echire butter direct from France, and two jams – rhubarb and raspberry by the famous “jam fairy” Christine Ferber. With the butter croissant better than any I’ve had in Manhattan I can honestly say that it alone with the butter and delectable confitures would have been enough to justify the $6 price tag, but as an added bonus there was also a pain au chocolat stuffed full of Valrhona Manjari chocolate and a second croissant layered with strawberry jam and almond paste. With each bite as good as the last if I had to utter a single complaint it would honestly be that the pastries were so good I could not find a place to use up all the lovely butter without feeling guilty.
Noting my early meeting and clearly well prepared to have me in and out by 9:00am, my second course was special requested from the brunch menu and would arrive warm with cheese still bubbling. Titled “Le Menage a Trois” – a taste of all three of db Bistro Moderne’s Croques Monsieurs and featuring Croque Classique, Croque Provencal, and Croque Moderne along with a salad of mixed greens topped with a zesty vinaigrette this was the sort of breakfast worth going out of your way for. With each half sandwich using toasted double buttered brioche and creamy Mornay, the Classique would be the most traditional – a savory ham, Swiss, and Bibb Lettuce composition that rivaled any I’d ever had. More interesting but less successful, the vegetarian friendly Provencal would match a stunning heirloom tomato with fresh basil, mozzarella, and mesclun – the bitter greens proving an excellend balance to the sweet tomato. The final sandwich – the piece de resistance if you will, would be the Moderne with supple and fatty duck confit topped with sharp goat cheese, fig compote, and spicy arugula – sweet, savory, fatty, and covered with Mornay…I’m pretty sure not even making the monsieur a madame could have improved it.
With the time nearing 8:50 and the check delivered along with a to-go cup full of coffee I thanked my servers and made my way to the street where a quick walk would lead me to the Hilton by 9:10 – a full twenty minutes early. A lovely setting, great service, fantastic food, and a kitchen willing to accommodate the diner’s whim – after a great visit to Daniel in early 2010 and this visit to DB in 2011 there is little doubt that the rest of Chef Boulud’s empire will find their way onto my itinerary during subsequent visits to the Big Apple.