If you work in or near Tribeca, please don’t read this post. If you do, and you gain a ton of weight as a result, then don’t say I didn’t warn you.
To get an idea of how good the food is here, just imagine actually eating at Bouley, the restaurant, but instead of having waiters serve you, you get it yourself. To call it a buffet, however, would call to mind– very inaccurately– memories of, say, Ponderosa. I mean, this place has duck à l’orange and the most decadent croques monsieurs of your life, for pete’s sake! You get to take your spoils into a fancy-pants dining room. Sure, the plush seating is somewhat stained and grotty, but what do you expect? I just like the fact that they trust the public to keep the mess in check. Plus, they’ve got real silverware and washable plastic water cups all ready for you, so yay for the environment. They’re only open until 8:30pm, and they’re not open on Saturdays, which makes me wonder if they’re worried people will decide to save some major dough and come here instead of Bouley. It’s really that good.
I could actually feel my head spinning at all the dessert options. With baked goods everywhere I looked and almost every conceivable French pastry and bread on offer, I was in pure heaven! I forced myself to buckle-down and choose three dainties, for $5.25 each. The Pear Tart is described as “pear sautéed w/ honey, vanilla, & a hint of saffron atop a hazelnut cream.” It was the teensiest bit dry, but excellent overall. I didn’t get the saffron, but I got a nice pure pear flavor over a tasty, sweet pastry shell. The Montebello ($5.25) is “pistachio creme dacquoise, crispy pistachio praline, pistachio mousseline, & fresh raspberries.” This was the most interesting of the bunch, probably because ice cream is the only pistachio dessert I’m used to. It had so many layers of that rich, nutty flavor, and they were nicely offset by the tartness of the raspberries. Last was the Jivara, a “milk chocolate brownie with pecans, milk chocolate chantilly, & vanilla crème brulée.” I just can’t resist round chocolate bomb-looking things like this. They are almost always as delicious as they look. And when I reached the crème brulée layer of this one, it was aaaalmost too much, but not quite. I closed my eyes in reverence. Major points go to this place for making interesting French pastries like these. Milles feuilles and opéras are fine and all, but it’s nice to try something different. On a later visit, I tried something I’ve heard of, but never seen before– a canelé, which is basically a little cylindrical sweet bread that has a caramelized crust with a custardy middle. I found the outside to be just a bit too caramelized (bordering on burnt)-tasting, but again, kudos for even having the thing, and I’m sure my smokey-caramel-lovin’ brethren will enjoy it.
I called to find out who the pastry chef is, and it’s apparently a (French and/or Swedish?) guy named Bjoern Boettcher. The person on the phone didn’t want to give me any more info, and a quick Googling of him produced nothing, so here’s my shoutout to you on the interwebs, Chef Boettcher! Your pastries make me happy to be alive, and I’ll be chez vous soon…Bouley Bakery / Café 120 West Broadway New York, NY 10013 212-219-1011 http://www.davidbouley.com/