In this solo dining adventure, Gary finally makes it out to Daniel Boulud’s most accessible restaurant to date, DBGB Kitchen & Bar in the Lower East Side.
On a Thursday afternoon, I had an excellent Restaurant Week lunch at Bar Boulud. It was my first exposure to Daniel Boulud’s food. Needless to say, I wanted more. Fast forward (but not much) to Saturday (two days later – I wasn’t kidding when I said I wasn’t fast forwarding too much) and my buddy JP was down in NYC again. We were trying to coordinate a time and place where we could meet up that night – dinner for him was out of the question since he already had plans but hitting a bar wouldn’t work for me without grabbing a bite first. We had a list we’re working through of places we want to eat at whenever he’s in town but I’d hate to go alone or have it be a place where he wouldn’t want to go after already eating dinner. I could recap how we got to our solution but thanks to the magic of transcribed text messages (thank you, Google Voice!), it’d be easier to just copy and paste.
JP: I might be having dinner with the [in-laws] I am not sure yet.
Me: Then I shall eat at DBGB and you can just watch me;)
JP: I want to go so maybe I can eat light. I just don’t want to make you wait.
Me: I figure we can either do this earlyish (around 8pm) or we do this later when the crowd might subside.
JP: We have dinner at 545 and I am going to eat light then we are good to eat later.
Me: Well, shit, then we should just stroll into DBGB before 8 and pray it’s not a shitshow.
JP: Perfect! It’s a plan.
Me: Cool. You know it’s gonna be a shitshow at DBGB, right? Prepare for EPIC FAIL!
JP: I am ready for it.
Of course, just because we were gung-ho about finally dining at DBGB didn’t mean we’d actually be able to do so in a timely manner and, I don’t know about you, but I only have so much patience to stand around, waiting for a seat (or two, in this case) to free up. Especially when it’s a place where it’s up to you to spot a free seat and snare it before someone else gets to it.
As expected, the place was packed when I showed up. Every seat was taken, both at the tables and at the bar, and there were maybe 20-25 people standing around the edges of the room, waiting patiently (impatiently, really) for seats to open up. At this point, it’s almost a sport, trying to see who can find the first free seat and grab it before the person next to them. Or maybe that’s just the über-competitive part of my personality speaking. Regardless, one has to almost be all-seeing and definitely quick on their feet in anticipation of finding a seat.
Surprisingly, two seats (one bench) at the bar opened up within 20 minutes of my arrival. I was away from the bar at that point so I did the polite thing, waiting a few seconds to see if anyone already standing by the bar wanted to grab the spot first but once I saw no one making a move for it, I moved in, sliding between tables as gracefully as one can. Now seated, it was moments later when JP showed up and we were ready to dine. Since he already had dinner, we decided on two dishes and a side of fries with the understanding I’d likely be doing most of the eating.
To start off our mini-meal, we ordered the Fromage de Tête or, as it’s more commonly known, head cheese. Essentially a meat jelly consisting of chunks of pig head and spices, held together with aspic. As you can tell from the photo above, DBGB goes fairly light on the aspic, choosing instead to let the meat truly shine. Most experiences I’ve had with head cheese have gone the other way – plenty of aspic, not so much with pork chunks. Granted, I’d expect nothing less from a Boulud restaurant but it’s nice to have that expectation confirmed. The flavor was great though, as JP put it, don’t eat it with the bread that comes on the plate because the bread overwhelms the head cheese.
The head cheese was a nice start but what we were really looking forward to was the Boudin Basque, a sausage made from blood and pig’s head (sensing a theme here?). We cut into that sucker and watched as the softer blood gave way to the fork, desperately clinging to the pieces of pig’s head suspended within the blood. Drag the fork all the way down, making sure to get some of the scallion mashed potatoes and you have one of the tastiest bites you’ll ever have – irony, perfectly-seasoned, and luscious. JP put the exclamation point on the dish by proclaiming “blood goooood!”
The two pork dishes and the fries (they were crispy and went great with the mustards on the table) plus our two Brooklyn Backbreakers came out to a little less than $50 which isn’t bad for all you get. Their beer prices are a little on the steep side ($7 for 14 ounces, you do the math) but that’s to be expected at this sort of restaurant. What you pay for the food, though, is well worth it, truly making this the most accessible Daniel Boulud joint to date. Besides, anything that gets people to eat and enjoy blood sausages while doing so in a hip environment has to be a good thing, right?