Cafe Boulud, Palm Beach

While vacationing in Palm Beach, you might expect to eat club sandwiches by the pool. You might expect to eat haute sushi while shopping the incredibly expensive boutiques on Worth Avenue. You might expect to have cocktails on the beach or appetizers at the beach club.

You probably don’t expect to eat the refined cuisine of Daniel Boulud.

The Brazilian Court is home to the Palm Beach outpost of Cafe Boulud. The trick here is transferring Boulud’s flawless service and precise cuisine to the laid back elegance of Palm Beach. Residents here are wealthy and well-traveled – they know good food. But can this outpost deliver?

The dining room is beautiful – an indoor space overlooking the spacious courtyard. Trees and twinkling lights fill the room, giving the illusion of being outdoors with no bugs and where it never goes above 75 degrees. The space is not stuffy, but be sure to wear at least a polo shirt if you are a gentleman, and ladies would not feel out of place in heels. This is Palm Beach, after all.

As a note, I was here during the Boulud Sud pop-up of the restaurant, where for a month, the menu is comprised of dishes inspired by the fabulous version of the NYC restaurant.

Sundried Tomato and Olive Foccacia

The house baked foccacia is yeasty and soft, studded with juicy tomatoes or pungent olives.

Enjoy it dipped into a plate of olive oil flavored with garlic, rosemary, and red peppers.

Sicilian Sardine Escabeche with Pine Nuts and Raisins

In a word: sensational. These bear absolutely no resemblance to the oily, bony specimens that come in tin cans. These are soft enough to cut with a fork, and the bones are so tiny that they dissolve in the mouth undetected. There is no fishy, iodine-y taste that many sardines have. Instead, these are more like smoked trout – extremely mild, taking on the flavors of the tart lemon and herbal fennel. The raisins provide an unexpected note of sweetness, working with the tart, bright flavors in the marinade, and the pine nuts are a pleasant textural contrast. If you don’t like sardines, try these – you may be a convert.

Rabbit and Foie Gras Ballotine with Chestnut Mostarda and Madeira Gelee, with Sauternes

Woodsy, earthy rabbit and heady, smooth foie gras in a smooth, meaty mosaic encased in buttery pastry. The foie gras and rabbit are such a natural pairing, because while they both taste intensely meaty, one is dark and husky and the other is light in texture and almost electric in taste. Though I didn’t care for the very sweet chestnuts, the slight acid of the madeira jelly worked well with the ballotine. The crowning touch was the Sauternes. Sauternes is a desert wine that is notoriously delicious with foie gras. Sip it after taking a bite of foie gras and the liver takes on different flavors – of raisins, of walnuts, of rich rare steak. This is a classic dish done very well.

Lamb Merguez Sausage with Chickpeas and Couscous

As our waiter said “That’s a lot of sausage!” You aren’t cheated on the portions here – the point isnt’ to get the money out of you, it’s to make sure that you leave having a wonderful experience. The lamb, though a bit grainy and coarsely ground, is bursting with flavor. Smoky with cumin, hot with harrisa, with a finishing note of cool mint, it is Morocco on a plate. It sits on a bed of garlicky, peppery couscous next to lightly curried chickpeas and spinach. This plate is a flavor explosion – it isn’t for people who like plain potatoes and boiled beef. The execution is beautiful, and the flavors really pop.

Chocolate Souffle and Pistachio Ice Cream

All the molten chocolate cakes out there, take note. This is your classy grandmother who shops at Bergdorf’s and still wears heels. LIght, moist, and almost impossibly rich, it disappears the moment it touches your tongue, almost too fast. The pistachio ice cream, nutty and creamy, adds a wonderful temperature contrast. This is classic and almost the perfect dessert.

The madeleines that come with the check really make it a perfect dessert. Lemony and still warm from the oven, I ate 4 of them and would have eaten more if I hadn’t been so very stuffed.

This restaurant is excellent. It isn’t inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. Excellent, unobtrusive service that never once bothered my date and I when we were deep in discussion, yet somehow always made sure the water glasses were full. Flavors that are surprising and excellently executed. And atmosphere that is equal parts romantic, laid back, and elegant. It fits Palm Beach to a “T” and is absolutely a must-visit if you are in the area.

*Disclaimer – The restaurant paid for my meal. I was not required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

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