Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Who would’ve guessed I’d finally dine at a Daniel Boulud restaurant? And in The Bahamas? (I missed the opportunity when Chef Daniel had a presence in Las Vegas. Shame on me.)
Actually, I’ve dined here before. Back in 2018, it was The Commonwealth, a modern brasserie-style restaurant. I was spellbound all over again by the main dining room's chandelier. It appears like a collection of intricate hanging topiaries, blossoming with delicate capiz flowers. Although the restaurant mostly kept the same aesthetics, I could sense something distinctly different in the ambience.
Walking to my table, I was pleasantly surprised by the background music. A contemporary French songstress was rocking out a modern tune. I didn’t expect that and I was intrigued. I later came to realize it was part of the intended vibe, like an enticing aroma that permeated throughout the elegant venue.
My husband was with me, of course, and we were joined by our good friend, Gregg Skowronski. We were all warmly greeted by restaurant General Manager, Laurent Piedallu. Though the restaurant was never lacking in sophistication, it was non-intimidating. We all felt instantly at ease. Service flowed impeccably from the moment we were seated.
We were offered a bread basket to start, a gesture signaling “welcome to our home." We ditched our low-carb diets and gladly indulged in the fresh-baked bread.
For our dinner, I had pre-arranged for the Five-Course Tasting Menu to get a sampling of their specialties. Chef Daniel Boulud’s thoughtfully created menu is inspired by his well-known culinary muses:
La Tradition (featuring the classics)
La Saison (highlighting seasonal specialties)
Le Voyage (introducing world cuisines),
and of course since we’re in The Bahamas,
Le Mer (showcasing ocean-inspired dishes).
The great thing about arranging this prix fixe menu is that we were spared of decision agony. All we had to do was sit back, relax, and prepare to be blown away.
And so the dinner adventure began, kicking off with a demitasse of soulful gazpacho. The amuse bouche did its job of awakening our palates.
The starter was a Citrus-Cured Hamachi, meticulously plated with a compressed watermelon cube, a fine sliver of guajillo chili pepper, and topped with fennel. The added lemon gel provided a refreshing pop of flavor.
Next came the velvety and vibrant Avocado Vichyssoise. We were each presented with a luxurious bowl already composed with shrimp, dill, and creme fraiche; accented with caviar, avocado, and… to include that element of crunch… some potato crisps.
Right on cue, Executive Chef David Lepage approached our table to personally pour the refreshingly chilled avocado soup into each of our bowls.
We were so honored by Chef David visiting our table. The French-Canadian chef, we discovered, is unpretentious and down-to-earth. He personifies the Cafe Boulud concept of being warm and inviting. Our quick exchange revealed he is originally from Montreal.
“Have you been to Montreal? There is a strong French influence in the food scene there,” he shared. “The chefs are not afraid to innovate and break the rules. It’s fun!”
Then I think they sneakily served us an extra course-- the vegan Agnolotti, beautifully plated with pine nuts, foam puree, and olive. There were supposed to be only five courses for this tasting but being enraptured in the moment, I lost count.
During a break between courses, I got up and wandered through the restaurant to take a few photos. When I came back, the guys were raving about the bread, leaving one last piece for me to try. Apparently, while I stepped away, Chef David returned to our table with a basket of fresh-from-the-oven Gougères.
“You have to try this!” the guys insisted. I took one bite of the savory Gruyère-filled choux pastry and it shot me to heaven. My eyelids fluttered after sinking my teeth into the still warm, flaky cheese puff pastry oozing with goodness.
Our server quickly caught on to our delirious babbling and politely offered, “Would you like some more?”
“YES!” exclaimed my hubby, yielding to more carb-loading.
The following course was the flavorful Scallops Vadouvan with Romanesco (or what I'd call a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid). For those unfamiliar with vadouvan, I looked it up for you. It’s a French-style blend of spices that add a sweet and smoky flavor dimension to dishes.
Did I already mention that our amiable server, Michael Wong, gave us the lowdown on every dish? His product knowledge was superb! He masterfully explained each course with complete detail. When I complimented him, he credited it back to his executive chef.
“That’s Chef David,” he affirmed. “He’s very passionate about his craft.”
The biggest star of the five-course menu is the classic Tournedos Rossini, a traditional French steak dish. A round cut of beef tenderloin is served on a spinach-laden brioche and served with foie gras. On the plate, a swirl of mushroom sauce encircled the hero steak. It was punctuated on the side with a pomme dauphine— a mini mashed potato globe. But what makes this signature dish decadent is the Black Truffle Mushroom Sauce. Those who understand haute cuisine know that not only does it take hours of preparation to develop this sauce; it requires the skills of a serious and experienced chef to perfect it.
Chef David himself came to our table once more, bringing a sauciere with the masterfully prepared sauce. He deftly and lavishly poured the truffle sauce over our entrees to complete the presentation.
I remember him saying, “I’ll just leave this Black Truffle Sauce on the table in case you’d like to add more.” But the extravagant dish was highly satisfying that I didn’t need anything more.
If this is a hint of what I can expect in their upcoming Truffle Dinner event in mid-November, then nothing can stop me from attending. At the Truffle Season Celebration, Chef Daniel Boulud will be joining Chef David in presenting a five-course truffle dinner showcasing Périgord black truffles and Alba white truffles. Yes, with wine pairing. I cannot wait!
Capping the meal was the luxurious dessert of Blueberry Vacherin with elderflower and cassis. It fittingly rounded out the multi-course dinner. The rich and soft cheese blended with the berries was luscious and delectable.
You’d think that was the finale of an ovation-deserving meal. Well, the hits just kept on coming. As the evening’s honoree, I was gifted with a slice of Tarte Citron, an elevated version of lemon meringue pie, brightened up with raspberries. It came stylishly lit with a sole candle and a dainty Happy Birthday chocolate plaque. So delicious and pretty!
As we were winding down (and landing back on earth), we were treated to yet another Chef Daniel Boulud classic for an encore.
“Are those the famous Daniel Boulud mini madeleines?” I asked with bubbling excitement.
A bread basket filled to the brim with a dozen itty-bitty traditional French madeleines was laid before me. Every bite of the buttery and fluffy mini cakes was pure bliss. Chef Daniel Boulud once said, “…this is one of those cookies that just makes everyone happy.”
And happy we were! Extremely. The special dinner, from start to finish, is one for the books. We can proudly say that we grasped what Cafe Boulud is all about. It felt like we just had a traditional yet refined French meal in a hospitable family's lovely home. The dinner experience was authentic, comforting, and most of all, exceptional.
***Continue to next story and learn more about Chef David Lepage.