Thursday, March 20, 2008


March 20

I got an invitation yesterday afternoon for an event this morning. It was to visit David Bouley’s test kitchen and then get a preview of his new restaurant, Bouley, which will open in the building he bought after closing his original Bouley in 1996, sold after September 11, 2001, and then bought again recently (161 Duane St.).
I met David Bouley back in 1996, just as he was getting ready to close his restaurant, in part to travel the world in search of new flavors. I lived in Bangkok at the time, and Bouley was doing a brief guest-chef stint at The Regent hotel there (which is now a Four Seasons). His food was so good it made me want to giggle, and I have been paying attention to him ever since.
The chef was very chipper today, wearing pin-stripe trousers and an elegant sport coat over an open collared, French-cuffed light blue shirt (or possibly violet, but I think light blue). He chatted about the ripening apples that gave the original Bouley its distinctive smell and that will also be placed in the new restaurant’s foyer.
On the floor of the lounge at the moment are beams that were installed in a French château in 1751. They will adorn the lounge’s ceiling once the restaurant opens. The dining room is on the other side of doors from the 1760s. The floor — the parts that aren’t walnut and oak parkade made by craftsmen in Brooklyn, is 18th century Burgundian stone.
(stone, of course, is millions of years old, but I imagine it was hewn in the 18th century).
David Bouley said he would be back in the kitchen for this restaurant, cooking every day, looking at every plate, “like I was in ’96,” he said.
The new restaurant will have about 30 seats fewer than the original, so, somewhere in the 70-80 seat range.
Then Bouley waxed poetic about a wide range of topics, mostly the joy of really excellent ingredients, and how visits to Japan over the past decade have taught him how American restaurants’ own movement toward connection to farms is still very much in its infancy, even though when the first Bouley closed he was working with 2,000 farmers, some of whom could only supply him for about three weeks, when, for example, their peaches were at their best.
Then Bouley changed into his chef jacket and we headed into his test kitchen to snack on things like silken tofu with mushrooms and black truffle (soy bean, mushroom and truffle all taste of the earth, and so go together very well, he said), while he reflected on food in the way that geniuses reflect on things.
The session ended on time — five minutes early, even — which is extraordinary considering how famously uninterested in timing the chef is. His handlers were very interested in timing, however, with one agitated young man muttering in Bouley’s ear about the absolute urgency with which he needed to wrap things up. The chef listened politely and kept talking, but we were eventually politely shooed out anyway.
Bouley’s publicists said the restaurant would open in six to eight weeks. I would suspect it won’t be ready until mid-summer, and who open’s a restaurant in New York in the middle of summer?
So expect a fall opening.

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