Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What to know when eating David Bouley’s food

July 1

“On Thursday, 6/26 at 7:00pm, David and Oz are hosting an informal tasting of some of the dishes they have collaborated on at his test kitchen on West Broadway. ... Please let me know if you can make it.”

That would be mad chef David Bouley and nutritionist Oz Garcia, in Bouley’s test kitchen, which is a grand space in back of his Tribeca offices, complete with cookbook library, multimedia doodads, funky spotlights and other things that might be necessary for photography, and seating for, oh, I don't know, 40.
I was told that the last time Bouley did a tasting people were still there after midnight and was assured that wouldn’t be the case on Thursday.
But here’s the thing about David Bouley, and you just have to remember it if you’re going to enjoy his food: He is completely unaware of the passage of time (or at least he acts that way).
He has been that way for a very long time. I’ve heard stories dating back to his first restaurant, Bouley, which he closed a decade ago, about people sitting in the dining room for hours and hours as their meal progressed at Bouley’s pace.
I completely understand why that's not acceptable to some people. But I’ve been shocked by how good his food is for so long (I first had it in Bangkok, I think in 1996, and it made me want to giggle), that I’m willing to wait for it.
But an “informal tasting” should be a brief affair.
Theoretically, it started at 7, but when I arrived at 7:20 and was brought up stairs, the chef was sitting at his computer (remember, the test kitchen is in back of his offices). We had sat down by 8, and Bouley spoke for awhile about his philosophy about food and how it should be good for you, but must also absolutely be delicious. This, he pointed out, was something the Europeans and Japanese had managed to do for many centuries.
You might think he was talking about food that’s good for you because he and Oz Garcia are doing the food at a resort in Anguilla, but he actually has been talking about it for years. Back in 1999 I interviewed him for a piece Nation’s Restaurant News was doing for our end-of-millennium special, and he talked about trying to get people addicted to food that was good for them instead of food that was bad for them.
Here’s the quote we used from him, which really was kind of prescient: “There will be a joining of hands among growers, people who sell and cook food and people who study its health effects. Cooks … will learn how to treat food so the most nutrition can be absorbed and to pinpoint flavors that only nature can bring in. What are you going to add to improve a perfect peach?”
Below, I’ll list what he served, but also, an update for those waiting for his new restaurant to open: He said it would be another two to three months.
He’s also going to open a Japanese place in New York, featuring mostly cooked food with just a bit of sushi and sashimi, in the next eight or nine months.
But remember what I said about his concept of time.
Speaking of which, I left the test kitchen at around 12:30 a.m., but a number of diners had departed earlier. I walked out with some of Bouley’s cooks, who expressed sadness that guests left early, pointing out that the meal was intended to reach a crescendo at the end.
When I’m being wined and dined, I tend to stick around for as long as possible, but maybe I’m just a shallow hedonist.

What I ate:

Rose Florida shrimp with a julienne of calamari In an ocean herbal broth

Maine day boat lobster, Hawaiian heart of palm, pencil asparagus, royal trumpet mushrooms, miso-yuzu dressing

Chatham cod with a stew of artichokes, honshimeji mushrooms, baby shiitake, fava beans, black truffle dashi

Homemade tofu with ginger dashi

Koji marinated tile fish, fresh yuzu and lime snow crab sauce

Japanese charcoal grilled wild toro, black miso and five assorted Japanese rices

Organic Colorado rack of lamb, zucchini-mint and Langres purées (Langres is a type if cheese)

Coconut soup with pineapple granité, and organic yogurt sorbet

Chocolate soufflé with an azuki bean core, green tea and rose ice creams

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