Friday, March 5, 2010

Boulud & Bernstein

I recently spent 24 hours in Palm Beach and was fortunate to have exceptional meals at Cafe Boulud and Michelle Bernstein's.  Obviously, neither chef was in either kitchen at the time but their influence was clearly seen all over the menu and in the execution of the food. 

Our first stop was at Cafe Boulud which is located at the Brazilian Court hotel a couple of block north of Worth Avenue. We stopped by for lunch on a rainy Saturday so we were unable to take advantage of the outside courtyard area.  Prior to opening the menu we did not know that they only served brunch on the weekends.  I was initially disappointed because I didn't come to a Boulud establishment looking for eggs or French toast although I'm sure they would be awesome.  A quick glance of the menu and lunch type offerings allayed my fears.

The brunch features a $28.00 three course meal.  You are provided a few options for each course.  It should be noted that you can order any item a la carte if you are not in the mood for a three course lunch.  The prix fixe is the way to go from a value standpoint.

I started with the country pate which was served with homemade pickles and artisan mustards alongside toasted bread.  The pate had a nice texture and range of flavors.  The bread, pate, and mustard combo was delightful.  I would go back for this dish alone.

My second course choice was not an easy one thanks to the presence of moules frites, Mediterranean grilled quail and roasted monkfish.  The spiced lentils, roasted eggplant and fennel emulsion that accompanied the monkfish sealed the deal for me.  The monkfish was cooked perfectly and every bite was enjoyable.  The lentils were even better and I really liked they way they roasted the eggplant.  I finished my meal with a flowerless chocolate cake with soft caramel and dark chocolate ice cream.  Again, I am not a dessert person and generally only order it on birthdays or as part of a prix fixe.  Anyway, this was a winner.  The cake was really moist and subtlety sweet.

The executive chef is Zach Bell who is a 2010 James Beard award semifinalist for best chef in the South and he deserves a lot of the credit.  I wish I lived closer so I could go back for dinner(s).  Boulud and Bell have a good thing going up there.

Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon

Palm Beach
301 Australian Ave
Palm Beach, FL 33480

The next stop on the Palm Beach food tour had us at Michelle Bernstein's located at the new Omphoy hotel.  The Omphoy is located next door to the Four Seasons and is unique for Palm Beach since it attempts to resemble a South Beach boutique type hotel.  It should be noted that the hotel also houses MB Terrace which offers breakfast and lunch featuring more creations from Chef Michy.

Michelle Bernstein's was packed with a diverse crowd during our visit.  The restaurant itself was larger than I anticipated.  It was on the dark side and had a modern South Beach vibe to it.  It appeared group friendly and perfect for special occasions too. 

The restaurant menu features several of Michy's signature dishes including her beloved croquetas, white gazpacho, crispy sweetbreads, fried chicken and short ribs.  There were several fish and steak options on menu the night we were there including a branzino, dorado and ribeye. None of the entrees were exciting me plus I was having a difficult time narrowing down the starters.  Thus, I opted to create my own tasting menu which excited the waiter. I deferred to him regarding the progression and it was perfect.

The first dish served was seared foie gras which was accompanied by a chocolate mole and dark cherries. Wow.  What more can I say? 

How do you follow that up? With some kick ass crispy sweetbreads, that's how.  This was served with braised fennel, lardons and orange gastrique.  The outsides were perfectly crisp with a nice flavor and the inside melted in your mouth.   Another winner.

The last dish was the pork belly special.  There was no way I was passing on a Michy pork belly special.  This version was prepared BBQ style. The taste reminded me of the spare ribs you get at Chinese restaurants expect we were dealing with amazing pork belly.  It was a dream combination that was executed perfectly.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I sampled Chowmother's meal and it was not even close to being as good as my meal.  In fact, the shrimp lasagnette was borderline inedible and certainly not up to Michy standards.  For starters, it was served in a weird shaped bowl that made it impossible to eat the large noodles, which were the only part worth eating.  There was no goat cheese as promised and the mini shrimp were bathing in some sort of brown sauce that reminded me of hamburger helper.  I'm not sure how this dish made it onto the menu but I highly doubt the version we were served would have made it past Michy if she was in the house.  The burrata starter was off as well most likely due to freshness issues.

It should be noted that the service was great.  After raving to the waiter about my dishes I also mentioned the lasagnette issue.  He thanked me for the feedback and surprisingly removed the item from our bill.  Unnecessary but classy.

I'm not certain who was responsible for my outstanding meal.  I believe Timon Balloo was the initial executive chef but he is garnering rave reviews at Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill now.  I don't know who replaced him but I'm sure he/she were trained by  Chef Michy.

If you ordered any of the three dishes I had you would leave thinking this was one of the best restaurants in Palm Beach.  On the other hand, if you ordered the burrata and shrimp lasagnette, you would leave very disappointed.  

My meal was a home run.

Michelle Bernstein's at The Omphoy on Urbanspoon

2842 S Ocean Blvd
Palm Beach, FL 33480

photos from A Tasteful Pursuit Palm BeachLucien Capehart Photography


Anonymous said...

Zach is without question THE BEST CHEF we have in FLORIDA. (period) other than Kevin at NAOE no one even can hold a knife. let alone a kitchen spoon...forget PR and the hype as we all can BUY were taught very well and we all know who I mean and while he is a very talented chef the top toque SE still has to be awarded to Chef Bell!!!!!

Lobby Lobby Lobby Zack and don't look back....

Anonymous said...

Just had dinner at Bolud. Excellent service, food was good, interesting flavors, but not great. Probably won't go back as drive and price point don't jusify skipping other establisments. 3 star food 5 star service

The Chowfather said...

What did you have?

Anonymous said...

Dined at MB's at the Omphoy last night, my fourth and last visit.
Service was so bad calling it subpar would be a compliment.
Drink orders were taken incorrectly and served to the incorrect diner. (correct drink subsequently delivered) Second round, once again wrong drink delivered.
Appetizer - Tuna Tartare on the menu, Tuna Capriccio served. It totally undressed with stale over toasted bread.
Request for wine menu ignored for the 2nd time. (we gave up after the 3 request)

Three of the four main courses served to the wrong person, the fourth main course (the special for the evening) arrived 5-7 minutes later. The food, Short Ribs, Mayalasian Curried Snapper,and Chopino were excellent. Desert was gratis due to late arrival of the one main course. We ordered 2 deserts for the four of us, requesting plates to share. Also ordered were 4 espressos and a specialty cocktail, a Nutcracker. The deserts arrived in a timely fashion; it took 3 requests to get the two additional plates and silverware necessary to share. The espresso and the cocktail never arrived. Can this spot survive in Palm Beach with service like this? I doubt they'll survive the summer