Once upon a time David Bouley was at the pinnacle of the culinary game. I ate at his flagship back in 1995 and it was as if I had never truly understood the purpose of having a mouth until that day.
Well, since then I have eaten at Danube (RIP) and now Brushstroke and while both restaurants were/are definitely good, neither are even close to what Bouley once was.
Located on the gravesite of Danube, a striking Klimt museum with food, this new swipe at glory comes from the Far East, backed by Japan’s finest culinary school, boasting more Michelin stars than the next ten schools combine. But unfortunately none of that really matters. Because at the end of the day, all one ever cares about is whether or not it gives you a foodgasm.
Well, ecstasy was regrettably not in the cards, although many a dish in our tasting menu was indeed tasty. My favorite was the soup with foie gras. The smoked duck with sweet potato was a close second and the pork belly with peach and walnuts a close third. The custard and lobster soup was also pretty great, but the custard got to be a little much after the lobster ran out. The sashimi would be next for me with the best of it being the sweet shrimp. And then I’d go with the langoustines served with heirloom tomatoes or the skate and rice soup. Granted the latter was a bit too salty to be fair.
After that it was pretty average, mixed with a few flat-out misses for such a price point. The biggest misses being the rock fish entrée, which was so bland they tried to zazz it up with shrimp and mussels and even those couldn’t save it. The other fish option, the drum fish, had its zazz built in and was much, much better.
But the biggest misses of the night were the desserts. We had three and of the lot we didn’t finish a single one. The best was the soy ice cream with pecan, but that’s not saying much, because both green tea desserts weren’t even worthy of star-shaped sticker from one of my daughter’s sticker books, much less one from Michelin.
Service was good, but not flawless. A couple of mistakes here and there, like trying to clear a dish before it was finished. And décor, while nice, simply can’t compare to Danube.
And now for my biggest issue of the meal, the tasting menu itself. It is littered with additions to various courses, but for a hefty fee, and by “hefty” I mean roughly the cost of an entire meal at most other restaurants ($45-75 depending on the addition). So, you wind up feeling like a cheapskate for not adding them, when you are already throwing down some serious coin as is. And of course those dishes are the best sounding options on the menu. But if you opted in for each of them, you would more than double the cost of your dinner. So, make up your mind Brushstoke, either up the cost of your tasting menu and make it better, create a separate more expensive tasting menu that has these options already on it, or lose them altogether.
Back on the plus side, the cucumber and roasted almond gin cocktail is incredible. Refreshing, with a nice twist of dusted almonds on the rim. And the gin they use was so smooth I think it lifted a twenty out of my wallet without me even noticing. No wonder it’s been on the top ten list of Manhattan cocktails three years running. If only everything that followed was at the same level, then we’d be talking five knives instead of three.