DBGB Kitchen & Bar is the latest brainchild of one of New York’s most beloved chefs, Daniel Boulud. Tucked in an ultra modern building on the Bowery just off Houston, one is reminded of the areas not so distant pass as the center for industrial restaurant supply.
The front is so plain, in fact, that one would walk right past this place if not specifically looking for it. Without the DBGB logo on one narrow pane, you might think the place was still under construction, unless you stopped and looked at what was actually all over the windows …. Daniel Boulud’s favorite culinary quotes. They line the walls of the bar area as well.
Once inside there is a ramp, continuing the very industrial feel of the exterior, which leads to the host podium and into the bar area. The bar area has rows and rows of small (and I mean small) tables and a small bar. It is light and airy.
The staff manning the host desk is amazing – very friendly and accommodating, and not in an obsequious way, but in an ‘I love my job’ way. If you are lucky enough – as we were – to get a reservation in the main dining room, you are in for a treat.
On either side of the opening between the bar area and the main dining room, are large, dark, open wood shelves which go from floor to ceiling. Once you walk through the opening you see the same dark wood, floor to ceiling shelving lining both sides of the room. These shelves are stocked full of glasses and bread and dry goods and wine and mugs. Tucked in between the shelving on one side – almost unseen – are U-shaped banquets, cozy and away from prying eyes. Across the back wall is an open view into most of the kitchen. (Actually as you are going to the rest rooms you walk through the kitchen – well, not the middle of it, but there are cold boxes on one side and the dessert area on the other – VERY COOL!)
But I must say, once you walk through the opening, it is as if you left an ultra modern industrial chic room and walked into a combination brasserie tavern. You almost have to turn around to make sure you weren’t transported someplace else.
The most intriguing part of the shelving are the copper braisers, roasting pans, stockpots, moulds, teapots which belong to many of the world’s most renowned chefs. It’s like a culinary museum. Makes you want to take something and RUN!
In the center of the room are two rows of booth seating. Very comfortable, nice sized tables. The booths are back to back as opposed to side by side for a nice feeling of privacy. In the middle of the two rows are tables. Even with a full room of people, this is not a loud place.
While we were looking at the menu our waiter came over to ask if we’d like help with the menu and/or drinks. We ordered two iced teas and water. Very large glasses of iced tea. The water came with a small plate with freshly cut lemon and lime. And, since we had already looked at the menu online and had an idea of what we wanted to order, but our waiter was so eager to offer aide in our choices we let him offer guidance.
Now, if you’ve ever sat and listened to a waiter drone on about the specials or particular items on the menu, you know they are just regurgitating what they have been told and have probably never eaten any of these before. Not so with our waiter. First, there are no specials, the entire menu is special. But as he described the things on the menu that were his favorites, you could tell from the description that he really did like them and that he really did eat them. He left us to study the menu a bit further and as we did, the maitre d’ came by and offered his opinion and the wonderful host came by to offer his opinion. Very impressive indeed.
Our first choice of starter was the Iceberg and Blue salad. Now, being the jaded New York foodies that we can be at times, we were expecting – and would not have been disappointed by – a wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese and a touch of Boulud flair.
Nope, that would have been too simple. What arrived was a 1″ thick horizontal slice of iceberg lettuce, slathered in a blue cheese dressing, crumbled pieces of blue cheese, quartered grape tomatoes, bacon, crispy fried shallot bits, thin slices of celery, tarragon, chervil, and chives. Served freezing cold. It was the happiest salad I had ever seen! The dressing must be mixed with something else as it didn’t have that cloying tendency blue cheese dressing can have.
The slice of iceberg gets away from the annoying core and is far easier to deal with than the wedge. It also makes a much nicer presentation. The celery and the chopped up celery leaves give a nice subtle flavor and extra crunch to the salad. All of the chopped herbs on top were an extra bonus of different flavors, but the licorice taste of the tarragon gave just an extra little pow of flavor layer. Just when you didn’t think the standard retro iceberg and blue cheese salad could not be improved upon, along came this!
Our second starter was the Asparagus and Fried Egg. I fell in love with this dish on the DBGB website from the photograph alone.
It is a lightly breaded whole egg. Now whether the egg is slightly cooked before frying or is actually cooked while frying is a mystery. Matters not as this is the most delicious egg you have ever eaten!
This perfect little egg sat atop asparagus, duck prosciutto, duck cracklings (a couple more of those would not have hurt!), and a wonderful mustardy egg dressing.
And duck prosciutto – who even knew there could be such a thing. The Spoon did, the Fork did not. Apparently, it’s a magret duck breast packed in salt for about one week. A magrets are breasts from ducks raised for foie gras.
We were asked about more iced tea. Of course the answer was yes, we cringed when the waiter walked over the computer and plugged it in. What were these 4 iced teas going to cost us.
On to the entrees! The first t hing we knew we were going to try was the The Piggie. A beef patty topped with Daisy Mays’ BBQ pulled pork, jalapeno mayonnaise and Boston lettuce. This is served on a cheddar cheese cornbread bun with mustard-vinegar slaw. As if this isn’t bad enough, it’s served with FRIES! Nothing much needs to be said about this – really, the description just about says it all. The fries are served in the cutest tin cups with heart shaped handles. We wanted to take it, but we’d have to go back at least 11 more times to have a set!
I am warning you, this picture is not pretty. Photos of sausage rarely are pretty.
Our second entree was the Sausage Duo. A choice of two of their house made sausages. Our waiter and the maitre d’ both suggested the Vermont sausage as one of the duo. A fat, smoked pork and Vermont cheddar sausage served on top of a potato pancake with a dollop of red onion creme fraiche. The creme fraiche had a citrus-y twist to it. The potato pancake was a perfect accent for this sausage.
Now the other sausage……the really icky looking one on the right side. Oh, don’t worry, it tasted as bad as it looks! The second was the Tunisienne. It was supposedly a lamb and mint merguez sausage. Merguez is a red, spicy sausage. It got the spicy down, but there was no taste of mint and certainly no taste of lamb. If the sausage wasn’t bad enough, it was served over lemon braised spinach and chickpeas. The spinach was way over cooked, and if there was any lemon in the spinach or chickpeas I’ll eat my hat.
We each took a tiny little bite and made a face. We didn’t think anyone was around to see the face, but instantly our waiter was at the table asking if there was a problem with the Tunisienne. We explained it was just not to our liking and he went on to ask why, that the chef likes to have feedback in order to improve the dishes. We explained the overwhelming spice in the sausage and the underwhelming spinach and chickpeas, how they were desperately called for something to make them pop. He took our plates away, and the maitre d’ was back. He asked us to explain again what we honestly felt was wrong with the dish, what we liked about the others, etc.
He told us not to let that keep us from enjoying dessert and that the Grand Marnier souffle was his absolute favorite. Our waiter told us he loved the chocolate cake, and to add a third opinion, our wonderful host stopped by to tell us we absolutely has to have the Coffee-Caramel Sundae!
We had to go with the Coffee-Caramel Sundae. Coffee and Caramel in the same glass? What could go wrong!? The ice cream was a coffee caramel ice cream that is made at the restaurant. In the bottom of the sundae glass were quarter sized chocolate cookies, cubes of fudgey brownies AND – if that were not enough – candied pecans. Add whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you have the perfect dessert to end this perfect meal. Every bite had ice cream and a nibble of some buried surprise on your spoon.
And speaking of spoons – the spoons look like small shovels! Oh, we wanted those as well – quite a noisy endeavor – french fry buckets, spoons and whatever copper pots we could grab and running.
Our wonderful waiter came back, asked how we liked everything, did we need anything else. The maitre d’ came with our check, asked how we liked everything, and let us know that he took the icky sausage off the check and thanked us for our feedback.
I looked at the check, to our surprise the iced teas were $3.50 each – not too bad for such a large glass! And our check – with a very nice tip – was $100!
This was an incredible dinner! Please go here! The presentation of the dishes, the service, the food alone, so absolutely worth every penny!
Reservations are absolutely necessary! It is very hard to get a reservation in the back, the front bar area room is for walk-ins and the menu is much smaller than the main menu, but good just the same. Mostly you can get a reservation in back after 9:00 p.m. Too late for you, as it was for us? Ask for a 5:30 or 5:45 reservation. It’s virtually empty at that time, they have reservations, and they do not rush you.
DBGB is located at 299 Broadway – on the Bowery between Houston and 1st Street. Reservations can be made through Open Table or through the restaurant itself 212.933.5300.
Spoon and I would suggest through the restaurant itself. They only set aside a certain number of tables for Open Table and their online reservation system.
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