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New York’s DB Bistro Moderne: Daniel Boulud’s Ode to the Classic French Bistro

New York’s DB Bistro Moderne: Daniel Boulud’s Ode to the Classic French Bistro


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Chef Daniel Boulud is one of America’s most renowned French chefs, and DB Bistro Moderne, which has been going strong near Times Square since 2001, is one of his most enduring and accessible restaurants. It’s his spin on a classic French bistro that spawned additional locations in Singapore and Miami (the Miami one is currently being revamped into a Boulud Sud), and a recent meal there was enjoyable from start to finish thanks to the work of executive chef Chris Stam and executive pastry chef Daniel Kleinhandler.

Even though it might be a bistro, it doesn’t exactly look like one; It’s sleek and trendy, and received a full renovation in 2013. It’s divided into three spaces: a front bar room, a more formal rear dining room, and a wide hallway separating them with a few booths and a wine wall. Dark woods, mirrors, and some artistic street-scene photos punctuate the space, and even though the back dining room is a bit more snug than you might expect, it comes across as cozy instead of cramped. Service is also spot-on, with friendly and knowledgeable servers more than happy to walk you through the menu.


We started with a traditional Alsatian tarte flambée, a flatbread that had a thin and crackerlike (but still pliable) crust topped with fromage blanc, deeply caramelized onions, and an ample dose of thin bacon strips. It’s a simple dish but it’s also one of my favorite traditional French specialties, and this one was expertly done, with a perfect ratio of all ingredients.

The restaurant is perhaps best known for its burger, which was the first high-end burger on the scene with it debuted with the restaurant almost 17 years ago; in fact, it’s widely credited with helping to launch the upscale burger trend that’s still going strong. It’s a $36 creation of ground sirloin stuffed with a heaping spoonful of braised short rib and a thick slice of foie gras.

Even though I was tempted to order it to see what the fuss has been about all these years I told myself that I’d wait to see if any specials jumped out at me. The game-time decision paid off: a special of boeuf bourguignon was spectacular, with fall-apart chunks of braised beef in a rich, well-developed sauce with tender carrots, red pearl onions, and baby turnips.

We also sampled the coq au vin (another bistro classic), and the dark meat chicken was quite tender and flavorful, in a rich sauce and studded with mushrooms, pearl onions, and bits of bacon. It wasn't pretty, but it sure was tasty. We sampled quite possibly the two most traditional bistro items on the menu, and they were upscale and refined interpretations of traditionally rustic classics. The fries are also some of the city’s best, so make sure you get an order of those. For dessert, a traditional tarte tatin piled a mound of deeply caramelized sliced apples on a think crisp shell, playing up the dessert’s best attribute. A basket of a dozen or so fresh-baked two-bite-size madeleines, lemony and dusted with powdered sugar, was also astounding.


Other menu standouts include guinea hen and pear pate, monkfish a la barigoule, traditional steak frites, escargot fricassee, steak tartare, Dover sole meuniere, pork chop, and organic chicken with gnocchi Parisienne and king oyster mushrooms (Many of these items also appear on its popular $50 three-course pre-theatre prix-fixe). It’s a fairly straight-ahead menu of bistro fare, but every dish is given a modern twist that can be expected from a chef like Boulud (and from a restaurant literally named "Modern Bistro." You’ll also want to spend some time browsing the wine list; nearly every bottle is sourced from France and there are some surprisingly affordable discoveries, like a $70 2013 Château de Melin from Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante . This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks&mdashthe food will speak for itself.


Watch the video: The Goldbelly Show: Visits Daniel Boulud (May 2022).