Daniel Boulud, one of the world’s top chefs, holds three Michelin stars for his restaurant, Daniel, in New York City. That was enough information for me to grab us two seats in his interpretation of Parisian bistros, db Bistro Moderne. Why not set aside a meal at Daniel instead? You might ask. Well, we had a reservation at Per Se but a grave grave grave (!) mistake by our concierge unfortunately lost us the booking, and by the time we were informed, it was too late to secure a table at Daniel. So there, tough luck for us!
db Bistro Moderne with its sexy deep red interiors and affiliation to the Michelin-starred Daniel, attracts a rather well-heeled crowd despite its casual settings. We were probably the only ones wearing jeans, oh what the heck!
The waiters were friendly, attentive and always willing to make recommendations. Not that I really needed the menu because I already knew what I came for.
M decided on the escargot and chicken oyster fricassee with hazelnut spaetzle to kick off our Boxing Day dinner, and the grilled seabass for the main course According to him, he wanted something healthier and lighter for mains because we were eating waaaay too much. I went for the (healthy too?) seared Nantucket Bay scallops with celery mousseline and citrus chicken jus for my entrée but was very, very naughty with my main course, because….
I went for The Original db Burger!
Before I dive into the heart-stopping ingredients in the burger, please allow me to yak about the other dishes first. Nantucket Bay scallops are highly coveted for its delicate texture and ample sweetness. They are twice the size of the average bay scallops, half that of the usual sea scallops, and are harvested off the waters of Nantucket from November to March. True to its biography, these scallops were hands-down the best I’ve ever had. They came in perfect bite sizes, and were most succulent and sweet. The chef did an amazing job in searing it to perfection, caramelising its exterior to a seductive golden brown and subtle crisp, whilst keeping the scallops moist and just about cooked. It was so good on its own, there was no need for the mousseline and jus, although the savoury sauce did well to complement the sweetness of the scallops. My only gripe? The portion was too small!
M’s escargot and chicken oyster fricassee was amazing too despite its dismal appearance. It looked so unappetising with its nondescript and pale morsels, that I didn’t take a picture of it, but it was delicious. The chicken oysters were incredibly tender, moist and well-flavoured, and made up for the escargots which were missing in action despite its presence.
M’s grilled seabass was very forgettable, unimpressive and painfully overcooked, which was a real shame because he had counted on a healthy and satisfying dinner. The poor husband stared at me as I tucked into my ginormous db burger. If you haven’t heard already, most flock to db Bistro Moderne to have a taste of the sirloin burger with braised short ribs filling, black truffles and foie gras in the beef patty. It is a very posh, upmarket, decadent sounding burger but poof, it was sorely disappointing like a soufflé that collapses if you so much as breathed on it. I couldn’t taste the truffles and where’s the foie gras, really? All I tasted was beef and it wasn’t remotely as good as the lovely, cheap burgers I had at Shake Shack and Corner Bistro. The meat was so low-grade for a restaurant of this reputation. The pommes frites were the best shoestring fries I’ve ever had, though, perfectly crisp, fragrant and far from oily, but…that wasn’t what I came for!
The starters were very well-executed but the lacklustre main courses simply took the experience away from us. Perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes, perhaps we came on a bad day, but I think if db Bistro Moderne rides on the borrowed reputation from its Michelin-starred counterpart Daniel, we could at least expect better main courses on the menu. Oh well, I could always have the Nantucket Bay scallops for mains, and for that, I’ll probably have to time my trip to NYC to coincide with the scallop season.
db Bistro Moderne will be launched soon at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and Bar Boulud has opened in London. Maybe I’ll make a little trip down to the establishments and give Boulud a second chance, or perhaps you could try them out and let me know about your experience!
db Bistro Moderne (NYC) is located at:
55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036