Monday, June 20, 2011

Cafe Boulud at The Brazilian Court, Palm Beach: Casual Elegance For Afternoon Indulgence!

By: Anne M. Raso

Having checked out Cafe Boulud in Manhattan several times over the years (it opened up on the Upper East Side in 1998), I was naturally anxious to take up an offer to check out its sister restaurant in Palm Beach's historic Brazilian Court Hotel. The yellow walls were inviting--not to mention the hundreds of palm trees and other exotic Florida foliage just outside the huge windows of the main dining room, as well as the lounge which takes up most of the main corridor and entrance to the white-canopied luxury hotel.

The modern paintings in bright colors and the unpretentiousness (despite being aware of being in one of the world's great boutique hotels) stand out and stick in your mind long after your visit is over. Chef Zach Bell, a James Beard Award nominee, lets his staff experiment with different cuisines and the result is Modern American with heavy French and Mediterranean influences.
I decided to check out the "in between" lunch and dinner meal fare -- the two menus called "Afternoon Indulgence" and "The Lounge" (but all food is available in the main dining room or the lounge area). While the Afternoon Indulgence menu only has five items and "The Lounge" has eleven items, you will never be disappointed both in plate size and in flavors. Most fancy hotel restaurants serve "small plates" in the hours between 3PM and 5PM but the portions at Cafe Boulud are more than respectable in size and presentation. There is a wow factor with every plate that comes swiftly out of the eatery's immaculate kitchen and you can expect some extras at the end even if you are not a VIP guest or regular diner.
Mushroom Bolognese
Highlights of my" in-between meal" which I also jokingly refer to as "linner" (lunch and dinner combined), included Belgian Style White Wine Steamed Mussels And Crispy Pomme Frites ($19), Grilled Ham And Gruyere On Sourdough with a side of Potato Salad ($15), Pate De Campagne with Assorted Pickles, Petite Salade and French Artisanal Mustrards ($17) and Mushroom Bolognese made with Strozzapretti Pasta, Fresh Ricotta and Pea Shoots ($10 in appetizer size, $18 for a full portion).
Mussels + Pomme Frites
My favorite was the Mushroom Bolognese not only for the freshly made tube-like strozapretti pasta which melted in your mouth but because the topping, made of shredded morels and wild white button mushrooms actually tasted like pulled beef and pork mixed in a light,creamy tomato sauce. Honestly, I was shocked to learn this dish was meatless and was possibly one of the greatest vegetarian dishes I have ever put down my throat.
Key Lime Pie
Desserts (ranging in price from $10-$15) do not disappoint at Cafe Boulud, either. I ended up with four in front of me plus extras--Chef Bell's hot powdered sugar covered Madeleines are something he throws in for all diners. We also got an odds and ends plate featuring truffles, pate de fruits, macarons and a homemade marshmallow that we didn't ask for but devoured with great appreciation. The Cherry Panna Cotta was creamy and classic--with the natural cherry flavoring being an odd kick. We also tried the chef's take on traditional Panna cotta which was topped with grapefruit sorbet and fresh melon balls...not to mention his creative take on Key Lime Pie made with graham cracker crumbs and cut into rectangular shapes which lay on a bed of key lime custard.
Cherry Panna Cotta
Cafe Boulud is Palm Beach dining at its finest but also it's most fun. The eatery is quiet, especially in late afternoon during the summer months, and we feel that the prices are very reasonable for the portions and quality you are getting. Jackets are suggested for men and be sure to check out the legendary courtyard full of white cotton comfy couches on the way out.

Cafe Boulud Palm Beach
301 Australian Avenue
Palm Beach, FL 33480
(561) 655-6060
Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon

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