Daniel Boulud is no stranger to Boston; his daughter went to Tufts, so he's been back and forth a lot over the years, eating his way around the city. Recently, after much speculation, it came to light that he'd open his own restaurant in town this fall — a location of Bar Boulud, of which he has one in London and one in New York City. Like the London location, it will be inside the Mandarin Oriental. Boulud was in town last week for a weekend of fundraising events with the Barbara Lynch Foundation. At the Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Gala at Menton on Thursday evening, he took some time to chat with Eater Boston about the upcoming restaurant. Bar Boulud chef de cuisine Aaron Chambers was also at the event; here's his interview.
So, why Boston and why now?
I think Boston has always been exciting for food. The history of food here started a long time ago, and when you think of cuisine in America, automatically New England registers as one of the top cuisines. And why now? First, I have had a relationship with the Mandarin Oriental in London for the past four years, and it has been a wonderful relationship. They're great partners, and the director of the Mandarin for all of the dining divisions, David Nichols, spoke to me and said, "Would you ever consider coming to Boston? Maybe it would be exciting to do a Bar Boulud at the Mandarin."
I think the Mandarin is one of the finest hotels here, and they purposely want to make sure that they create a restaurant that will have not only an appeal to their customers but an appeal to the town they are in. I think Bar Boulud works very well in London for that because there are of course the clients of the Mandarin, but there are also a lot of Londoners who go there. I think in Boston, that's the idea, to make a restaurant very dedicated to excellence, to service, to everything.
And we just had Ken Oringer open in New York, and it's been very well-received. People love the restaurant, so I'm very excited for him.
It's exciting to have Boston chefs successfully expand to New York.
It's the best! That's a good move. In 1984 or 1985, Jean-Georges Vongerichten started in Boston when I started in New York, and he was here about six months, maybe a year, at the Swissotel, and then he moved to New York and opened Lafayette. There have been some French chefs through Boston over the years, and we're next to L'Espalier, a fantastic restaurant that has always been consistent, and so I think it's exciting. I hope to bring a little bit of us here in Boston and fit well with what Boston expects to have.
How much will the menu resemble the existing locations of Bar Boulud?
Well, I will have only one restaurant here, so there will be everything about Bar Boulud New York, but it will also be about what fits well here. How do we feel here in Boston cooking versus New York? Not that we are too far away, but still there is a lot of DNA of the food scene and also the supply here. You almost feel closer to the coast. I mean, a lot of fish comes from New England, and so it's obvious that New York is fed in part by New England. So I think we'll have a strong focus on that.
Boston is so international, so cosmopolitan. It's the only city in the world with such a large concentration of youth, and it brings a lot of international parents. It brings a lot of excitement to Boston. It makes the city very vibrant.
And of course the charcuterie program will be an important part. The wine program is about French wine, with the core from Burgundy and Rhône, so chardonnay, pinot noir, hermitage, syrah, mourvèdre, Châteauneuf-style. It'll be French-American in a way, and international, but with a French core.
Of course the menu will be seasonal besides some of the classic dishes; seasonality — meaning local ingredients — has been the driving force of all my restaurants forever. Being born and raised on the farm, I always think that way.
Will the space be completely renovated, or are you saving any elements from Asana?
Fully renovated, but the bar will be where it is, and then the dining room will be where it is. There will be windows that open to the street and a sidewalk cafe, so it will have this European and yet modern feeling.
For people who have never visited any of your restaurants before, how would you summarize what they should expect from Bar Boulud?
If you have never visited any of my restaurants, it's the opportunity to come and see this one and discover. We are committed to making sure there is value and there is really investment in quality of suppliers, quality of our staff. Service is very important as well, and of course the cooking goes without saying. It's not about being fancy to foodies, it's more about trying to strike a balance. I've been cooking more in America today than France, but I'm still French and still care to keep some traditional element to our menu to keep us grounded. But I will suggest for anyone who hasn't discovered my restaurants — rather than wait for September, maybe come to New York!
· All coverage of Bar Boulud on Eater [~EBOS~]