I’ve been happily together with my partner for 4 years and come May, we have a tradition of celebrating with a fancy dinner and spoiling ourselves with impeccable food. I love to have the upper hand in terms of selecting our restaurant destinations, so this time I decided to bring him to Café Boulud. Not only was I excited to put on a dress and heels for the first time in months as if I was shedding off my winter skin, but I have a fondness for French cuisine.
Hailing from the Michelin-starred French chef and super restaurateur Daniel Boulud, this Toronto restaurant sits on the second floor of the new Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville right above d|bar. It's a bright and casually elegant space that offers exquisite French-inspired cuisine drawing inspiration from around the world. The venue seats 150 diners and is intimate enough for two, yet also well suited for a family feast.
My eyes grew wide as I flipped through the extensive wine list – a whopping 350 labels from some of the best vineyards in the world. I’m talking Italy, California, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, Canada. I decided to go with a light-bodied Chianti, my all-time classic pairing with food. My partner ordered a Pinot Noir from the local Ontario wine region.
The service was all sorts of brilliant. The staff were knowledgeable about the dishes and offered their recommendations, which helped my ever-so-indecisive self. The four-part menu has traditional bistro dishes, seasonal dishes, other cuisines, and even a vegetarian section.
We were presented with a pair of sophisticated French cheese puffs with grated Gougère cheese and the mild Basque pepper Piment d’Espelette. A signature starter for every guest who gets to dine at Café Boulud or its sibling restaurant, Bar Boulud in New York.
Then we dived into the seared foie gras seasoned with cumin and hazelnut spice. Decorated with young carrots, flavoured with caramelized lime and topped off with bulgar wheat for a surreal crunch, it was - dare I say it - the best foie gras I’ve ever had.
My partner ordered the shellfish paella, a Spanish fried rice dish with an exciting medley of mussels, clams, chorizo, gulf shrimp, squid, garlic and saffron aioli. We were both sold on the saffron aioli; it was a delightful compliment to the seafood which were cooked very well.
I felt like going for something out of the ordinary, so I ordered the char-grilled pigeon. It was the most recent addition to the menu and had soon grown to become a sold out item on consecutive nights. One bite of it and you'd understand why. The pigeon was perfectly medium rare, and served with crispy fried legs, morel mushrooms, and pearled barley, which balanced it out along with sour cherries and hazelnuts. Needless to say, I will never look at pigeons the same again.
The highlight of the night was the Grapefruit Givré that’s gotten everyone raving about it, including myself. This is food presentation at its finest. It’s delightfully sweet and refreshing with layers of frozen grapefruit, grapefruit sorbet, and rosewater Turkish delight enclosed in a rock-solid grapefruit shell. It’s topped off with a bouffant of shredded halvah that resembles cotton candy, or to put it vividly, Dumbledore's beard. Every spoonful was unpredictable and full of surprises, which I loved most about this dessert.
If I had to describe my first experience at Café Boulud in one word I'd say it was exceptional. It went beyond the food which was nothing short of amazing and innovative. We had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Anna Schwab and Chef Tyler Shedden. Nevertheless, for our anniversary dinner I was happy to wine and dine with the most important person sitting right next to me - my main man and my ultimate foodie-in-crime.