db bistro moderne: Midtown West’s Legacy Star
db bistro moderne, one of Daniel Boulud’s many attempts at casual dining in New York, was an instant classic – revered by locals and visiting tourists alike, well-received by critics, and made legendary by its burger. Whether or not it’s worth all the hubbub is up for debate, but there is no doubting Boulud’s ability to transform the concept of a bistro into a high-class celebrity favorite that makes burgers and fries culinary artwork and cassoulet fit for gourmands.
The bistro is long and narrow, situated discreetly on an ugly block in Midtown West, and ideally located for pre- and post-theater dining. The two dining rooms are dominated by rich wood paneling, bold colors, and contemporary floral artwork. The style is contemporary yet not trendy, modern but in a nostalgic European context. A small wine bar separates the front room from the back room.
The food is French-American, incorporating time-honored favorites from both culinary traditions. Perhaps most famous is the Original db Burger – a sirloin patty with braised short ribs and foie gras on a parmesan bun, served with salty and crispy pomme frites. This burger spurred much talk, transforming a trivialized American classic into something haute. DBGB’s burger menu (Boulud’s newest venture on Bowery) has grown out of this ‘original db’ version. Other highlights include the Tomato Tarte Tatin with goat cheese and black olives (zesty, savory, fresh…really remarkable), the Roasted Rack of Lamb served with artichokes, sunchokes, and tomato confit, the Black Truffle Raviole with organic chicken and baby spinach, and the indulgent foie gras torchon.
Service is spotty and food can take awhile to make it out of the kitchen, but db bistro moderne is generally a very reliable spot for some great comfort food all-dressed-up. A great place for family get-togethers, birthday celebrations (my own 21st with my parents was celebrated here many years ago…), and wanton gorges on burgers and fries, db bistro moderne has managed to stand the test of time and remain consistent. A word of warning for you of the younger generation, db bistro isn’t a party spot for the hip young thangs of Manhattan – expect an older crowd of polite and well-to-do Manhattanites indulging in Boulud’s famous brand of faux bistro fare. Looking for a more happening scene from the same guy? Check out DBGB.