When it rains on Sunday morning, spend a few hours and a few dollars on the Times. When it pours, spend the day and a few hundred dollars at Bouley Restaurant. Grab a cab downtown, shake off the raindrops on your London Fog and take in the apple dappled walkway that carries you past Tribeca’s heaviest and most beloved wooden door. This is as far as you can get from Manhattan without jet fuel, and a lot better than what you’d find on the other side of the big puddle once you landed.
Dodging a few little puddles and entering Bouley on such a day, you are instantly in an unimaginably different and delicious place, a country that you can’t quite identify but definitely want to visit–not far from where Eric Ripert found his accent. This is a restaurant with a feel as distinct and pleasurable as Gramercy Tavern in the nineties. And David Bouley will never host an infomercial for Sears masquerading as a Bravo tv show.
On a recent rain soaked Sunday, I was surprised to discover Bouley far from full. The maitre d’ indicated that half the lunch covers had been canceled by gastro-pansies fearing a little pre-prandial precipitation. It was a motley crew that remained, but a dedicated one. At a nearby table, a dozen waterproof Frenchmen toasted someone’s business acumen. Closer to the kitchen, a family of intrepid South American adventurers rewarded their ambulatory derringdo—they’d walked two whole blocks outdoors with only a trio of golf umbrellas to protect themselves from the elements—with a mindblowing array of wines. I would have been happy to have been their sommelier’s wine napkin! Finally, a solo diner of uncertain national origin slurped and giggled his way through his meal like M.F.K. Fisher on her first solo trip through France. This particularly devoted foodie had clearly arrived at the breakfast hour and seemed poised to eat right through to dinner service–an immensely superior alternative to a day of lattes at Starbuck’s.
I was out of my league in that crowd of puddle jumpers large and small, but I did manage six courses, a bracing bottle of Vouvray from Huet and a pair of mid-afternoon marcs. As I wended my way from the first slice of olive bread to the last macaroon, I observed and enjoyed some of the most splendid and subtle service I’ve ever had in this country. The food was exceptional, and worthy of a separate post, but on that particularly rainy Lord’s Day, my Oh Gods were reserved less for the Connecticut madman who’s given me four of the best meals of my life than for the little Swiss genius at the maitre d’s station who runs the tightest front of house in the City, shine, or, especially, rain.