DB BISTRO MODERNE: Miracle on 44th Street

Welcoming warm intuitive service wasn’t what I expected in mid-town pre-theater dining, nor consistently excellent, well-priced food. Nonetheless, on a recent visit, DB BISTRO MODERNO raised the bar from greeting to goodbye.

My spouse and I arrived for dinner at the peak hour on the peak day of pre-theater rush with no reservation, no insider connections and no illusions. Nonetheless, the maitre d’ smiled, welcomed and accomodated us at one of two marble communal tables. This was precisely what we had wanted, and we got it with nary a sniffle or snort about failing to have planned ahead.

The table’s waiter (one worked all three parties) was fast on his feet but also unhurried, gracious and pleasantly non-Parisian French. In the course of the meal, he managed to adjust our wine order twice on the fly, get us the proper temperature on the foie and short rib burger while splitting it unasked, sequence an obscenely generous Marc after coffee on request and chat up a neighboring solo diner, all while serving other tables, dodging main room diners and otherwise making himself useful.

He also wrangled a pair of aggressive and obvious photo bloggers. In fact, DB seemed to be a bloggers’ paradise. When the maitre d’ observed the flashing camera and telltale notepad, he invited the bloggers to speak with anyone in the kitchen who might have insights for them. NB: Lose the notetaking at the table, and cut back on the flash photography! Blatant blogging is bad blogging and a desperate call for extra attention. Observe don’t alter the experience.

Fortunately, the food more than redeemed the ersatz amateur media frenzy. Fries were excellent, especially dipped in house mayo, where the French are many steps ahead of our Hellman’s/Miracle Whip red state/blue state divide. The burger on the other hand, was worth a detour not a journey. A bit on the boiled tasting side, it was more of a great idea than a thought-provoking act of deliciousness-making. Like Mario’s beef cheeks or Gray’s short ribs, it’s something to try and talk about. Unlike those dishes though, I wouldn’t come back for seconds. Messieurs Boulud and Tourondel, the French have a great cuisine, but let’s be clear, you’re not burger people. In the future, I’ll stick to Shake Shack.

More fun by far was the meal’s front and back matter, i.e., the appetizers, desserts and drinks. A torchon of foie gras was full bodied, full-flavored and full sized, easily enough for two. Tuna tartare was a bit CIA-level but by no means reproachable. Plus, it helped prevent a full on post-prandial crise de foie. A Banana chocolate tart and Baba au Rhum were superb takes on classics, especially the rum-soaked latter which served as a sort of digestif before the digestif. A surprisingly tasty Corey Vineyards North Fork wine, a powerful if pricey Chassagne Montrachet, and, again, that wonderful whopper of a snifter of Marc, all left me impressed by the beverage program.

Most of all though, it was the courtesy of professionally and personally adept service, from runners and coat checkers to servers and hosts, that made good food taste better. DB may not have wood smoke like Gramercy, nor flames like Landmarc, but it has the warmth of home on an otherwise cold stretch of 44th Street.

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2 Responses to “DB BISTRO MODERNE: Miracle on 44th Street”

  1. Food Fan Says:

    Worth a detour, but definitely not a journey. I’d go again, but only with other business in the area.

  2. Restaurant Daniel’s Enduring Charms: 4 Reasons to Hold off on the Head Cheese « Fat and Happy Food Slut Says:

    […] collection of Barbie dolls, Daniel Boulud now offers himself dressed up in Restaurant, Café, Bistro and Bar outfits.   While the 2008 model’s  pulp fiction menu of blood, guts and feet en […]

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