When my friend Kim saw a four-person dinner at DBGB pop up on GiltCity for $150, the first thing she thought was, “SUNDAE!!” And the second thing she thought was, “Can I eat four sundaes by myself?” And the third thing she thought was, “Guess I have to invite Katie.”
I’d had a very so-so experience the first time around at DBGB, but my subsequent tasting menu at Chef Boulud’s flagship restaurant, Daniel, was so outstanding it changed the way I rate all other restaurants; naturally, I was interested in a second try at DBGB. So Dr. Boyfriend and I met Kim and her friend Kelly on Friday night to share what we’d read wouldn’t be enough food but turned out to be so much we couldn’t finish it all. Nor did we want to, in the case of the final course, but more on that later.
petit plateau de fruits de mer
Shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snails, tuna tartare and a whole crab claw. All things I was completely terrified by a mere couple of years ago. And it’s not that I exactly salivate over any of them now, like my boyfriend does, but I was perfectly willing to try everything on this platter. Luckily, the fact that there were only two of some of the items meant that I only had to try a few.
The mussels were perfectly cleaned, which is a major issue for me, because eww, please don’t try to feed me sand and stomach leftovers if I’m already going out on a limb by eating seafood at all. The fact that they were covered in a cool, creamy sauce with herbs didn’t hurt anything, either. The tuna tartare was well-appointed with fresh herbs, and the crab claw looked so fresh I didn’t even bother dressing it with lemon. Wait, no, that was because the server took the lemon away before I could dress the crab. Anyway.
I tried one of the larger and one of the smaller oysters, but Dr. Boyfriend and Kim handled the apparently veeeery-oceany-tasting clams and the giant snails, a process which began with excited faces,
quickly switched to determined faces when the snails refused to let go of their shells,
and ended with whatever you call this face once they actually tasted the things:
I’m still not entirely swearing off trying snails drenched in butter sometime in my life, but I’m a little less sure after this.
Iceberg & Blue: tomato, walnut, bacon bits, herbs
Very classic, and an excellent palate-cleanser. The iceberg wedge is one of the only salads I actually enjoy, because:
a) it has bacon,
b) it has cheese, and
c) iceberg lettuce is basically water.
I like to think of it as a vehicle for moving fatty things to my mouth.
Beaujolaise: pork, mushrooms, onion, bacon, and red wine link, lentils du puy
I think we all agreed that though this was a rich, hearty sausage, the lentils were really the star. Which is good, since we ordered lentils, glazed carrots (undercooked for my taste and not nearly sugary enough), and ham and crayfish gumbo (flavorful but too thin) as our sides without anyone telling us we were already getting lentils.
Allemande: veal bratwurst, beer-braised sauerkraut
This one was too sweet for me. When I see beer-braised, I want the lingering stench of Guinness on my breath for days; I think this might have been soaked in O’Doul’s.
Coreanne: Korean-style pork sausage, cucumber-bok choy pickle, spicy kim chee coulis, shrimp chips
This was the most complete of the sausage plates in that there was a lot going on but that the theme was so evident. I loved the homogenous texture of the sausage, more like bologna than ground meat, and the crunchy pickle that was such a divergence from the cooked-until-mushy accompaniments on the other plates.
Espagnole: fresh chorizo sausage with piperade, basil oil
Easily my favourite, just because it had the most flavor. I was in need of some spice, and I might have liked the peppers more than the sausage itself because of that.
Boudin Basque: spicy blood and pigs head sausage, scallion mashed potatoes
I’ve always been scared of but interested in blood sausage, and after having tried it, I can’t believe I ever even considered it exotic. The texture was crumbly and dry, the taste earthy and rich. It was like eating fake meat, or textured vegetable protein, which I did for four years as a vegetarian. I wouldn’t say I liked or disliked it; it was boring enough that I was just sort of neutral about it. And that’s the last thing I ever thought I’d say about sausage made of blood.
Caramel-Pear: ginger marshmallow, roasted pears, shortbread cookie, brandy caramel sauce, whipped cream
Cherry-Chocolate: vanilla marshmallow, brownies, chocolate fudge, kriek-braised cherries, whipped cream
Blueberry-Mint: candied brioche, olive oil cake, blueberry compote, toasted almonds, whipped cream
We were there for the sundaes, and once again, they were so good they’d make me come back to DBGB again despite the otherwise just-okay food. I went for the blueberry-mint after my first wonderful mint-chocolate experience and again found the mint flavor so fresh and herbaceous. Dr. Boyfriend and Kim said it was like eating ice cream salad, but I loved the savoriness of the mint coupled with the olive oil cake. The candied brioche added crunch and sugar to the very natural-tasting berries.
I would’ve been equally happy with either of the other sundaes, though. Kim and my boyfriend both got the caramel-pear, which had the most flavorful marshmallows and pears that tasted like they’d just come out of a pie, while I almost got drunk on Kelly’s beer-soaked cherries. These were adult sundaes.
Grand Marnier soufflé, creme anglaise
I had another soufflé this bad once. The server asked us how we were enjoying it, and I said we weren’t, and he brought us another dessert. This time, the server was basically absent for all of our meal, so we just left it sitting.
I was the first to poke my spoon into it to make a hole for the creme anglaise, and I described the bite as “exactly on the edge of egginess”. Well, of course, the farther we got down into the soufflé, the eggier it became, so once everyone had a bite, the rest was inedible. It was the very opposite of the Grand Marnier soufflé we had at The Mark by Jean-Georges. Egg when you want cake is disconcerting.
As with my last visit, this was a mixed bag. The sausages–which are of course supposed to be the focus of the restaurant–are good, but none of them had me mmming in disbelief like so many of the dishes at Daniel did, and for $13 to $15 per sausage, I should’ve been. The place is borderline hip (what we could hear of the soundtrack was all indie rock), but the noise level is obtrusive, and the service suffers because the servers can’t interact with diners. Not that they’d want to, apparently: our server seemed like the classic NYC wannabe-actor who’s annoyed by customers, and the waiter at the door who looked like a greeter was actually just waiting for us to move so he could leave. Luckily, the sundaes were incredible at $9, and I can see myself popping in just for dessert some night if I’m in the Bowery.
New York, NY 10003 (map)