Local Bites - Boulevard 18 / Jeff Schlesinger
Published 2:02 pm, Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Un autre grand restaurant Français ouvre dans New Canaan. Oops, I got ahead of myself. What I meant to say was, another noteworthy restaurant, Boulevard 18, a French bistro and wine bar, officially opened Feb. 17 in New Canaan, and the food is well worth a night out.
The 62 Main St. eatery has been transformed into a little bit of Paris by owners Steven Semaya, Luciano Ramirez, Henry Rosenbaum and chef/owner David Raymer (all of Strada 18 in SONO). The seating in the front bay window area with a single six person high-top table is in view of the lovely wrap-around zinc-top bar that can serve up to 15 customers. An additional five customers can drink or dine at a high-top table across from the bar. The dining room in the rear has the feel of an intimate Parisian bistro, and includes a beautiful antique map of Paris adorning the large wall overlooking the dining area. The acoustics are vastly improved with a noise reduction "tin" ceiling.
The opening night menu included numerous "small bites" to enjoy with pre-dinner drinks, plus traditional appetizers and entree offerings. The small bites included roquefort-stuffed olives, deviled eggs, house-made gruyere gougeres (small puffs of cheese pastry), house-made herb-glazed nuts, and devils on horseback (dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon).
A large selection of charcuterie, cheeses and house-made sausages, including merguez, boudin blanc, duck and red wine and seafood are offered as appetizers, as well as a classic steak tartare, brandade de morue (a pureed salt cod), grilled octopus, Boston lettuce or frisee salads.
For those who want to enjoy the fruits de mer, Boulevard 18 serves oysters, clams, shrimp, or dry sea scallop cru, singularly or on a petit or grande plateau.
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The bistro's entrees include grilled leg of lamb, chicken paillard, roasted salmon and a grilled fish du jour, plus an assortment of salads, including a salad nicoise and a salad of duck confit and roasted beets.
The Boulevard 18 menu offers traditional moules frites and steak frites with either a New York strip steak or a hanger steak.
A traditional rendition of a bistro classic, the onion soup au gratin is a combination of chicken and beef stocks that deliver a mild and flavorful result. The onions are slowly cooked to release their natural sugars to a soft consistency and the soup is topped with a combination of gruyere and comte cheeses that were perfectly melted for a delicious result.
The salad of chopped seasonal vegetables is a cacophony of colors and flavors whose ingredients include lettuces, micro-greens, gigante beans, watermelon radish, sweet peppers, carrots and tomatoes, all lightly dressed with a vinaigrette. The abundance of flavors creates a delightful combination and makes a delicious and refreshing lunch and, if desired, can include either shrimp or chicken.
The frisee salad is delicious and is topped with a perfectly poached egg to complement the lightly dressed frisee and lardons.
The Seafood Sausage is uniquely delectable and I suggest that the table orders this appetizer to share so everyone can enjoy. The sausage is comprised of shrimp, lobster, scallops and bronzino, along with a little cream, but contains no bread. The texture allows for the various fish components to maintain their individual integrity and the flavors work extremely well together and are delicious. There is a slight `kick' in the spice level which I found a great addition. The Bacon and Leek Tart is reminiscent of a slice of quiche with a delicious and buttery crust to encase the creamy and leek flavored custardy interior. The tart is served with a very lightly dressed and salted green salad.
Chef Raymer's steak frites includes a choice of a delicious NY strip steak or a hanger steak, each perfectly grilled to my requested medium rare. The two cuts of meat are delicious, extremely tender with the Hanger Steak adding a deeper and richer flavor. The frites are incredibly crispy on the exterior with a light and airy interior. A light dusting of salt and pepper finish both the steak and the frites. Overall, both were excellent choices. The duck magret with caramelized baby turnips and a prune-armagnac reduction includes a large breast that delivers a smoky and peppery taste, and is prepared rare, unless requested otherwise. The aged breast meat is incredibly flavorful and the sweetness of the reduction was a perfect complement to the richness of the meat. The caramelized baby turnips add another sweet element to the dish.
For dessert i enjoyed the apple tart and the chocolate mousse. The tart is delicious. The buttery crust is topped with thinly sliced layers of apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce to complete. Each part is delicious and together this is a perfect way to end the meal. The chocolate mousse has a great texture with a soft and silky consistency. This dessert includes a small dollop of sweetened cream atop.
The wine selection includes more than 80 French labels and there are 12 beers on the menu. The majority of the wines range from $30 to $80 a bottle, with a couple a dozen over $100. Over twenty wines are also offered `by the glass.' Beer choices include Coors, Hoegaarden, Brooklyn, Czechvar, Allagash, Cisco Brewing and St. Peters with prices between $6 and $9. Aperitifs and cocktails are also available.
Many say that a review should not take place during the first few weeks after opening. But with the quality of the food leaving the kitchen at Boulevard 18 on its opening weekend I was glad I was able to enjoy many selections from their opening menu and look forward to future meals at the newest addition to New Canaan