My recent New York visit allowed for a stop at Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. Situated in the middle of the mixed-development supercenter and across from the Samsung store, it’s a fitting place for a cafe but an odd location choice for discerning restaurateur Thomas Keller. The most unusual part of it is not its placement in the shopping center but the glaring “SAMSUNG” sign that hangs above the seating area.
After a short wait (in which I learned more about Samsung’s offerings), we took the first available seating, which was at the bar. We were almost immediately served bread with butter. The butter was salted and at the ideal temperature for spreading, and the bread, which was slightly warm, was soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, and made that unmistakably airy crackling noise when I pressed it into the palm of my hand.
My first course, chicken soup with herb dumplings, elevated chicken soup to a new level. This wasn’t the cloudy, oversalted, canned Campbell’s soup of Warhol’s fame; it was completely transparent and, if anything, it was underseasoned. I reached for salt and pepper only to realize that it wasn’t in plain sight. Fortunately, the poached dumplings were full of of chicken flavor, and seasoned to boot. The chicken wasn’t greasy (although the soup itself was); the vegetables were tender but not overcooked.
My Bibb lettuce salad arrived, layered on the plate like petals on a rose. It was sprinkled with shallots, garden herbs, Roquefort cheese and red wine vinaigrette – delicate but delicious. Eating through the lettuce leaves was not unlike unwrapping a present.
Andy had a ham and cheese baguette with madrange ham and emmenthaler cheese. When he previously ordered this at the Bouchon Bakery at the Venetian in Las Vegas, he recalled it being simple yet refined. Somehow, it didn’t translate this time around: the bread was hard and cold. We had the option of having it warmed in the panini press, but our server informed us that this made the bread about ten times harder. My feeling is that this dish could have been much better — I will have to try it when we revisit Las Vegas this December.
For a casual eatery, the service was excellent. Despite overhearing our server say she had a terrible headache, she was friendly and attentive. We received multiple coffee, water and bread and butter refills. This may have been due to the fact that we were sitting at the bar.
All in all, a positive experience. As possibly the country’s most upscale bakery chain, I look forward to visiting its Vegas counterpart next month in search for clues about the restaurant’s consistency. Stay tuned!
Bouchon Bakery, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd fl., New York, New York. 212.823.9366