Just yesterday I found a pleasantly surprising email in my inbox announcing a 20% discount for Google employees at DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant widely known for its $100 truffle and foie gras stuffed burger. I forwarded the email to my friends Lauren and Nicole, and within minutes our low key Thursday night plans to cook turned into a glamorous rendez-vous at a classy French bistro.
The space feels exactly as the name describes – modern and sophisticated, with a tinge of retro, catering toward a mature after-work dinner crowd. We stood out as the youngest people in the front of the house, and there were at least 4 solo diners surrounding us, in addition to the actor who played Niles Crane in Frasier.
In our element or not, we felt right at home when perusing the obscene number of enticing menu options while sampling the variety of breads (including pretzel rolls – my favorite) in our basket. This is no place for small bites and light appetites – the starters are substantial in their ingredients, substance, and price, and each comes with a chorus of accompaniments that make choosing an entree a complicated task.
french rolls, pretzel rolls and olive bread
Despite the incredible lobster salad and squash soup de jour options, we decided to stir up conformance and order something dainty as an appetizer – the original DB burger stuffed with short rib on a parmesan bun. The burger was incredibly rich, and the short rib added a sweet flavor and an interesting texture with the thinly sliced tomato and subtle shredded lettuce. Regardless of its originality and quality, I prefer a classic $10 burger from Bill’s. The fries, however, were hot, crispy, and well seasoned.
burger sliced in fourths, as requested
I was immediately impressed upon the arrival of our entrees – though we ordered differently, their beautiful plate composition, glistening sides and wafting aromas made each appear better than the next. My eyes darted left to right as I examined the precious details of each dish. The food very closely resembled that of Daniel Boulud’s finest restaurant, Daniel, but with a rustic edge.
My sauteed skate meurniere with hen of wood mushrooms and spinach came out impeccably seared. It was a beautiful piece of fish, and the spinach, though creamy, had a quality of lightness to balance the oils of the fish and mushrooms. The fish was delicate, buttery, and cooked in classic French fashion.
sauteed skate wing
Thanks to our different tastes, I was able to try three other dishes by trading bites across the table. Lauren’s crispy duck confit was fantastic. It’s so difficult to find a truly crispy duck, but this one came with a generous heaping of tender duck on the bone that was just perfectly sauteed.
Our friend Nicole’s organic chicken breast with Moroccan cous cous was anything but the boring chicken dish on most menus – it was deep, flavorful, and rich all the while succeeding at simplicity in perfectly pan roasted chicken.
pan roasted chicken breast with lemon chicken jus
Though we were beyond full as the intensity of the deceptively rich food crept on us, the gorgeous apple mille-feuille could not be resisted. The pastry was executed to perfection, with piped fresh cream and “apple confit” between them. This twist on a classic apple tart tatin brought me right back to my mother’s visit to Paris during which she had her first true French napoleon. Despite my chocolate obsession, the contrasting textures and light sweet cream cannot be beat, and Daniel Boulud truly captured that luxurious combination.
apple mille feuille
I assume with every discount there’s a caveat, but I couldn’t place a finger on it during our meal. As we stood up to exit with hands on our stomachs in shameless content, however, I noticed one thing unique about our tables: the lack of mignardises. My fullness couldn’t stop me from begging for more, and I brought the mistake to our waiter’s attention. He quickly reconciled by rushing back to the kitchen to fetch a small box of chocolates to go.
Based on its location and price point, DB Bistro Moderne won’t be top of mind for a go-to recommendation, but with such a fine setting and menu, it’s the quintessential restaurant for parents, a week night out, or a classy date night in the area.
Location: 55 West 44th Street btwn 5th and 6th avenue