I ate at DBGB late on Friday night, after a couple rounds at Milk & Honey. With only one night to myself in town, I ended up picking it because the menu gave off a distinctly Publican vibe, and I've always enjoyed Boulud's food. I arrived a bit early, overestimating the distance between the restaurant and the bar and electing not to stop and verbally spar with the group of Red Wing jersey'd fans I passed en route. They were happy to seat me at a table or the bar; I chose a table. The place is sort of Publican meets night club (though that was mostly just the clientele) with just a touch of Planet Hollywood for Chefs. I was seated across from what appeared to be Anthony Bourdain's stock pot and just down from Christian Constant's crêpe pan. I learned a few days later that the restaurant was designed by Thomas Schlesser, who also did The Publican (as well as Violet Hour and Big Star). Count me as a fan. He evokes the nature of what a place aspires to be, in a unique and modern way, but without beating you over the head with a "concept".
While I looked over the menu and beer list, I ordered some oysters (Beau Soleil, Kumamoto & Shigoku) and an Evil Twin beer from Denmark that was redolent of grapefruit and pine (Before, During and After). These paired perfectly. The oysters were exemplary, needing nothing more than a couple drops of lemon, though the mignonette and cocktail sauces that were served did appear to be of excellent quality.
I moved on to the Fromage de tête ("Gilles Verots award winning chilled pigs head terrine"), which was served with fresh sourdough bread, cornichon and some rather weak mustard. Still, this head cheese was one of the better I've had. 1/2" thick squares of unctuous porky bits held together with just barely enough aspic. While more substantial than Paul Kahan's razor thin rounds, this did not pack quite the same flavor punch. Edge to Kahan, but barely.
Entering a world of significantly more complex flavors, I switched to the refreshing and somewhat generically "spicy" Allagash White, which actually worked even better than expected with my final two courses.
The first was Veal Tongue, Sauce Gribiche over fingerling potatoes. The texture of the tongue was perfect, but the sauce was a bit too restrained. While a few large caper berries completed the plate, there was no jolt of pickle or caper in the sauce. It seemed to be just egg, mustard and tarragon. Compared to my last two sauce gribiche experiences (the hors d'oeuvre bite at Next and a classic tête de veau on my last trip to France), this dish had to be considered a disappointment.
However, they saved the best for last. The Boudin Basque, a spicy blood sausage studded with head cheese nuggets over mashed potatoes evocative of Joël Robuchon but sprinkled with Espelette pepper, might have been the best thing I ate on my trip. Decadent butter-rich potatoes laced with that trademark spice that still sets off fireworks in my mouth that I really can't compare to anything except the first time I tasted real truffle...and that wasn't the best part. The round of blood sausage was softly spreadable and profoundly earthy but without the unfortunate metallic tinge that can sometimes get in the way of truly enjoying black pudding. This was spotted with tiny nuggets of pig head, chewy and tasting quite clean, comparatively. I mopped up every speck of the sausage and the potatoes with my bread and considered ordering another.
But, I thought better of it, and dessert. It wasn't quite midnight, and I had more stops to make. I wandered off toward one of my all-time favorite New York food establishments, Pommes Frites and then, finding no room at the inn (PDT), took a long cab ride up and over the Queensborough Bridge to Dutch Kills...