In May 2021, New York City lost one of its finest dining institutions when chef Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud shut its doors. But we know now that the closure was only temporary: On Friday, Dec. 15, Boulud’s Dinex Group will be reviving Café Boulud in a new location at 100 East 63rd Street on the Upper East Side (formerly home to Altamarea Group’s Vaucluse.) Dinex is opening the restaurant in collaboration with the hospitality team at luxury real-estate developer and lifestyle services company Barnes International Realty.
Café Boulud was a New York mainstay for decades at its original location and earned a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list, an award currently held by the restaurant’s three sibling locations, in the Bahamas, Canada and Florida. (Boulud’s other Manhattan restaurants include his flagship Grand Award winner Daniel and Best of Award of Excellence winner Boulud Sud, and he is planning to open another Café Boulud location in Los Angeles.) Café Boulud holds sentimental significance for the chef; it is named after and inspired by the restaurant his great-grandparents opened on their farm near Lyon, France.
“The legacy of Café Boulud is so near and dear to me,” says Gavin Kaysen, who served as executive chef and director of culinary operations for Boulud from 2008 to 2014 and now operates his own Restaurant Award–winning restaurants in Minneapolis. In early December, Kaysen and fellow Boulud alumni flew into New York City to help christen the new kitchen for a private event. “The pivotal moment for me was when I went to see Daniel’s parents in Lyon… [The house] that I was staying in was the original Café Boulud built in 1901; the restaurant was their home. It’s so special to see the family history of Café Boulud.”
Café Boulud will offer Boulud’s signature cuisine, now arranged into four “inspirations” and served à la carte: “La Tradition” spotlights classic French dishes (think poulet rôti basted in buckwheat butter); “La Saison” features seasonal plates like roasted duck with persimmon jam; “Le Potager” flexes the versatility and breadth of vegetables from local farmers markets; and “Le Voyage” takes inspiration from culinary traditions beyond France, the first of which will be that of Thailand. Romain Paumier, an alum of the original Café Boulud and currently the executive sous chef at Daniel, will head Café Boulud as executive chef. Katalina Diaz, previously of Daniel, will be the pastry chef.
The wine list will be focused on selections from throughout Boulud’s native France. Captained by lead sommelier Victoria Taylor (formerly of Bar Boulud), the program will not only highlight celebrated regions like Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux, but beloved and smaller regions such as the Jura, Savoie and the Loire Valley. The program will begin with 575 selections, backed by 5,000 bottles in the cellar. “We definitely expect the program to grow,” Taylor told Wine Spectator via email. “We’re not starting with the cellar that the amazing sommeliers at the former Café Boulud space curated, but we’re proud of the initial selections we’ve made.”
Taylor aspires to curate a larger range of verticals from esteemed Bordeaux estates and horizontals of Burgundy lieux-dits. The current list also highlights “winemakers [the team] thinks are on the forefront of [environmentally] responsible farming,” which complements Paumier’s emphasis on sourcing sustainable ingredients and from local farms where possible. “This isn’t to say, though, that we won’t also include the contemporary and classic wines of the past,” explained Taylor. “We’re happy to embrace tradition and excellence in all forms (and, thankfully, many of our favorite classic producers have transitioned to organic, biodynamic and sustainable agricultural practices).”
Diners will enjoy their food in an Art Deco–inspired space designed by Jeffrey Beers International, with works of modern art hung throughout the dining room and a decorative cellar at the entrance displaying a choice selection of bottles.
Soon after the Café Boulud reopening, Barnes will premiere a new culinary experience at the same address; called Maison Barnes, it will open in early 2024 under the direction of Georgette Farkas, a restaurateur and longtime collaborator of Boulud’s. With intimate, “salon-style” dining focused on seasonal ingredients and French techniques, the space is poised to suit the needs of many different customers at once with a bar, dining area, private dining sections, a speakeasy and a wine cellar table.
These openings follow a slew of other projects from Boulud, including his Japanese-inspired Jōji on Vanderbilt Avenue, his Lyonnaise-style Le Gratin in Lower Manhattan’s Beekman Hotel and his seafood-focused Le Pavillon in Midtown Manhattan, as well as a refurbishment of Daniel.
Looking ahead, Boulud is preparing a 16,000-square-foot French steak house on the ground floor of the One Madison Avenue office building on East 22nd Street. Announced in winter 2022, the restaurant is scheduled to open in late 2024 with adjoining café and market spaces.
With reporting from Collin Dreizen