An early indicator about how satisfying a restaurant visit will be is the menu, especially a French restaurant. At some small mom-and-pops in Paris, for example, the menu is just a few choices on a chalkboard, and you have to adapt to that, but its all fantastic. Other places have an extensive menu that seems to border on the absurd, that's almost as long as the wine list.
Cafe Boulud has a nice approach that marries appetizer, main course, dessert in a column representing certain culinary concepts (though you are free to mix and match, which is what we did in one case). There are 'traditional' dishes (venison terrine, coq au vin, short ribs), 'seasonal' dishes (peekytoe crab with orange--which I ordered so I could say "peekytoe" and it was fantastic), duck breast, 'market' dishes (salads, celeryroot/chestnut/truffle dish was fantastic), and then 'global' dishes with French touch like pho soup, sesame tuna, etc. The dishes were designed and prepared so that the flavors were first.
Very good wine list. The coffee was outstanding.
I liked that the tables were separated enough, and the interior was soft enough, that normal dinner conversation was easy. The staff was attentive without being overbearing, and food was hot and well presented.
Overall, I would heartily recommend Cafe Boulud. Its more understated that overstated, which may leave some people disappointed, but I really appreciate it.
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