While many restaurateurs shock us with the new, David Bouley delivers the shock of the familiar at Bouley. Opened in February in Manhattan's TriBeCa, it replaces his four-year-old Bouley Bakery, which closed after 9/11, partly because of damage but mostly because Bouley chose to devote his resources to feeding rescue workers. In the interim, he decided not to restore the Bakery, with its retail shop, café, and dining room, but instead to create an updated reincarnation of his first Bouley, which was around the corner on Duane Street and closed in 1996 after ten triumphant years.
Deliciously reassuring are the handsome French provincial walnut doors from the original Bouley and, in the vestibule, the sweet smell of apples artfully stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. The former café is now a sophisticated, intimate dining room with a coffered ceiling, graceful bouquets, crystal, mellow cognac and burgundy velvet upholstery, and candlelight and pale silk lampshades that cast a flattering glow. To many regulars, the similarly refurbished, more crowded and clubbier Red Room is still the place to dine, but I prefer the quiet and spacious new room. The only off note is the service, polite and well-meaning if a little edgy and disorganized.
Offerings from the kitchen are more stunning than ever, with typical Bouley subtleties especially suited to spring and summer menus. A man who always knew his way around a lobster, he serves that lush crustacean in an appetizer called "Return from Chiang Mai," a layered terrine with lobster meat, serrano ham, mango, artichoke, celery root, and papaya in a tropical-fruit dressing spiked with Kaffir lime and Thai spices. As a main course he offers a gentle pairing of steamed sea-sweet lobster with peas, fava beans, and haricots verts, sparked by an astringent blood-orange sauce. Also appealing for summer are starters like phyllo-crusted shrimp with other shellfish in a briny herb broth, spicy grilled Japanese sardines on angel-hair pasta with a crunchy Parmesan crisp, and a creamy spring-garlic soup flecked with porcini mushrooms. Among the enticing main courses are steamed turbot with wild leeks; roast lamb with baby carrots, turnips, and roma beans in a verdant mint-and-zucchini sauce; and duckling glazed with limpid acacia honey, nestled against spring wheat berries and garlic chives.
Do save room for desserts as remarkable as hot Valrhona-chocolate soufflé with prune-Armagnac and maple ice creams, a seductive vanilla-scented riz au lait, and a pastel rainbow of fresh-fruit sorbets in a sunny sauce of orange and melon. The many predictably expensive wines include a number of good bottles in the $40-to-$60 range, with interesting picks from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The list also offers some of my favorite Alsatian whites from Zind-Humbrecht. Closed Monday. Dinner, $150. At 120 W. Broadway; 212-964-2525; fax 212-573-0378.
MIMI SHERATON, former food critic for "The New York Times," is the author of "The Bialy Eaters."