I was thrilled when Mr. K told me we had reservations at Boulevard, as I read that they won the award for being outstanding restaurant in America by the James Beard foundation earlier this year. Boulevard opened in 1993 by chef Nancy Oakes in partnership with restaurateur extraordinaire Pat Kuleto at the foot of Mission Street in a historic building with a sumptuous Belle Epoque inspired design. The menu offers hearty American regional flavors with a French influenced style which has made it a culinary destination with gorgeous views of the waterfront.
We had dined here once before and enjoyed sitting at the counter where you can watch the busy kitchen. This time we were seated in the back area, which is very upscale and feels more formal. The tables are covered with elegant white linen tablecloths and excessive silverware and I loved the curving iron balustrades that slinked around the room to form walkways (and which allowed me to spread out my gear without it being in the way). We were met by CDR and Mank (a pleasant surprise for me), to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday which are conveniently on the same day.
One of my favorite dishes was the Ahi Tuna ($13.25) Ito Zukuri (a thinner cut of sashimi that is often no more than 1/16 inch thick) cut into ribbons that was tossed with togarashi soy vinaigrette, served with pools of white sesame aioli, a tiny genmai tea smoked quail egg, roasted baby shiitake mushrooms with scallion taro root crisps and thin slices of cucumber. The ahi was luscious with a velvety texture and the savory mixture kept me reaching for more. All of the dishes were gracefully presented with beautiful elements to look at and taste.
The Monterey Red Abalone ($22) appetizer was comprised of two pieces of lightly cooked abalone atop crisp fried pieces of juicy abalone mushroom, served over thin slices of Delta asparagus and smears of green goddess, borage & Tarragon. This was a petite portion, about one bite of abalone when shared between four!
The Local Calamari stuffed with rock shrimp ($16.75), served with warm purple potato and octopus salad, drizzled with Aioli, fennel chowder, provencial chervil and lemon, topped with baby arugula leaves. Wonderful flavors, the calamari was tender and yielding and everything tasted very fresh.
We had to order the Berkshire (Kurobuta) Pork prime rib chop ($37) which is a signature dish. It is wood oven roasted with chanterelle mushrooms, served over polenta with herb butter and Parmesan, broccoli di ciccio with pancetta, garlic and chili paste, a few fresh blueberries, pickled shallot and sage relish. It was a big, burly chop, tender and juicy with a lot of exciting textures and flavor. The fresh blueberries popped pleasantly in our mouths.
California White seabass ($39), pan roasted truffle beurre france, a vibrantly green nano risotto with fresh english and sugar snap peas, sauteed spinach with shallots, chewy tendrils of pancetta, and topped with paper thin shaved fresh summer truffles. The bass was succulent and juicy under the nicely seared crust, just so!
The California Lamb Prime T-Bone ($37) was a bit of a disappointment. It was also wood oven roasted and served off the bone, which amounted to three very small pieces. Tucked underneath was a barrel-aged feta and new zealand sea spinach stuffing with mint and basil that resembled a crunchy coarse textured pesto, olive oil fondant, purple fingerling potatoes, olive and lemon relish, and tiny heirloom frying peppers were scattered along the sides. As it arrived off the bone, you would think we would be served the prime pieces but there was gristle and some bites that required excessive mastication.
For dessert, we shared the Turtle Sundae Profiterole ($11), which looked like a dutch crutch bun filled with scoops of butter pecan ice cream, chocolate ice cream, topped with swirls of salted caramel sauce, hot fudge, a mound of sweet milk foam, cocoa nib cream and a chocolate covered caramel that I gobbled up.
The Brown Sugar Custard Tart ($10.50) was buttery and reminded us of pecan tart without the pecans. It came with slices of caramelized yellow peaches, some raspberries and tayberries, ginger granola (l hunted for the bits of crystalized ginger), and a scoop of bavarian buttermilk ice cream that tasted more like sorbet.
The views are very fine from the rear dining room. This is the type of restaurant where you wouldn’t be surprised if your glass was refilled after each sip, however as we started off at the bar with bottled sparkling water, this created an odd water shortage during the course of the meal. I remember being asked if we wanted more sparkling water, which we declined, and our glasses remained empty. Eventually we had to ask for water, and our glasses were swapped out for chunky blue goblets, which must be the standard issue for regular tap water. Aside from that, our server was very professional, almost stand-offish, but there whenever we needed anything. Mr. K said it was a well-oiled machine that it cranked out the dishes and lacked the personal touch. I suppose that is the conundrum with having a single Michelin star and being voted the best restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation…