Bouley, the restaurant, represents a landmark in fine dining and exquisite cuisine, that Chef David Bouley has worked hard to establish. As the flagship of Bouley's Tribeca restaurant empire, the level of quality serves to proclaim him as a legendary, world-renowned restaurant stylist. Now in its newer location, Bouley has put aside his boutique breads, the oven, and cafe to make room for lots more seats.
Loyal Bouley fans relish in the degustation menus that focuses on the freshest seasonal ingredients. But that's not all. Bouley's strength lies in layered flavors that don't overshadow a dish's essence. Silky black bass with porcini mushrooms carries smoky, earthy and buttery overtones that never overpower the fish; whole-roasted baby pig that's been braised for 24 hours in five spice-ginger glaze, still retain its meaty taste. A colorful terrine of lobster, mango and artichoke wrapped in Serrano ham and drizzled with a passionfruit, coconut and tamarind dressing represents the chef at his best.
The decor suggests a country-styled restaurant, low-keyed and friendly, in haute bohemian Tribeca. There's a plush feel to all that makes the place less stuffy than many restaurants of this caliber, but the service is no less polished. The sommelier will expertly pair wines from a superb list. For those on a budget there are tasting menus.
Megu offers great food, presented beautifully with an Asian grace. The sumptuous menu is divided into several categories (Crown Jewels, Gems From Japan), with most everything presented for sharing. The shared plates, from yuzu-doused micro-greens and flower petals to bonito-rich edamame puree, or the raw fish--such as uni sushi or toro tartare--is as fresh as can be. Cooked plates such as the Kobe beef, the soy-buttered scallops in sweet brine and Chawanmushi custard, or the quivering in eel-soy broth with black truffles and foie gras, are over the top.
The modern, largely organic, high-dollar Japanese menu deserves its showy setting. Meticulously designed in a mix of modern and antique motifs, the original Megu (there's a second midtown location) has porcelain rice-bowl columns cris-crossing an auditorium-sized dining area, with a gigantic temple bell suspended over a bottom-lit ice carving of Buddha. Decked out in haute Japonica, servers move softly between deep leather booths and the long sushi bar.
Though there's a good wine list ($40-$60 Reislings, Gruner Veltliners and Gewurtztraminers), the exhaustive sake and sochu list is sure to please. The 75-seat upstairs bar, wallpapered with bolts of antique kimono fabrics is a serene place to try all those sakes before or after dinner.
Restauranteur Drew Nieporent's much vaunted sushi house has become overshadowed by its reputation as a place for celebrity sightings (aided by his partner, actor Robert DeNiro), but it is still one of New York's great modern Japanese-Asian fusion restaurants. The sleek, Asian-accented interior by star designer David Rockwell, offers a calming touch to an often hectic and packed place.
Legendary fusion chef Nobu Matsuhisa has had a big part to play in creating this hybrid cuisine during the '90s, and his miso-marinated sweet black cod, rock shrimp with spicy mayonnaise, and tuna tartare with a bed of crushed avocado, continue to define this culinary style. His squid "pasta"--tender pieces of squid and crunchy asparagus, coated with a rich butter and garlic sauce--make for another unique eating experience as is his Kumamoto oysters with Maui onion salsa. Of course the sushi and sashimi are classic, as are the Omakase dinners which are sumptuous in both the dishes and the price. Extraordinarily well-matched wine and sake list.