Bocuse Restaurant Review in Hyde Park: French Food and Dining in Dutchess County
French revolution: The opening of the Culinary Institute’s Bocuse Restaurant signals a whole new era in fine dining
Magic tricks: Earl Grey tea poured over the Mont Blanc dessert interacts with dry ice to create a stunning spectacle
Photographs by Phil Mansfield/courtesy of CIA
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When you sit down at the new Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, you’ll probably notice a few things right off the bat. You may appreciate the Hudson River view or the sleek new decor (courtesy of famed restaurant designer Adam Tihany), or your gaze may be drawn to the oversized window through which you can view almost every inch of the brand spanking new stainless steel kitchen. Then, you’ll probably notice the little box of cards on your table. One question is printed on each card. “What would you choose as your last meal on earth?” “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you in a restaurant?” “Are you smarter than a CIA student?”
“The guests are really diving into the cards,” says CIA spokesperson Virginia Mure. “They’re a great conversation starter; they provide some levity and lightness.” For those of you who don’t know, Bocuse, which opened with a celebrity chef-studded dinner in February, replaces the Escoffier — the culinary college’s flagship teaching restaurant for almost 40 years. At the “E Room,” as it was affectionately dubbed by insiders, a generation of top chefs learned to prepare and serve French food in the most formal fashion. But the dining culture has changed dramatically, and the days of white glove service have given way to a more relaxed era of creativity and collaboration. Named after pioneering French chef Paul Bocuse, 87 — the CIA named him the “chef of the century” in 2011 — the eatery reflects the current focus on nouvelle cuisine, which Bocuse has championed throughout his career.
Chef Sergio Remolina (far left), executive chef of Bocuse, consults with star chef Paul Bocuse at the master’s restaurant in Lyon, France last fall; Bocuse’s signature black truffle soup (above right) is served in a dome of puff pastry
Overall, this is still a high-end dining experience, just a more modern one. Diners now peruse the extensive wine list on table-side iPads and dine on uncovered tables. Whimsical touches — our amuse-bouche arrived on a ceramic “pillow” — add to the fun. Still, some old-fashioned flourishes remain, most notably that the food is transported to your table under silver domed covers, which are all removed simultaneously to great dramatic effect. “The table-side service is a signature part of this restaurant experience,” says Mure. “But now we’ve enhanced it and modernized it.” Gone is the old tradition of having meat carved, or fish de-boned, at your table, but it’s been replaced with the wildly popular dessert and ice cream cart. (The cart also delivers up specialty cocktails, too.) There, a student-waiter need only hand-crank the Kitchen Aid ice cream churn for a few minutes to create a super smooth treat, thanks to the magic cooling powers of liquid nitrogen. “It’s the most amazing ice cream in the world,” says Mure. “Because there are no ice crystals, it’s unbelievably smooth.” Currently, vanilla is the only flavor available, “but we’re experimenting with flavors and some toppings,” says Mure.
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