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Gustavino’s may have made dining by the Queensboro Bridge a “fashionable” destination, but the real reason for traveling towards this structure lies directly across the street: Bouterin. For many years, award-winning chef Antoine Bouterin has been displaying his distinct flair for Provencal-style cooking in this warm and comfortable restaurant, and he has never lost his touch.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
The caring and contentment typical of Bouterin’s style begins shortly after you sit down, from the complimentary amuse-bouche to the addictively good warm bread to the perfectly-made cocktails. (If you’ve never had a negroni, or only sampled a badly prepared one, treat yourself to this refreshing gin-campari-vermouth libation here).
The menu is relatively simple, comprising about 20 dishes, with truly something for everyone.
Among the hot appetizers, top honors go to a trio of golf-ball sized crab cakes that are devoid of breading and perfectly seasoned. An evening’s special of lightly sauteed soft-shell crabs (also available as an entrée) was equally exemplary. Meanwhile, the generous portion of delicious caramelized onions atop the house’s pissaladiere – a classic Provencale onion tart – compensated for the so-so quality of the pastry. Our one cold appetizer, a salad of endive, beets and egg in a walnut dressing, was delicious and quite filling.
We were completely set with our entrée choices until our charming waiter tempted us with the specials. The one always-on-the-menu item we stuck with was a beautifully prepared crispy roast duck with a cranberry sauce. (We were also considering such French classics as lamb stew and bouillabaisse!) Fortunately, the rest of our party couldn’t have been happier with the daily specials: a gorgeously done rack of lamb (served exquisitely medium-rare); a first-rate, extremely flavorful branzino; and a quartet of melt-in-your-mouth sea scallops topped with bread crumbs. In keeping with Bouterin’s preference for healthier dining, all the entrees were served with spinach and asparagus, instead of starches.
Of course, health concerns fly out the window at the mere mention of dessert! Any bad thoughts you’ve ever had about chocolate soufflés will disappear with one bite of the stellar version presented here. Non-chocoholics (or those who really don’t like soufflés) can content themselves with a fine lemon-meringue tart or decent tarte tatin. In the European tradition, coffee is served after dessert (if you’d prefer), a perfect excuse to linger in these lovely surroundings before heading out to the noisy world outside.
Neighborhood: East 50s
Entree Price: $25-30
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