Dining

How a Classic French Bistro Stands Its Ground in the Age of Instagram

Daniel Boulud is highlighting a special menu at db Bistro Moderne
Daniel Boulud's db Bistro Moderne NYC
Photo: Daniel Krieger

Over-the-top milkshakes and rainbow everything make for great photos, but people tend to just 'gram and go rather than actually eat that doughnut grilled cheese.

Someone else who's noticed this tendency toward cheese pulls and yolk porn? Legendary French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. What will be left of those food trends in five years beyond a slew of forgotten photos? Will people even remember the taste? These are the types of issues he's aiming to combat with his latest special menu.

At his New York City French bistro, db Bistro Moderne, Boulud is bringing back the classics. To celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, Boulud and chef Chris Stam have launched a Sweet 16 menu of weekly rotating specials. The eight-week menu, which concludes November 5, highlights one sweet and one savory dish each week. Stam explains how they're "going back to the roots," not just with regards to French cuisine in general but "classics to us specifically."

Coq au vin | Photo: Noah Fecks

Boulud, who grew up in Lyon and later traveled throughout France, says his "dishes are reminiscent of childhood, my upbringing as a chef and love of French cuisine." That love of French cuisine is what inspired him to open db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan's bustling Midtown in 2001, catering to everyone from businessmen to theatergoers. "People are craving a return to classic, because they feel like they're missing something," he says.

The seasonally driven offerings have ranged from a tomato tart, a take on traditional apple upside-down cake that's one of chef Boulud's favorites to canonical desserts like île flottante. This week's inclusions are arguably the most classic: boeuf bourguignon and apple tarte Tatin.

Apple tart Tatin | Evan Sung

Whether or not there's a subsequent Sweet 17 menu at db Bistro Moderne, Boulud and Stam's menu will continue to put timely twists on French classics. Either way, they won't be hiding behind gimmicks—the food will speak for itself.

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