First Take Restaurant Review: Boulevardier in Oak Cliff

Eddie Eakin is waiting to pour you a shot of Fernet Branca after you finish your bone marrow (left); roasted bone marrow (right) photos by Desiree Espada

I’m late jumping onto the Boulevardier-love bandwagon, but we all know Oak Cliff’s new French bistro is bound to stick around for a long, long time. So, no rush, right? When the boys from Ava (Randall Copeland and Nathan Tate) and Veritas (Brooks and Bradley Anderson) announced they were moving into Bishop Arts District together, the neighborhood could hardly wait. Half of Oak Cliff has probably visited Boulevardier already and seen what everyone’s been making a fuss about, but I thought it’d be nice to make the other half jealous with Desiree Espada’s handsome photos.

Jump. I command you. These photos are fabulous.

Bouillabaisse with baby octopus, mussels, fingerling potatoes, seasonal white fish, and shrimp

For those of you who’ve only experienced Boulevardier through blog posts and reviews, definitely take a second to consider driving from your faraway suburb to Oak Cliff. Brooks Anderson calls Boulevardier an “urban bistro” with “really casual service that is still proper.” Since Dallas is done with snooty fine dining, it make sense for a restaurant like Boulevardier – with its more approachable, laid-back atmosphere – to catch on like wildfire. It is, after all, located in a neighborhood where it’s okay for the waiters to wear plaid and take your orders on sleek iPhones. Some people don’t care a whiff about incongruity, but I find it ever-so-slightly odd to dine in a place where the waiter is dressed more casually than you while bringing a $28 bowl of bouillabaisse to your table. And while I’m glad places like Boulevardier are adding to the cool and hip vibe of Oak Cliff, landmarks like El Padrino (a taco shack that’s been on West Davis before Bishop Arts became the Bishop Arts of today) are closing as the neighborhood heads in a more uppity direction.

Charcuterie – The big board with everything but the foie.
Interior (left); crawfish beignets with pimentón aioli sauce (right)

On the menu: Let’s start with the crawfish beignets – these fluffy pieces of fried dough filled with little crawfish – that are certain to put you in a good mood. The house-pickled peppers from Barking Cat Farm create an acidic contrast to the creamy, smoked pimentón aioli sauce drizzled on top. As for the bouillabaisse, the most expensive dish on the menu, Nathan Tate says the stock’s made from lobster shells and saffron, which explains why I kept dipping my baguette into the dish to sop up every last bit of this aromatic broth. It’s impossible to stop. After all little neck clams, plump Mediterranean mussels, baby octopus, fingerling potatoes, and seasonal white fish are gone, all that’s left is you and this broth: a very dangerous situation to be in, especially if you’re not expecting to finish the bouillabaisse.

The Tate Farms burger is also “near and dear” to Nate’s heart. His family farm in Rockwall is supplying the grass fed, all natural, and no antibiotics meat for the burger. Meme’s clafoutis, a dessert with flan-like consistency, is another item of sentimental value. It’s a recipe that Brook’s mother stumbled upon while she was studying abroad in France, and it’s baked with black cherries and topped with homemade creme fraiche ice cream and pistachio brittle.

Wood-grilled gulf oysters with housemade casino butter

The wine program: As the masterminds behind Veritas, Brooks and Bradley Anderson knew they wanted “fresh wines with a nice acidity that were food-friendly” at Boulevardier. 50% of the bottles are French, and the other 50% are from the West coast. Brooks says his wine is selling itself, which makes sense because the Anderson brothers paid attention to what people could afford. The Domain de Mourchon is outselling every other wine by a factor of three. “It’s a really beautiful wine fermented in concrete, so it doesnt have a lot of oak,” says Brooks. “Great fruit without being fruity. Great terrior without being too earthy. Not too old for our chicken dish, but can stand up to our steak frites.” Brooks also recommends the Mourchon if you’re ordering the lamb neck.

Lamb neck (left); berry cocktail - Smash De La Saison (right)

Who was there: Boulevardier attracts a mixed crowd. My friend spotted her old Hockaday high school teacher in a t-shirt and jeans. Another woman wore a sparkly snake skin print shirt and teeter-tottered on five-inch heels. Of course, there were also the usual suspects: casual hipster men with their vintage fedoras and bow-ties thankfully blocking the view of an unabashed guy snogging his red-haired date at the bar. The poor children at the next table over weren’t too scarred, I hope.

Price: Expect to drop a lot of pretty pennies here. Appetizers cost between $10-$12 and big plates can vary between $13 to $28. It’s not cheap, but all the entrees are definitely shareable and enough for two if you order something from the charcuterie or small plates section, too.

Nice details: The mustard is made in-house. So are all the ice creams. Nate’s really into pickling, so he seals up everything from okra and onions to sweet peppers, and uses them in his dishes. (You can see all the jars lined up on the back wall of the restaurant.) “It’s really just an old-school mentality – being able to preserve things going out of season,” he says. “I think it really fits with our rustic sensibility. There’s still a lot of preparation and technique involved with what we do, but you won’t see a lot of microgreens and manicured flowers on our plates. We’re more about nice meats on our plates.”

Randall Copeland, Brooks and Bradley Anderson, Nathan Tate (apron) all with signature Boulevardier drink.