Bouillabaisse Boulevardier Kevin Marple

Restaurant Review

Boulevardier Still Steals My French Heart

The cozy Bishop Arts staple knows how to make its guests feel right at home.

When Boulevardier opened in the Bishop Arts District five years ago, we were ready for the charm of its ambience and the seduction of its Gallic touches. The fare is chic, but always still bistro. Boulevardier has always seemed a place that fit far more people into the space than should be possible, that tight squeeze and cozy cram an integral part of the laid-back neighborhood bistro feel.

A plate of oysters looks good going by. It’s a place to crowd in for crawfish beignets or a well-made cocktail. In winter, I think of it as a destination for a hearty cassoulet.

Chef Nathan Tate may not be French. But there’s anise-y Herbsaint liquor in the bouillabaisse, which is not a ruddy, tomato-based broth, but a suave, golden number dotted with baby octopus, fingerling potatoes, and tender pieces of fish, its lobster broth scented with fennel and saffron. It may be the city’s finest take on the fisherman’s stew. And that swish of saffron rouille—the garlic and olive oil sauce used to garnish—painted on charred spears of baguette, could there be anything more sophisticated? Let your baguette soak up the last dregs. Or plumb the PEI mussels’ shellfish fumet, in which tomatoes carry the smoke of the wood-fired grill. That broth, too, is smoky and savory, wonderfully nuanced and subtle.

The wild boar ragout you might be so excited about can turn out to be not so exciting. The last time I went, there was so much lemon zest in the housemade ricotta that it tasted sweet and dessert-like, like something destined to fill cannoli. The pappardelle noodles were not particularly supple, and the ragout wanted a heartier, more savory note, I felt.

The marrow bones were uneven, too. They come stacked like fire logs, and we were glad to have four, as two were rich with pockets of marrow, two slim and meager—if one can even talk of marrow as meager. But they got a nice dose of flavor from caramelized onion jam. The kitchen is skilled at sneaking in layers of flavor.

The bread pudding we’ve written about had a little too much cinnamon and too much heft for my taste, though it came with a  huckleberry jam that I savored like a kid caught with a finger in the jam-jar. I could have done with just that: a bistro meal that ended with a spoonful of jam. I don’t see why not. After all, they do everything to make you feel rather at home.

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