Hospitality of operatic proportions is bursting at the seams in the heart of the Bowery. Packed houses every night resound with competing arias, quixotic consumption and dramatic audience participation. This is a show not to be missed. Where faux French staging is often overdone with garlic predictability and Proustian gloom, this season DBGB offers a fresh interpretation of the classics. Bravo. The pig may be the focus of the performance, but protagonists front and back of house make the magic happen.
The role of tavern master sits generously with Mike, who personally presents each slow roasted suckling pig with as much excitement as the last, clanging a huge bell to announce the impending feast. On Thursday night there were three bell ringings, and each time the anticipation of the parties was well met. Apart from the various accompaniments ( and the impressive baked alaska that completes the piggy package ) the hog itself consumes the entire day and skill of more than one chef. Such is the fine detail of their work, that when the pig’s head is returned on the request of the culinary curious to carve the facial features for tasting, the chef cuts the tastebuds off the tongue as these can turn bitter in the baking process. Who would know that?! This was only the first indication of the perfection of the food setting it’s own standard.
With all respect to the pig, sausages are the real stars of the house, and we were richly rewarded by the excellent recommendations of our waiter Josh. France and old colonial connections made a perfect tryst between spicy Tunisienne and earthy Beaujolaise links – although speaking of rich, the duck that followed was in a class of it’s own. Whatever Ian did with the resting and the roasting, he is a master chef. I would have believed this even if he hadn’t delivered his team’s favorite dish for us to taste – one we would have been too afraid to order – until now. If you had never tasted a perfect chocolate truffle, then you could very well think you had discovered it by tasting the Boudin Basque, a peppery blood sausage served on creamy mashed potato with a poached egg. It was sublime. Outstanding. Not the least bit scary, and even if it were, why should vampires have all the fun…?
DBGB is as much a melting pot now as it is an inviting New York dining experience. But therein lies the rub. In the past 5 years since it’s opening, I have been to this bistro four or five times and it was never like this. The atmosphere is warmer now, the food is better. For me DBGB has reinvented itself in the ever changing landscape that is NYC. The waiting staff have a lean olympic look and there is a warmth that extends from Le Grand Fromage to the punters. On Thursday a huge party of architects filled most of the front room, and included us in their Christmas photo. The piggy party of blokes behind us offered to share their feast and wanted to talk about Mosman and Sydney’s north shore. And in the midst of the merry-making there was Ian talking about the ongoing refinement of french cuisine and what happens when you mix it up with the gregariousness of the American culture. Burgers a la bourguignon, DBGB style. Somehow it works – although imagine if you threw some exotic Australian ingredients into the mix? That is a playbill yet to be written and worth watching out for…