Chef Paul Bocuse officially opened the eponymously named restaurant in Hyde Park on February 15 with a star-studded international guest list. Nearly one hundred top chefs and dignitaries came together to honor the legendary chef of Lyon, France, who is credited with creating nouvelle cuisine and the Farm-to-Table movement. Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Michel Richard and Jean-Georges Vongerichten were all on hand to inaugurate the new 3 million dollar Bocuse Restaurant.
What once was the venerable Escoffier Restaurant, the CIA’s paean to classic French dining for 38 years, is now updated to a modern teaching (meaning student-staffed) classroom that represents the type of high-end restaurant many of the students will graduate into. For example, Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant, specifically his concept of the kitchen, was used as a model of what should be included. A sous vide station, a blast chiller, pressurized stock pots – in fact the latest in technology and the cutting-edge of culinary achievements – are all available to insure that students are accustomed to using them when they matriculate.
In the dining room, the stylish décor and opulent furnishings are vastly different from the Escoffier Room it replaces. The Bocuse Restaurant updates the classic French design traditions and translates them into a sleek modern look. Bringing the new and the old together is a 19th century, French antique wooden silk-spinning-machine-cum-table hosting Paul Bocuse’s signature roosters. It is a dramatic nod to the French history of the room and the 87 year-old man it is named for.
According to the CIA website, “The exciting new Bocuse Restaurant provides a dining experience that is inspired by traditional French regional cuisine, re-envisioned through the lens of modern techniques. The menu will include creative new interpretations of classics selected from the bistros of the French countryside as well as the sophisticated restaurants of Paris.”
A look at the menu reveals a moderately priced dining experience within all that glitzy glamor. Prix fixe lunches are $29 ($39 with wine pairings) and dinners are $39 ($59 with wine pairings). Lunch entrees range anywhere from $18 to $27 and for dinner $24 to $32, with appetizers for both from $8 to $12. This is comparable to other premium restaurants in the Hudson Valley, and a bargain for the quality of food and the setting.
Black Truffle Soup V.G.E. Élysée (Beef Broth, Vegetables, Black Truffles, Puff Pastry $9) is a specialty of Chef Bocuse. It is served in his signature tureen (see photo of the overhead lights in the private dining room) with a puff pastry crust that rises into a delicious-looking mound. It has simple ingredients and humble origins (he is said to have been inspired by chicken pot pie) but was created in 1975 for a presidential dinner at the Elysée Palace, the V.G.E. being the initials of former president of France, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
With at-table service of a Prosecco cart and a nitrogen-chilled, hand-cranked ice cream cart, the Culinary Institute of America's Bocuse Restaurant will provide the most elegant dining experience in the entire region. There is no dress code, parking is available, and reservations are encouraged. They can be made by calling 845-471-6608 (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.)