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Maison Barnes

Christine Drinan, Founder

When an iconic chef (aka Daniel Boulud) reopens his original iconic restaurant (Café Boulud) in an iconic space (most recently Vaucluse), the expectations are naturally high. And while I have mad love for Chef Boulud, I haven’t been crazy about a few of his recent openings. So, is Maison Barnes worthy to join the Boulud empire? This is the review.

Overview

Before I get into the components that make up Maison Barnes as a whole, I feel like there needs to be a lay of the land as their website can be confusing. I know part of the reason is that Maison Barnes just opened this May, and secondly, I think they are still refining the concept. The nutshell is that Maison Barnes is the bar and supper club dining space next to Cafe Boulud. Maison Barnes, though, isn’t just an extension of Cafe Boulud but a whole different decor and vibe. They might as well be in two separate buildings but they’re simply separated by a reception area.

So, while the decor is distinct, one of the benefits of Maison Barnes is they’ll serve you the Cafe Boulud menu in addition to their own. Also in the works at Maison Barnes is a lower-level speakeasy that they may offer up as a VIP space to customers, and also to those with the password. All seems to be TBD at the moment but they’ve hit the ground running leveraging off the Cafe Boulud operations.

Atmosphere

There are some universal facts, and one of them is that the space at Maison Barnes is a stunner. Where Cafe Boulud next door is a light, bright, and contemporary elegance, Maison Barnes is colorful, sexy, and plush. The main bar has a similar lounge setup as the previous rendition of Vaucluse. However, there’s a counterintuitive yet beautiful color palate of teals and reds that all just seem to work. The other notable aspect of the decor is that it shows you that lighting is everything. Maison Barnes is the perfect spot to drop in for a first date and drink all the way to celebrating an anniversary. The atmosphere lends itself to anyone from solo diners, couples, girls on a night out, and other groups. There’s something for everyone at Maison Barnes.

Food + Wine

As Maison Barnes currently stands, they have three different menu options. First, there’s the menu of Café Boulud, where you can order à la carte or the full monty. Secondly, they have a lounge menu, which, to not bury the lede, rocked my world (more on that shortly). Third, there’s a Maison Barnes restaurant menu, which, like the website messaging, is unfortunately confusing. I thought the menu was supposed to be a simpler rendition of Café Boulud, which as we all know is fancy. However, with two main choices of an $84 Dover sole and a $76 filet mignon, Maison Barnes is anything but low-key. Even the appetizers are priced at around $50/piece, but I guess it’s not like anyone who comes to Maison Barnes is on a budget. The point is when I first read that the menu was inspired by French classics, my expectation was mussels and frites, steak frites, or heck, even lobster frites. It wouldn’t surprise me though if they re-concepted the Maison Barnes menu at some point.

The Bar Menu is the Star

In the meantime though, they shouldn’t change a thing about the selection of the bar menu. The bar menu had some of the best canapé bites that I’ve had in a long time in the city. The fluke crudo came in a thin shell filled with the most delicate cream, orange blossom, and raspberry. The $15 order comes with three bites that honestly I could have had 5 orders of these and been a happy camper.

Other highlights were the clams and mussels which were 6 beautiful pieces topped with buttery breadcrumbs, herbs, and Pastis. The black truffle Croque Monsieur was essentially a grilled cheese with truffle and ham that tasted like a 10 but I think could have been better presented. In lieu of two pieces of sandwich bread for $40, I would have done mini croques to match the rest of the elegantly presented menu.

You could and should make a meal of the bar apps. However, we decided to cross over and have a few Café Boulud bites. This isn’t a review of Café Boulud, but we did have the lobster ravioli and the Thai-inspired shrimp dumplings. The latter I wish I could forget; it tasted like a sausage and I don’t eat pork for a reason. But I’m not holding it against Café Boulud and am looking forward to a proper meal here. In the meantime, I’ll have one of each of the bar bites on the menu at Maison Barnes. This is how you do canapés.

Drinks + Wine

A quick note on the wines by the glass. I know I’ve said this before that most restaurants nowadays seem to have given up on decent wines by the glass. That’s not the case with Maison Barnes. Yes, you’ll pay $38/glass but the wine is well worth it though young at times with 2019s and 2020s on the red list. My friend had a white Burgundy that she doubled down on, and also loved her cocktail. The verdict is that Maison Barnes has pretty much aced the bar experience.

Service

Maison Barnes has the benefit of tagging onto the operations of Cafe Boulud, and it’s all running like a well-oiled machine. I would describe Maison Barnes’ service as impeccable with personality and soul. For a place that is Fancy with a capital “F”, there’s no pomp and circumstance yet there is polish and elegance. Our waiter sized us up and knew that we would probably eat like birds and offered to time our meal so we could decide at each step if we were still hungry. It’s refreshing not to be upsold and have a service team that cares more about your experience.

Overall: 8/10

There is officially a restaurant that’s not a private club in the Midtown/Upper East Side that’s a go-to drinks and dinner spot.

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FAQs

Q: Where is Maison Barnes located?

A: Maison Barnes is located in the space directly adjacent to Cafe Boulud at 100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065.

Q: What are the hours of operation of Maison Barnes?

A: The hours of operation of Maison Barnes are currently as follows, subject to change as it just opened:

Monday 5–10:30 PM
Tuesday 5–10:30 PM
Wednesday 5–10:30 PM
Thursday 5–10:30 PM
Friday 5–10 PM
Saturday 5–10 PM
Sunday Closed

Q: What type of food does Maison Barnes serve?

A: Maison Barnes serves French-inspired cuisine as well as a dedicated bar menu and items from the Café Boulud menu.

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