Today is Bastille Day, otherwise known as the day when Americans are really glad that something (doesn't matter what, U-S-A, U-S-A!) happened in France because it gives them a chance to dust off the ol' beret and drink a Saturday amount of wine on a Thursday. In honor of Bastille Day, we're taking a look at Boulevardier, the French-inspired bistro located in Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District.
In 2015, the Observer declared Boulevardier was Dallas' best Sunday brunch spot. That's saying something, considering that the city's brunch options have proliferated at rates normally reserved for infectious diseases. But does Boulevardier still reign supreme now that 2016 has seen brunch elevated to an art-form by the likes of Graham Dodds and Matt McCallister?
It would appear so. Boulevardier's reign is bolstered, as many successful European monarchies have been, by cocktails and duck fat. It began in 2012, when owners Brooks and Bradley Anderson set up shop in what feels like the sleepy end of Bishop Arts, just before the quaint shops and restaurants become clapboard houses. Boulevardier's interior is a welcoming and unpretentious space whose most prominent feature is a handsome bar with an end cap of oysters just waiting to be shucked.
The cocktail list includes a floral take on the classic mimosa, thanks to a shot of St. Germain Elderflower ($8), while the Pimm's cup is re-imagined with the warm aromatics of chai ($10). A glass of the milk punch spiked with cognac and nutmeg ($12) would pair nicely with the French toast ($10), as would many of the other drink options which are predominately on the sweet and fruity side.
If your brunch calls for an order of fresh oysters — and it should — skip the cocktails and choose a glass of crisp white wine or a local beer from the tap instead. Malpeque, Ring Point and Pine Island oysters ($3.35 each) were available during our visit, each variety offering its own delicious glimpse into the briny depths from whence it came.
The most appropriate way to chase oysters is with something lavish. Duck confit, for instance. The French are excellent at turning meats into the most decadent versions of themselves. Confiting, wherein meat is poached in its own fat before being cooled and stored in a cozy sleeping bag of the same, is one such technique. Boulevardier does this classic dish justice, exposing the duck leg ($16) to a flash of heat in order to crisp the skin. Inside, the meat is so tender that the tines of a fork seem somehow barbaric against it.
While the duck leg stands solidly on its own, when combined with bits and bites from the plate's other components it induces such pleasure in the eater that one expects to be left out of breath and gripping the table. The Mary Magdalene in ecstasy-inducing components are these: crisped grit cakes with pleasing, sourdough-like twang, the creamy yolk of sunny side up eggs, sweet huckleberry preserves and greens dressed in a splash of oil and vinegar. Sweet, sour, salty: it was all contained in this one dish, and beautifully so.
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Compared to the duck confit, it would be difficult for any brunch dish to wow. The Prospector's breakfast ($12) — an immense, open-faced omelette — was such a dish. On its own it was lovely. Lightly browned on the bottom, the omelet bore hidden treasures, thick pieces of house-made bacon and slivers of garlic. Sitting atop the omelet was a cap of arugula dressed with the same acidic dressing as before, and dotting the base of the cap were several fried oysters. But it wasn't perfect — the egg a little bouncy, the oysters a little greasy and all the while the duck confit beckoned.
There is room for exploring French-style cuisine on the brunch menu, from poached eggs in red wine sauce (eggs meurette, $13) to an assortment of breads and jam (le petit dejeuner, $7). At Boulevardier, one can quite happily imagine weekends spent getting acquainted with the menu as sunlight streams in through the front window and the mimosas flow.
Or, leave the exploration to Jacque Cousteau and just get the damn duck.
Boulevardier, 408 N. Bishop Ave. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday