Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Last November, I was lucky to be invited to the Private Grand Opening of Bouchon and although it was a fun experience, I definitely wanted to go back and a sit down meal. Finally, a few months a later, I went with friends for a Sunday lunch. It was definitely a different vibe from my last experience. Literally, day and night, but it was a relaxing 3 hours that gave us a chance to catch up.
One thing I love about my friends is that we enjoy dining family-style, even from a la carte menus. That's how four out of six of us were able to share 10+ dishes, as a way to experience more of Bouchon's menu. However, the meal started with their housemade bread, which was crusty on the outside and soft in the inside. It was so good, we asked for one more.
As we were enjoying the bread, our appetizers started arriving. The first one I tried was the Poireaux en Vinaigrette et Oeufs (mimosa chilled leeks, piquillo peppers, eggs mimosa and a red wine vinaigrette) and I thought it was okay. I liked eating into the leeks, but the egg was a dry crumble and just wasn't very appealing.
We also ordered a bowl of Moules (mussels). There's not much to say about them. Overall, they were fine as is.
The last appetizer to arrive was the Frisée aux Lardons et Oeuf Poché (frisée salad with lardons, poached egg, bacon vinaigrette and toasted brioche). I absolutely liked breaking into the egg and eating the runny yolk mixed in with the rest of the ingredients. Maybe, I'm just too much of a bacon person, but this salad needed more of it. I could taste hints from the bacon vinagrette, but it was too subtle for my taste.
Suffice to say, the appetizers we just had didn't do much for me; however, the complimentary charcuterie board with various meats and pickled veggies were way up my alley. I gravitated the most towards the beets and the duck proscuitto.
Now it was time for entrees, but not before we devoured everything on that charcuterie board. Two in our party opted to order their own individual entrees. One was the Croque Madame (toasted ham and cheese sandwich on brioche, fried egg and mornay sauce served with French fries) and the other was the Moules au Safran (Maine bouchot mussels steamed with white wine, mustard and saffron served with French fries). I actually did try one of the mussels with some of the broth spooned into it and it was absolutely delicious.
Along with the two entrees mentioned above, four others arrived with them. First, there was the Truite aux Amandes (pan-roasted trout with haricots verts, almonds and beurre noisette). The trout was beautifully presented and I also enjoyed eating the delicate white fish meat, although I found it a little bland overall.
One of the specials on the menu board was the open faced Tuna Nicoise Tartine and was highly recommended by our waiter. It was nicely prepared and it tasted fine, but just like the trout, it needed something else to take it up a notch, flavor wise. I almost wished that I had asked for pepper. That may have livened it up a bit or perhaps I'm expecting too much from a tuna sandwich.
The third entree was the Poulet Rôti Grand-Mère (roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes, button mushrooms, lardons, pearl onions and winter savory jus). Everything was there to make this a really good dish. There was crispy chicken skin to enjoy. I thought the sauce was seasoned well. I love all kinds of mushrooms. Unfortunately, the chicken breast was dry. Pouring the sauce on the chicken helped, but it would have been better if the meat itself was juicy.
Our final entree was the Plat de Côtes de Boeuf (red wine braised beef short ribs with caramelized Savoy cabbage, glazed sweet carrots, parsnips & jus de boeuf). If I hadn't tried the Moules au Safran, I would have said that this short rib was the best of the four. The beef was tender and the red wine added great flavor; however, that broth from the Moules au Safran and the mussel itself was absolutely stellar.
It was soon dessert time and we started with the Tarte au Citron (lemon tart), which I absolutely loved. Tart in all the right places and simple in its presentation. You don't need bells and whistles when something so simple can stand on its own.
Our second dessert was the Ile Flottante (meringue with vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel). I enjoyed the light texture of the creme anglaise and how this dessert wasn't overly sweet. It was just right.
Third to arrive was the Chocolate Bouchons, the signature dessert the restaurant is named for. It's a fudgy chocolate cake sprinkled with powdered sugar that is in a signature shape, similar to a cork. The chocolate bouchons aren't on the regular dessert menu, so if you do see it on their specials menu and you are a chocolate lover, this is one dessert you may want to consider ordering.
Last, but not least, we were served a complimentary Pot de Crème (infused custard), which came with short bread cookies. I would have been fine without it, although a smear of the custard on the short bread cookie was quite tasty.
To end, I enjoyed my time at Bouchon. The food was well prepared using great ingredients and the service was awesome. Our waiter really catered to us and when one of my friends asked if Chef Keller would pose for a group picture with us, he was happy to do so. They were also nice enough to let us take a peek into the kitchen.
There's definitely quite a few positives to Bouchon, but is it a restaurant I'd return to? Probably not in the near future, unless it's on someone else's dime. Overall, I just need my food to have stronger flavors with more zing for my tastebuds, which I didn't really get at Bouchon. For those who like more subtle flavors in the food they eat and can appreciate a fine dining experience, Bouchon offers that and more. For me, there's still a lot of restaurants on my to go list and I'm not getting any younger. :)
235 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210