Monday, December 20, 2010

Bouchon - Beverly Hills

Bouchon, don’t ever leave me.

Those were the only words I could think of after I finished eating Bouchon’s, the glorious Keller rendition of a homestyle classy Lyonnaise restaurant café. But I’m skipping to the very end of the post already. Let me start at the beginning.Seperated from the Mandala hotel by a café tables sprinkled park, the Bouchon is the closest thing that So Cal will have to a French Laundry. Unlike say, Wolfgang Puck who believes expanding restaurants is like buying a new pair of shoes, Thomas Keller invests his restaurants in new locations like a starving college student with his last dollar- with caution, with great thought, and to get the most out of every venture (or $1 burrito). But back to the restaurant.

My co-horts and I booked for a reservation for Saturday brunch at 12:15 through OpenTable (which is so convenient by the way). The restaurant called, apologizing because a private event had the place monopolized on that date and would we mind changing to the following weekend? Sure, I thought. I’ve waited this long, what’s another 7 days? Parking in the convenient Beverly Hills lots just diagonally across from famous names like Spago’s and Maestro’s (free for the first 2 hours yay but they’ll bleed you if you park for longer than that, sob). We took the exit after we got off the elevator and wound up walking in a circle around but managed to find our way past the Bouchon Bar with cute young couples, their cute babies and their cute $600 strollers. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator to lose weight (haha, the irony) we let the hostess know we were here for our reservation. They were very polite and cheerful and the horrors of Bouchon’s reputation for being crowded and crazy with people were nowhere in sight. Yay.
Beautiful Saturday sunlight streamed in through large French pane windows and we were seated. Cursive specials were written on two big boards on either side of the room and a clean and bright seafood bar was attached to a regular bar, tempting our eyes. We glanced through a fantastic looking brunch menu with classics like Croque Monsieur, a French open faced ham sandwich and of course the specials’ board had Quiche. But armed with an iPhone and the wonders of online reviewing we knew there were certain things that came well recommended.
The Eggs Benedict, titled Le Pouche Royale here were famous, a replicate from Keller’s culinary headliner in Napa Valley, the French Laundry, the waiter informed us. The Beef Short Ribs Hash and a recommended Roast Chicken were our other two entrees. We moved off the regular menu and into the specials. Our server, Todd, had this flair for stating descriptions, making me ready to order just about everything he said. (My enabler foodie companions were no help in holding me back.) In the end we had a Dungeness Crab Salad, Toad in the Hole, and Prince Albert Mussels. Greedy? Maybe. Justified? Completely.

First came the Prince Albert Mussels in a wine broth with “more fries than you can possibly eat” and what can only be described as a stick of mini bread loaves baked together.

The broth was too flavourful to be called light and the mussels were delightful. We had fun pushing the shells open and getting into the quarter sized morsels of mussel inbetween bits of lightly salted fries and dips of bread into the broth. 1 pound is a lot of mussels though, so beware if you’re dining along or with only one other person. It’d be a shame to waste.The next two appetizers came together.

The Dungeness Crab Salad was plated artistically, with baby shallots and a creamy avocado sauce that was as far from guacemole as a smart car is from an Maserati. Light, fresh, an uplifting and light mix of seafood salad, the sauce, and the baked crisps that stuck out from the salad like the Kraken’s last attempt at stopping us from devouring the dish. As if it could. The other dish, Toad in the Hole, is actually a Toasted Brioche with what I think is hen or quail egg, I can’t remember. Light and wonderfully warm, with a consistency lighter than bread pudding, I wasn’t paying attention when the description came but I can tell you I was all tongues with taste.

Onto entrees! K’s chicken addiction called for of course, the chicken. A glistening half chicken perched in an au jus pond, steamed corn and herbs forming a pretty little bed.

The Roast Chicken with Chicken Jus was tender, the deliciously dark brown of the roasted skin of chicken balanced against the white meat underneath, not dry in anyway. It was followed by the Short Rib Hash.

It was served in a shallow saucepan with double handles, carrots, potatos mixed in with what looked like moist, falling apart generous pieces of meat. A perfectly circular hen egg, made with a mold no doubt, sat on top, flakes of parsley decorating the top. It looked like it was made for a warm winter dinner at some ancient inn on the borders of Bordeaux perhaps. It tasted wonderful, the rib meat cooked soft, the fat having half melted into the meat and flavouring all the vegetables it was mixed in with. Accompanying it were two slices of multigrain toast which tasted fresh and healthy. I loved it. The only thing that could have made it better would probably have been a glass of red wine to go with the slightly heavier entrée. I think I’d have preferred to order this for dinner next time, if only to keep from falling into a happy food coma afterwards. And the last but by far not the least…

This is the Pouche Royale, the crowning breakfast dish of eggs benedict smothered with hollandaise sauce from Keller’s own French Laundry, smoked salmon slices peeking out teasingly from underneath all atop a Bouchon baked english muffin. The hen egg was perfected poached, the yolk just runny enough to soak into the toasted muffin as you cut through the grapefruit sized Pouche Royale, fresh parsley and the salmon adding a smoked savoury flavour. Excuse me for a second as I wipe the drool off my touchscreen. Did I mention it came with two eggs benedicts? Both sides of my muffin perhaps?

Ahh…my stomach was full and happy but a trip here would not be complete without dessert as the tables that neighbored us throughout our meal suggested. We received a metal dessert menu holder, the Bouchon name engraved in its back and a straight forward paper menu slid into the front.
A list of desserts ranging from Lemon Tart to Dark Chocolate Mousse was followed by a small collection of Fromages, dessert cheeses on the bottom. We decided to follow our quite large meal with a shared dessert though, perhaps hoping sheepishly to not seem so…overindulgent. (We seem to get this reaction a lot. The waiter actually agreed when we joked about this. Sadness.)The dessert was delicious and light, three chocolate cake shaped like cartoonishly overlarge winecorks from which the restaurant took its name, topped with a ball of malt ice cream and a large piece of malt chocolate, dark on one side and off white on the other standing between the trio of les bouchon.

The taste of malt was obviously prevalent, a little too strong for me since I would have preferred to enjoy the balance of the malt chocolate with vanilla ice cream instead but it was still delicious. I wouldn’t mind stopping by the Bouchon café/bakery downstairs if I were in the area to have the dessert by itself.
All in all, Bouchon has more than satisfied whatever expectations and indecisiveness I’ve had about trying a Thomas Keller establishment. The price was justified by the quality, the dishes were not pretentiously tiny as some places (Ortalon, its Beverly Hills neighbor comes to mind) and I felt relaxed and well taken care of there. I would definietly go back and in fact hope to make a return trip…just after I make a much anticipated trip to the Providence for New Years.
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, California 90210
(310) 271-9910

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