For our second wedding anniversary, my wife and I aren’t getting each other presents. Instead, we’re channeling our resources into a series of “fancy” dinners in both Yountville and Los Angeles. As “mildly” obsessed fans of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, we thought it would be nice to check out Keller’s venerable French bistro, Bouchon, especially since getting a reservation at The French Laundry is almost impossible.
Since my wife and I have ties in both marketing and graphic design, it was wonderful to see how Bouchon is packaged for the public. From the swanky-yet-casual French bistro vibe, to the menus that wrap around the napkins, to the logos on the carafes, Bouchon has the details nailed down. This attention to detail carries over to the food, as well, which is all beauifully presented and equally delicious.
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We started with the French Onion soup and the Beignets de Brandade de Morue. Featuring a salty cod puree (brandade) that’s incorporated into the batter, these crispy and perfectly fried beignets (served with tomato confit & fried sage) are delicious with a surprisingly delicious fishy kick. The French onion soup was very good, but I wish there were more pieces of onion in it.
My wife ordered the Croque Madame, which was excellent. The brioche is the star of this delicious ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg, and the wonderful mornay sauce was akin to the “icing on the cake.” I ordered the Steak Frites, which featured a flatiron steak, prepared sous vide and then pan-seared and topped with caramelized shallots and a slice of hotel butter. The steak had the beautiful texture that you’d expect from a steak prepared sous vide and the shallot/butter combination was an excellent complement.
Fries were served with both of our orders and they were close to perfect but not the best I’ve had. They give you an extremely generous serving of fries, so much so that we didn’t even finish them because we wanted to save room for dessert. I almost think that they could give you fewer fries so as not to waste potatoes.
For dessert, my wife got the daily special, a pot de creme infused with mint that was refreshing and light. It was served with a Bouchon Bakery shortbread cookie that was good, but it’s not as buttery as a more traditional shortbread cookie. I ordered the lemon tart, something I’ve had my eye on for months after seeing the recipe online, and it did not disappoint. The flavor was really intense, but given my recent penchant for lemony desserts, I loved it. The meal officially ended with some really cute petit fours (chocolate chip cookie, corn meal muffin, mini Nutter Butter, passionfruit jelly candy) The Nutter Butter and the passionfruit jelly candy were the best of the four.
I thought that the service was pretty good, although it did take awhile to get our main courses. Our server was fairly attentive and the basics, like water refills, clearing plates, etc. were all taken care of promptly. Turnover didn’t seem to be an issue as our meal took nearly two hours. The room has very high ceilings, and it can get very loud inside once it starts filling up. The tables are very close together, which some people have complained about, but I think this actually helps replicate the atmosphere of a real French bistro.
Overall, there’s a lot of stuff on Bouchon’s extensive menu we’d like to try, so we’re definitely planning on a return visit.