Welcome to Bouchon, the most anticipated restaurant opening in Los Angeles this past year. Los Angeles is fast becoming the dining capital of the US, and the best chefs in the world have all got their eyes on this City of Angels. Wolfgang Puck got his start here and José Andrés descended upon our land with mucha energía; Robuchon got rejected but Rick Bayless came through. When Thomas Keller came up to bat, we all welcomed him with open arms with the grand opening of Bouchon in the heart of Beverly Hills.
As always, I waited a few months to check out the new restaurant, as it takes a while for restaurants to work out their kinks and find their rhythm. Many of my chef friends have always advised me on this golden rule of a minimum 3 months wait before dining at a new restaurant. I almost broke the rule with Bouchon, as this wasn’t Keller’s first restaurant, or even his first Bouchon, but the perfect opportunity came this past spring when I found myself at this beautiful and majestic venue with 4 handsome French men in the food and beverage industry. A chef, a sommelier, a mixologist and a vodka rep, wining and dining me at this lovely bistro that might as well be in the 1er arrondissement overlooking the Jardin de Tuileries.
Bouchon Beverly Hills follows a similar menu to its other restaurants in Yountville and Las Vegas. Hearty and classic French bistro fare abound on the trademark printed paper menu that comes neatly folded around each napkin, like steak frites, croque madame, soupe à l’oignon and confit de canard. A raw bar offers freshly shucked oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, crab and lobster. Domestic and French cheeses can be had individually or as a tasting plate. The dessert menu has classic French sweets like profiteroles, pot de crème, mousse au chocolat noir and ile flottante. Charcuteries and patés made by chef de cuisine Rory Herrmann are there for your ultimate pleasure, bien sur. So what sets this French bistro apart from the others that have been feeding LA residents with good old comfort food? Other than the Keller name, it’s the distinctly un-bistro price tag (for $135, you can indulge in a 50 gram sampling of Californian caviar and your croque madame will set you back $17.95) and the astonishing interior of this grand establishment.
There’s a casual café downstairs called Bar Bouchon which is perfect for al fresco terrace dining by the beautiful green park with water fountains, but Bouchon’s allure and beauty rests upstairs in the fine dining area designed by Adam Tihany. Tile mosaics lay the groundwork of the grand hall where hand-painted murals decorate the walls and classic globe sconces cast soft illumination on the crowded tables. Stunning high ceilings barely contain the lively sounds of clinking wine glasses, silverware on plates and engaging conversation. With French speaking dining companions at my table, I sometimes had to remind myself that I wasn’t in Paris, and that it wasn’t a lovely Parisian dream.
What better way to celebrate a bistro dinner than with a terrine de foie gras de canard served with toasted baguette. Bouchon’s version is light and delicate due to a labor intensive process of curing, poaching and whipping, but it’s almost too delicate and fine, as it can’t hold its form for more than a few seconds on the toasted baguette, and melts into liquid. It’s organ meat after all, and it’s meant to be robust and hearty. 5 oz of fragile and unstable foie gras served in a glass canning jar goes for an unbelievable $48.50, making me appreciate Chef Nyesha Arrington‘s amazing foie gras mason jar with port wine gelée for $12, perhaps the best in LA, even more.
Moules au safran came with a basket of delicious frites with crispy potato skin and a generous sprinkling of salt to pucker my lips. Maine bouchot mussels steamed in a heavy cast iron dutch oven with white wine, mustard and saffron was good, but a smidgen too watery and diluted in flavor.
Have you ever dreamed of the day when you could have the perfect excuse and enough courage to order a Grand Plateau de fruits de mer at a restaurant, that luxurious and grandiose tower of mollusks and crustaceans at the center of every diner’s desire? Have you ever wondered what it would even be like to order a miniature version in a Petit Plateau? French men know how to enjoy life without so much as a grain of guilt, and I was happy to oblige to their order of Bouchon’s Grand Plateau de Mer, a 2 tiered seafood extravaganza for $110- 1 whole lobster, 16 oysters, 8 shrimp, 8 clams, 9 mussels and Dungeness crab came with all of the appropriate fixings for the highlight event of the evening. Life can be grand, n’est-ce pas?
Truite aux Amandes, a pan-roasted trout fillet with haricots verts, almonds & beurre noisette was perfectly cooked and elegantly flavored. The brown butter, lemon and parsley sauce was surprisingly light, making it easy to enjoy and digest this delicate dish that was saturated with a lovely toasted almond fragrance.
Gigot d’Agneau, roasted leg of lamb with Swiss chard, pommes boulangère & lamb jus was a textbook meat dish with perfect execution and delivery although I was hoping for something more exciting.
Boudin noir, blood sausage with potato purée and caramelized apples, was sensational. This is the type of food that defines bistro fare- hearty, rustic and loud but comforting and flavorful. The blood sausage was packed with dense savor with a hint of pleasant iron finish unique to this type of charcuterie. The classic pairing of boudin noir and sweet apples, as always, hit the spot.
There are many accompagnements to choose from at Bouchon, like butternut squash with poached prunes, sautéed spinach, potato purée and brussel sprouts, but we opted for a champignons des bois of fragrant and earthy sautéed forest mushrooms that were plump and fully saturated with French butter.
Bouchon in Beverly Hills is truly a magical and enchanting restaurant, one with the allure and power to make any who step through their entrance believe that they are in Paris. It’s easy to forget the passage of time in this elegant vortex, especially when you’re engrossed in your glass of champagne with fruits de mer over laughter and engaging conversation with beautiful friends. Still, many of their dishes can use some tweaking to be worthy of the Keller label, and bistro-friendly prices would entice me to visit more frequently.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit Bouchon yet, it’s a must-go for its sophisticated ambiance and charm. Many may agree that it’s the most beautiful dining room in Los Angeles, set on a pristine block of the infamous Beverly Hills zip code. Their kitchen, unlike any other, is quite epic too, with floors so clean that you can eat off of it and cookware meticulously and impeccably polished to where it looks like it’s never been used before. Large heavy doors line a rear hallway, each an entryway into a different Bouchon world of ‘jardin’, ‘poisson’, ‘dairy’ or ‘viande’ with every container clearly labeled and signed. There’s a separate kitchen just for chocolate and ice cream, and of course a busy boulangerie to churn out his signature epi bread. A large plasma screen TV in the middle of the busy kitchen broadcasts live stream with Keller’s numerous other Michelin-starred restaurants on both coasts. If they started charging admission for kitchen tours, I would gladly pay to relive the experience of walking through that impressive and mind blowing factory that belongs in the Smithsonian.
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, California 90210
Random trivia: Did you know that almonds are not nuts, but are in fact stone fruits- like peaches, plums and cherries?