Keynote: sent a dish back, ie, drank the TKool-Aid, but didn’t swallow.

Not everyone was lucky enough to attend Bouchon’s opening party, at which Don “Vice” Johnson held court while Julia Louis-Dreyfus learned to bake bread in the kitchen. For the rest of the mere mortals, your meal might go something like this…

Bouchon Thomas Keller Ad Hoc At Home

Please remember the portions, even for hors-d’oeuvres are large. The soupe a l’oignon is portioned for TGIFriday, as is the dessert tart. There is no reason why two sane people can not share one single hors d’eouvres, two plats, one dessert, and be satiated. This strategy keeps the bill under $100, pre-vino, and still allows one to walk, instead of roll, to the waiting valet. There is a reason why a late afternoon meal at Bouchon (Yountville) can last well into the sunset, even if only two appetizers and one moule frites are ordered.

First course: French Onion Soup with onions caramelized for 5 hours, Roasted Beets & Pear

Bouchon marinated beet & poached pear saladBouchon Ultimate? French Onion Soup

These two were just tops. The onion soup had tightly intertwined sweetness (from aforementioned onions caramelized for an agonizing 5 hours) along with saltiness (from cheese, etc.). With the house produced baguette baked in, and some high falutin Comte cheese, this is, with hardly a doubt, some of the most deservingly bombastic onion soup ever consumed by man, at least by an American man. Yes, it was good. But not as good as the marinated beet and poached pear salad to come. The eternal tablemate asked, mid-bite: “how can beets taste like this”? Answer? “Iunno”, “chomp chomp chomp”. There are supposedly black truffles in the vinaigrette, but the typically omnipotent aroma was well masked and well played. Thinking back: that’s how beets taste like ‘this’. And “this” was good.

The confit de canard then came, and was promptly sent back after a bite. A detailed breakdown of Bouchon’s confit de canard prep method is documented here. After the server received profuse apologies, he came back and advised: “salt is rubbed onto the skin”, etc, “would you like to have another”, with the implication that every plate of duck confit would be stuffed with a ball of salt that evening. No thank you, sir. Duck confit doesn’t have to taste like salt cured fowl. This was a total disappointment, as a few days earlier, a splendid rendition of duck confit claimed as “the best duck confit, ever”, was served to us in a random Seattle bistro.

Bouchon Bistro Bar

A few summers ago, Bouchon Yountville’s moule frites set the benchmark. The huge bucket of fries, dipped in the saffron jus, was the cause of a 3 hour lunch at the lovely marbled bar, flanked by a fun lesbian couple to the right, and Napa restaurant servers to the left. That particular late afternoon turned into early evening, and every one at the rounded bar left stuffed, happy, yet relaxed. Years later, the little soft mollusks remain fresh on the mind, while everyone, from DBGB to the best of Seattle, served up subpar failures. On November 18th, despite an unkeen environs sans Napa sun, sans oenophile neighbors, Bouchon BevHills delivered huge with the iron boat full of cooked mussels with garlic confit. This time around, I paid attention to every bite and what popped out was the slightly sour garlic confit. Though no vinegar was used in preparation of garlics, one cannot but notice their distinct sourness. This single dish, sharable amongst two, is what beckons every time:

Bouchon Saffron Mussels

Finally, the Valrhona chocolate bonchon which appeared on the specials blackboard:

Bouchon valrhona chocolate bouchons

Completely forgettable. Subpar ice cream, total snore of a dessert. Too dense, too rich, too much of everything. No subtlety. The choco brownie-cakes killed every nuance in the accompanying double espresso, which, by the way, at $6.50, is the stingiest in all of LA, even when compared to the droplets served by Tavern.

Here’s a small, poorly shot impromptu exit video:

Exiting Bouchon Bistro, Beverly Hills from SinoSoul on Vimeo.

Good times on opening night? Yes. Great food on opening night? There will always be Yountville. In LA, let us instead give props and support to Church & State, a cooking chef’s restaurant.

Bouchon Bistro
Beverly Hills, CA
Bouchon Bistro on Urbanspoon

Bouchon Fresh Flowers Bouchon Fresh Flowers

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  • Terila

    An early morning check to see if anyone reviewed Bouchon yet. Interesting observations. I’m going to try to check it out in the nexr couple of weeks.

  • http://www.weezermonkey.com WeezerMonkey

    Oh, snap. I’m still not quite certain why you sent back the duck confit — was it simply because it was too salty? Maybe my reading comprehension is deteriorating. Sooo…you won’t go to outposts in Vegas, but you will in Beverly Hills? Hypocrite! 😉
    .-= WeezerMonkey´s last blog ..Ooh, Mami! =-.

  • http://thelaterparade.blogspot.com jasmine

    Hey! I was at the opening of Bouchon last week. Must agree that the bouchons were so very “meh”. But I can’t complain about open oyster/clam bar. And there were some good macaroons as well. Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  • Ben Lukather

    Wow, it’s all true. You really are a pompous douche bag. By the way, awesome video. Don’t quit your day job.

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com H.C.

    I’ll let the opening week(s) dust settle a bit before going – even though Bouchon has done a good number of events before officially opening, there still going to be a good number of service/food tweakings once they figure out some of their regular restaurant shortcomings.

    The choco-bouchons are actually my fave baked good from Bouchon! Not-too-sweet, super chocolatey and perfectly sized individually. But I always enjoy them plain (in the same vein of how I prefer a brownie solo as opposed to being buried under ice cream and choco sauce)
    .-= H.C.´s last blog ..Friday Quickies #80: Another Frisco Journey Friday =-.

  • http://www.thewanderkind.com Nancy

    I guess people aren’t allowed to have opinions anymore.
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..A Thousand Words: Autumn in Central Park =-.

  • yauch

    lol at the haters. Tony doesn’t fall for the hype and actually knows how a dish should be served!

  • http://dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/ Diana

    Always nice to see the Tony C perspective. I probably would have liked the salt on the duck confit – I actually asked for some salt for mine last night at Canele! Oh yes, I was that girl. Bad, foodie.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Top Chef Season 6, Episode 12: Don’t let the Bocuse d’Or hit you on the way out! =-.

  • TonyC

    O mang, Weezermonkey TOTALLY called me out. We, like almost everyone else, have been to every Bouchon… Figure it’s ok after we dipped into the TK gravy first at the OG locale. I personally think this was a beyond fair assessment of last night’s grub. Notice the complete lack of bitching regarding service/pacing/noise, etc. I know it was opening day, but this is a Keller restaurant, so I judged the food, and only the food, accordingly.

  • http://myweekendpassport.com Alex

    Sweet, a bit of Keller finally available in LA. I’ll have to check it out in the future… I’m curious to know how these beets taste.
    Btw, I head out armed with a canon G10, which I’m still learning how to use. What do you use to take these amazing food photos?
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..Golden Deli: Pho the win! =-.

  • http://theroamingbelly.blogspot.com bagnatic

    you sent back a dish…hmmm…do you do that often?

    i had an amazing pork belly dish at the vegas location once. my friends were waiting to check it out. now i can tell them it’s open, open.
    .-= bagnatic´s last blog ..spam love at shakas =-.

  • TonyC

    Nope, don’t send food back often. It’s just so disruptive to the kitchen, and your own meal. Hate doing it because I feel so bad and so wasteful. But really, $16 for 1 leg of duck confit… It better be edible.

  • http://twitter.com/tricerapops tricerapops

    Tony – have you been to C&S since new Exec chef took over? Word is Walter is out of the kitchen. would be interested to hear your take.

  • http://www.infinitefress.blogspot.com Steve

    My rule of thumb is that a new restaurant needs six months before it’s judged, especially a large one like BH Bouchon. But even the original location feels corporate, and its food lacks Gallic cuisine’s refined lustiness. Tricerapops’s comment above is disconcerting, because C&S is outstanding.

  • TonyC

    Of course Steve’s right. It’s absolutely not fair to judge so early on. I’ll go back. Tricerapops, fear not, Walter is NOT leaving C&S, per LA Weekly.

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  • http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com gourmetpigs

    Man, I wasn’t excited enough abt Bouchon to snag opening seats and after reading recent reviews, am even less excited to go try it. Your report seems to be in line with others – a couple hit dishes, lots of misses.
    At least the beets seem to be consistently good.
    Oh well, I’m broke anyway so might as well wait til the dust settles.
    .-= gourmetpigs´s last blog ..Fry Bread, Native American "Taco" =-.

  • http://cocochanelella.blogspot.com Cocochanelella

    always prefer Ad Hoc over Bouchon up here in Yountville, although both are different can’t help but comparing.
    .-= Cocochanelella´s last blog ..How "Ghost of Girlfriends Past" made me want Strawberry Cake =-.

  • TonyC

    I walked out of Ad Hoc once. Didn’t like what they were serving that day. Not sure we’re ever gonna make it back.

  • rene almaraz

    I totally agree with Ben. You’re writting is pompous. Your criticism is arrogant and vapid.

  • TonyC

    Thanks Rene & Ben, for the opinon/comments. For less pompous blurbs, please refer to other posts which contain urbanized vocab usage and lots of F-bombs.

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