Friday, August 3, 2012

dineLA Summer 2012: Lunch on the Balcony at Bouchon Beverly Hills

I'd been meaning to check out Bouchon in, forever, and somehow never made it there.  Then dineLA rolled out their summer session, and Bouchon Bistro was on the list for lunch at $25 for 2 courses, $29 for 3. And I happened to be due for a dentist visit, right in the area - so was excited to be able to slide in a quick lunch - at probably the only Thomas Keller restaurant that is remotely within my price range, and only really because of dineLA - before my appointment.

(Best laid plans: I meant to write about my dineLA Summer 2012 experiences as I ate my way through town.  I meant to savor every detail and provide a vicarious taste of everything here as quickly as I could, so that people still have time to see and decide for themselves whether a particular place and menu is worth checking out. Then I got distracted by all the food - and gave in to my propensity to eat much faster than I can write.  For those on Instagram and Twitter, I was able to post photos with short captioned notes after each meal to give a quick, more timely idea of what's on offer. For everyone else, the next few posts will be more of a 'what you missed' or 'how they did it last time' as potential reference for the next time...)

Bouchon, of course is located at the Montage, facing a flawlessly manicured oasis of a park squeezed in between two wings of the hotel. There is Bar Bouchon on the first floor, a more casual space with patio seating overlooking said park.  Then there is Bouchon Bistro upstairs, with the power lunch crowd indoors, and culinary tourists / don't really need to work types out on the balcony (the only unfortunate thing: the balcony railings are so high you really can't enjoy the view of the park below. 
For me, dining al fresco is the way to go here.  The meal started with a lovely fresh loaf of bread with a ramekin of fresh butter.  
My starter choice was a no brainer: Mousse de Foie de Volaille ($16 on regular menu!) - no, Bouchon has not engaged in any 'illegal' activity, this isn't foie gras - foie translates to liver and this dish actually consists of chicken liver mousse with red wine poached prunes & toasted pain de campagne.  The mousse was perfect, lush and light, beautiful liver flavor balanced by the rich sweetness of the wine-poached prune and jelly.

I pretty much ate straight forkfuls for a while before remembering my manners and reluctantly spreading it on the toasts to regain some semblance of decorum.
For the entree, I had been excited about both the mussels steamed in white wine, mustard and saffron broth ($28.50 on regular menu), and the Confit de Canard - since I had the 'land creature' dish for the starter, I had originally wanted to go with the lighter mussels, but when my server confirmed that the duck is no longer on the menu (had been replaced by escargot, which of course I then had to add as supplement) - I decided to go full land creature feast.  This was a duck leg confit with French green lentils, a matignon of root vegetables and red wine vinegar duck jus (not sure pricing as no longer on regular menu).  As soon as it arrived I wish I had gone for the mussels - the duck leg was dry as sandpaper outside, and not much better inside.  The lentils were still sort of hard, and the red wine vinegar duck jus it sat in was nothing spectacular.  It took me by surprise, how poorly cooked this one was, considering this was Bouchon, as in a Thomas Keller establishment...Perhaps it was an 'off' day for the chef or maybe they pre-cooked dineLA meals and it just sat out too long or maybe got reheated too many times...In any case, hoping that I could make an impact for other diners, I did let the server know when he asked for feedback.  Though it was not my intention in sharing the comment, my friendly server very kindly took the initiative to remove the charge for this course, so that I only had to pay the $25 for 2-courses (saving $4).

As the dish sounded delicious on the menu and it's been a while since I'd had these lil creatures - I added the Escargot à la Bourguignonne ($18 on regular menu) - red wine braised Burgundy snails with garlic butter served in an adorable Staub cast iron pan, topped by Bouchon Bakery puff pastry. I think red wine braised anything will always taste amazing with complexity of flavor - and these escargot were no exception - but I did find a little too much garlic butter made it a bit too oily.  Perhaps that's what the puff pastry was for, to soak up all the oils - they were gorgeously light and flaky, and a delicious and interesting companion to the softly chewy snails - each bite-sized portion became like a mini snail tart.
Then came dessert: I couldn't leave without trying namesake Bouchons Valrhona chocolate brownies with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.  These would send a chocoholic's endorphins through the proverbial roof - a trio of chocolate 'cakes' at perfect density with lightly crunchy exteriors, in a perfectly balanced chocolate sauce, with a seemingly perfect orb of smooth vanilla ice cream.  Punctuated by a 'line' of cacoa nibs for crunch and bursts of intense chocolate flavor. Loved this and may have to come back for coffee and dessert on the balcony one day.

All in all, glad I got to experience Bouchon at dineLA price, despite the disappointing duck confit (or all the more, because of it - I might have been BH-royally pissed if I had to pay full price for that leg...).  It is still a beautiful setting within the Montage hotel, and I may come back for coffee and dessert one afternoon or drinks and appetizers downstairs in Bar Bouchon one evening to enjoy the ambience without the hefty price of a full meal.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks on regular menu)
Probability of return visit - 80% 


Bouchon Bistro 

235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Ph: 310.271.9910

Parking: Free parking for 2 hours in public lot underneath the Montage hotel

Bouchon Bistro on Urbanspoon

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