Monday, November 16, 2009
Please excuse my long absence. I have been extremely selfish. You see, my French Laundry post was so perfect, not in writing, or photos, but the subject, that is has been hard to compose further entries. Luckily, Thomas Keller has more than one restaurant and I feel it's only fitting to follow up my last entry, with Bouchon. A restaurant, Thomas Keller admittedly started because he needed a place to eat after working at The French Laundry.
It resides only a block, or so away from The French Laundry, but even so, it's an entirely different restaurant. Modeled after a French Bistro, down to the bar with ice shavings, housing a selection of Oysters. We were seated rather quickly and immediately felt a rush of energy. This is perhaps the noisiest restaurant I have ever been to. Waiters scurry around, sweat dripping from their intensely focused foreheads. We were greeted by a panicked, red headed, portly waiter, who wore a Breitling. Clearly Bouchon pays more than your average restaurant.
He took our order and a few minutes later his musty hands came flying across my face and a pile of French Baguette crashed on the table. Butter followed soon after. It was such a beautiful site, I didn't even care. All I could concentrate on was the swirly, toasty, golden bread. The Butter was even more stunning. On the top rested a small, round piece of paper. And printed on that piece of paper was the Bouchon logo. A small, twirling balloon, or beach ball. Whatever it was, it was a treat. The bread was soaked up by our hungry mouths and just as I was putting the last piece of bread in my mouth, I was handed a Pastis from my friend, the waiter.
Up first was, of course, the Quiche du Jour. A wonderfully prepared example of this classic dish. The fluffy Eggs felt like there was nothing there at all. Paired with some beautiful greens, this dish could be my staple. Next was the Pate de Campagne, which is a country style Pate with Watercress, Cornichons & Radishes. I have been accused of being a little too hard on Pate, favoring instead a wonderfully prepared Foie Gras. But not this time. This Pate was stunning. It didn't taste like it came from a tube, but instead had fabulous flavors of Zinc, Copper and Must. The tangy Watercress and Cornichons helped balance the bold, mature flavor of the Pate.
As soon as the Hors-D'Oeuvres were taken away and my stomach was starting to feel sated, we were presented with a magical decanter of Cabernet Franc, blended for Bouchon, and shortly after that our Main Courses arrived. I was having the Magret de Canard et sa Cuisse Confite, which consists of a Roasted Duck Breast & Crispy Duck Leg Confit with Savoy Cabbage, Chanterelles, Musquee de Provence & Huckleberry Gastrique. I have almost always found Duck to be both gamey and almost always fatty. This time however, it was different. This time, it was pure perfection. It was like eating a very tender piece of Steak, which had been injected with a slight bit of game and the fat taken out of it. The sauce was like heaven in liquid form.
On the plate to my right sat a Roasted Chicken with Red Wine Poached Pears, Mustard Greens, Fingerling Potatoes & Whole Grain Mustard Jus. When I say that this is the best Chicken I have ever eaten, I am not saying it because I had too much Cabernet Franc, or because I was on holiday in Napa and felt happy. No, I am saying it because it's true. Chicken is not supposed to be as succulent, or as flavorful as Beef, but it was. To test my taste buds I next had a bite of my wife's Steak Frites. A Pan-Seared Prime Flatiron Steak, served with Maitre d'Hotel Butter & French Fries. A very nice steak. Not even close to as nice as the Chicken though. And later that Steak was actually sent back to the kitchen because of a rather large piece of fat running through the middle. It was inedible. The waiter quickly made the very good excuse of, "Well, we do tell people when they order their steak raw that this can happen." Hmmm... he must have gone to the same school of bullshit as I did, because he was no more convincing than I am when I lie to my wife about how much money I spent on wine.
For Dessert was a lovely Pot de Creme. This is my ideal Dessert. It isn't heavy and doesn't leave one feeling guilty. It's simple and delicious. Paired with a wonderful Double Espresso and I was off in another land. Bouchon has that ability to transport one straight to Paris. Everything at Bouchon is done to make one feel like they are at a Bistro in France. From the Pistachio Green paint, to the painted pictures on the wall with French translations underneath, this restaurant is a true gem. No wonder he's opening another one in Beverly Hills. If Thomas Keller could replicate this same quality and ambiance 100 times and do it the same in each restaurant, he would be the wealthiest chef on Earth. There is no question. The prices are very fair for what you get. It was about $60 a person with wine. I would happily pay that again and much more if there were a Bouchon near me.
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