Feeding Frenzy #1 Bouchon
I'm sure this place is yesterdays news for the bay area hounds but it was on my "hit list" last week and I thought I'd give my impressions. Bouchon was originally opened as a sort of joint venture of the brothers Keller, Joseph and Thomas, but it is my understanding that Thomas Keller (French Laundry fame) is now the sole proprietor. (Can anyone confirm this?) It is a traditional french style bistro located just down the street from the FL (on Washington, isn't it?)
The wife and I had lunch there last thursday, and I must say that it was wonderful. We started with a dozen oysters, 3 ea of 4 varieties, and they were of absolute freshness-still tasting of the sea, briny and mysterious and ever so slightly sweet. Our waiter was kind enough to allow us to split a glass of bubbly with this course, which was nice because we had a lot of wine tasting to come and did not want to be hammered for the whole day. I like it when a place will stretch one glass of Champagne for two people-you inevitably get more than a half glass each and the fill of the flute is at a proper level (i.e., not to the rim). Next was a wonderful salad of frisee topped with a crispy hockey puck of pig trotter, garnished with a light gribiche. The preparation of the trotter was the same as the one served at the FL in Thomas' "head to toe" dish, just a simpler presentation. An abosolutely wonderful dish-and delivered to the table in timely fashion; there was still a slight sizzle going on in that dark crust denoting that it had come straight out of the saute pan. For the "main course" we chowed on braised lamb cheeks, done in a style very similar to a beef bourguignon-so similar, in fact, that one waiter came by and asked "how is the bourguignon?" "A little too acidic for my taste but it is going down well with the lamb", I responded, refering to the wine we were drinking-the looks of confusion at that point were universal. (btw, after sharing a glass w/ the waiter and bartender, corkage was properly waived.) The cheeks were meltingly tender and still retained just enough jelly-like fat, offering up a long lasting and deep lamb flavor. The inevitable baby carrots, onions, and turnips were just how I like them, ever so slightly undercooked, toothsome. The wine infused broth was deceptively rich, despite its relatively light viscosity. Cheese came next, a nice selection of local products. And while it was very plain, the creme caramel was perfectly executed, without the eggy texture of so many custards I've had elsewhere. With a $20 tip, our meal came to about $125 as I recall, which I thought very reasonable. My wife and I split everything, as is our habit, and we were served just the perfect amount of food (getting too much is just as annoying in my book as getting too little).
As I commented on how good the food was to a local, I was told "if you think this place is nice, wait till you hit Bistro Jeanty". I can't wait, but, as I'll be a NoCal local in a few months, I'm sure I'll get to find out for myself.
Well, that is all.
Peace and grub, my sisters and brothers.
btw-Melanie, if you are reading this, you now make me wish I'd stopped at the taco truck: we passed it up but won't miss it on our return visit to Napa in April.
Agree about Bouchon. It's actually my favorite place to go at the end of the wine tasting day, before we head back into the city. It's a nice way to avoid all the bridge traffic. Don't know if you like cauliflower or not but their cauliflower gratin is to die for. It's a side dish and is a wonderful balance of cream, cheese, and what is truly a wonderful vegetable when prepared well. It's rich but not overwhelmingly so. Very comforting.
I think Joseph Keller is now working on a venture in Las Vegas.