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Apr 8, 2008 01:23 PM

Bouchon Slips

On my first trip to Napa this weekend, I got a chance to eat some great food and drink plenty of good wine. On Friday night, after my parents and I flew in earlier that afternoon, we ate at Bouchon.

Dear Thomas Keller,

Please close Bouchon while you undergo renovations in the kitchen. The starters we ordered were nice - cold pea soup with crab salad had a pleasant smooth, creamy texture, and the cassoulet with duck confit was textbook - pretty good start. Then we waited. And waited. Fifteen minutes go by. At that point, our server said our entrees "should be here in just a couple of minutes". Fifteen minutes after that, our food arrived...lukewarm. Starving, I dug into my Coquille St. Jacques - diver scallops with asparagus, chorizo, and pequillo peppers. The scallops were cooked very nicely but underseasoned, the asparagus was overcooked and underseasoned, and the chorizo was overcooked and chewy. I had a few bites of my mom's bouillabaisse. The fish and shrimp were plated in a bowl, brought to the table, and then the broth was poured in tableside. Well, the seafood was quite cold and devoid of seasoning. What a boring dish. Thinking back, we really should have returned our food and asked for something else, but we were so hungry and tired by the time we got our food that we didn't even want to bother.

I am a big fan of yours Mr. Keller, having enjoyed the best meal on my life at Per Se even though it costed me an arm and a leg. I'm a cook, and The French Laundry cookbook is one of my favorites. So I'm sure you could understand that I was excited to eat at Bouchon. I understand closing for a week or so during renovations costs money, but your reputation is at stake. As I went to the bathroom in the temporary outhouse of a men's room next to Bouchon after the meal, I wondered to myself how customers would react if they had to relieve themselves in an outhouse next to The French Laundry down the street.

Eating at Redd the next night was like night and day. I'll review it later.

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  1. I never understood what the fuss was about with Bouchon. I've had significantly better bistro fare around SF.

    1. Agreed; I stopped by during a Napa/Sonoma trip last weekend, and was surprised that Bouchon tanked for me.

      I didn't include it in my report, which was about the places and experiences that excited me (, but we also had cold food and slow service.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pane

        A cartoon showing an angel on a cloud with a harp --caption " If I'd realized just how boring it would be I'd brought a magazine to read." If you really know of places this good in SFO well tell all--If you know of places in France this good even better...if the food is cold send it back and slow service--hey in France this is the focus of the day--just chill....
        When I ate here I did think I had died and gone to heaven...

      2. Ironically, the second bathroom at TFL would technically qualify as an outhouse - albeit a rather chicly designed one. ;)

        Sorry to hear about your experience. The complaints seem to be mounting against Bouchon - the negative (or indifferent) posts seem to outweigh the positive ones these days.

        1. link

          Bouchon Bakery
          6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

          1. I absolutely disagree that Bouchon is going downhill. If anything, it is much better than when it first opened. We always go for lunch when we are in Yountville.

            Last meal:
            A dozen oysters – split between the 2 of us – 6 St. Simon oysters from New Brunswick and 6 Tatamagouche Oysters from Nova Scotia.

            Croque Madame – toasted ham and cheese sandwich on brioche with a fried egg and Mornay sauce served with french fries.

            Lamb’s tongue salad with frisee. – absolutely perfect.

            Cheese for dessert from Sally Jackson.

            3 Replies
            1. re: lizziee

              Lamb's tongue salad deconstructed

              1. re: lizziee

                lizziee: sounds like your dishes,with the exception of the Croque, are ones that are served room temp or cold; that may make a difference: perhaps with the renovation they don't have room to keep all of the dishes at the right temperature?

                I was going to say that I'd be leary of eating in a place under reconstruction, but then remembered that I had what might have been the best scallops of my life at Koi Palace when it was being redone (and I had to use the portapotties in the parking lot there too; they did flush but were pretty much like something you would find camping) not sure the reconstruction should be blamed. A restaurant of that caliber should be on its game, or should close for duration.

                1. re: lizziee

                  <I absolutely disagree that Bouchon is going downhill. If anything, it is much better than when it first opened. We always go for lunch when we are in Yountville.>

                  Were they in "Renovation Mode" when you were there last? That could have made quite a difference.