Opening Weekend: Bouchon
It's safe to say that this was the most highly anticipated restaurant opening of the year. When the reservation lines opened up on November 2 at 11:00AM, I called at 11:06AM and only had a choice between 5:15PM and 8:15PM for Saturday night. Thomas Keller's empire had landed in town!
We arrived on time for our 8:15PM reservation, and were seated within minutes. The restaurant itself is quite nice. The view of the Montage courtyard, at night, was lovely with all the lights and the water fountain. I rather liked the light fixtures in the main dining room, and the dark wood decor. Perhaps one of the most delightful things about walking through the restaurant was the seafood bar...lovely little lobsters and oysters on display ready to be consumed by happy customers.
Our drink orders were taken within minutes of us being seated. We chose a couple of cocktails from the bar. They were good, but really nothing as spectacular as the drinks from Bar Centro at The Bazaar. I did enjoy the ganish in my Bouchon Cocktail...the fragrance from the fresh orange and lemon peel kept my martini fresh and enticing as I love citrus. Bread service was delivered shortly after.
My husband being the bread fiend and afficionado, dug right in. He loved the baguette-style rolls. They were wonderfully crusty on the outside, and soft and moist on the inside. It was quite easy to tell that it had come out of the oven just a short time ago. I quite enjoyed the crostini-style toasts. I know it's so simple, but the sea salt that was sprinkled over the toasts made them all that much better. The white bean puree was nice, but nothing to write home about.
For appetizers, I had the pate and he went for the demi-homard (half lobster). I really loved the pate. It was smooth, rich, creamy, earthy, and delightfully porky. I wasn't crazy about the cornichons, sliced radishes, and watercress. I've had the rendition at Daniel Boulud in Vegas, and that plate was beautifully garnished with homemade pickled vegetables (i.e. ramps, carrots, beets, etc.). But that pate with it's pancetta-like trim around the perimeter was very nice. The lobster was served on ice and presented very well. They managed to stand it up, and served it with remoulade and cocktail sauce. It was perfectly cooked...melt-in-your mouth lobster. None of the toughness that can sometimes be found in an overcooked lobster was in this dish. The hubby did not find the remoulade and cocktail sauce interesting enough, decided to use Bouchon's homemade dijon and lemon to accompany the demi-homard.
For Entrees, I selected the moules au safran and the hubby went for the braised short rib. I loved the presentation of the mussels. They come in a large cast iron pot, and the lid is lifted as soon as it arrives at your table. That aroma of garlic, white wine, butter, and saffron was amazing...I could have sat there all night with my nose to that pot! The mussels were prefectly cooked...not chewy at all, and slightly creamy. I dunked each one back in the broth before I popped it in my mouth. What surprised me about the mussels dish was that even the mussels sitting at the bottom of the pot in the broth did not overcook as I happily consumed the ones on top first. That's well thought out execution there. And then there were the fries...and those fries were the best fries that I have EVER had. Super super crisp on the outside, and mash potato-like pillowy on the inside. Perfectly salted...these are now my standard for french fries...those things they sell at McDonald's will no longer fulfill my craving. Even my husband was suprised to find how good they were...and as a note, I was not excited to share my fries with him...that meant less for me! His short rib was perfectly cooked to fork tenderness. He found that his piece had a little too much fat it in it, but the red wine sauce really helped cut through the fat. I liked the body of the red wine sauce...well seasoned, well reduced...but it was a tad too salty for me. I did not get a chance to try the vegetables that came with the short ribs, but my husband's empty plate assured me that they were quite good.
Because we were also there to celebrate our anniversary, they sent out the Ill Flottante "floating island" to our table. The panna cotta-style meringue was sitting in a sea of creme anglaise and homemade caramel sauce. The meringue was topped with whole and crushed candied almonds and almond tuille cookies. I like meringue, but this meringue reminded me of marshmallow fluff. The crunch from the almonds and the cookie helped this dessert from being too mushy and creamy. Quite honestly, the best thing on the plate was everything but the meringue. The homemade caramel and creme anglaise were quite lovely. We tried the lemon tart (because we're both fans of citrus), too. It was just way too tart and way too lemony. Now I like lemon, but I had two bites, and the roof of my mouth and my tongue were tingling from over-exposure to citrus. It was almost like I had taken a sip to coffee that was too hot and it scalded my taste buds. My hubby loves key lime pie, and even this was way too much for even him. We, nonetheless, sent it back. Determined to end the night on a good note, we opted to try the Valhrona chocolate bouchons. They were lovely dark chocolate brownies with a molten chocolate center. I loved the crispy outer texture of the bouchons, and that fresh Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream was a delightful foil to the rich chocolate.
Service overall was very good that night. Our server, Jill, was a wonderful lady with a lovely British or Australian accent. She took very good care of us, and was very attentive. Our water glasses were never empty the entire time we were seated. My only complaint was that she never asked if I wanted wine with dinner, and by the time the courses were served, I was more interested in eating than the wine, but I'm sure the wine would have accompanied dinner quite nicely.
An overall review...not deserving of one Michelin star (the Yountville location has one star), but quite good. I know it's opening weekend, so I'm sure they'll make the necessary adjustments. I love desserts, and was not so "wowed" with the execution of two of the desserts. But I would go back. I would love the try the fresh oysters and the foie gras terrine. They also had escargot as a special on Saturday night...and I LOVE escargot...would love to try that as well. Bouchon is open just for dinner now, next week, they'll start serving lunch, and on December 13th, Bar Bouchon will open up downstairs with drinks and small bites.
yowsa, i was there the same night (7:30 seating) and our order of moules au safran was not palatable. tthe mussels were cooked perfectly, however, they were heavy handed with the wine and after the initial saffron taste, all i could taste was alcohol and tanginess. poor balance and execution. our frites were served just above room temperature and were limp.
the foie gras terrine was amazing though.
That's so strange...you are the second person to note the limp fries. My fries were only limp after they'd been sitting at the table for a while. I'd say that I had about 80% crispy to 20% limp. Mine were indeed hot out of the fryer and crisp when they arrived at our table. I think you'd have quite enjoyed them if they made it to your table hot.
Thanks for the review. I'm going for lunch in a few weeks, but I'm already hoping the others in my party will want to share the foie gras terrine. The mussels sound like they would be a good follow-up to the foie.
That's pretty amazing she didn't ask you if you wanted to order wine. Way to lose money!