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Madison - Bar Bouchee - A DISASTER on Weekends

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I've been writing on Chowhound since Jim Leff started it in the mid 90's. Under various logins I've been an "official" book reviewer, I've been a beta-tester of various versions of the board, and in all those years, I always wrote about the food, about the viewpoint, about technique, and about ingredients. This is the first time in almost 20 years I've felt compelled to write about the ambiance of a restaurant and I only do it now because a place with some of the best food in the state has apparently decided to play host to the Bowling-Banquet crowd on weekends, to pay its bills. Enough. The review follows:

During the season, we're up at the cottage a bit at best, but then spend virtually all of September there, when Madison is at it's finest. This month we've (as usual) tried a slew of new (to us) places, and gone back to our absolute favorites, Bar Bouchee in Madison, and Le Petit Café in Guildford, at least twice a week. Tonight, for the very first time, we tried Bar Bouchee on a weekend night. Never, EVER again.

There are restaurants where the chef just can't do his best work in the madness of a Friday or Saturday night crowd. In one-man-shows like Le Petit Café, this is perfectly understandable. Chef Ip cooks brilliantly for 10 tables but more than that and there is a bit of his usual attention to details lacking.

Bar Bouchee is to be commended for the quality of the food on a Saturday night - you wouldn't even know the night of the week by what you put in your mouth; however, management (or the lack thereof) absolutely ruined what should have been a great dinner. Eating out on the patio, as we always do, is normally quieter and less stressful than eating inside. Tonight, however, next to us was a party of three couple, loud, drunk, and with that new-money self-centeredness that shouts (quite literally) "Look At Me!" They were there, finished eating, when we arrived; they were still there drinking when we finished dinner and ran for the hills (without after dinner drinks, of coffee, or dessert which is unheard of for us) and are probably there still, shouting and drinking.

Other tables left quickly, after pointed looks in the direction of the offenders did nothing. The waitress did nothing but continue to serve the drinks (I wonder if CT has no bar-owner liability law) and the manager never even came outside, even after we voiced our complaint while rushing to get our check and get away from this disaster.

We'll be back next season, but for weekends, the sports bar up Rt 1 is probably a more quiet and relaxing place. Frankly it's also probably a more suitable place for the sextet at the next table, but if they want to make BB theirs on the weekends, then farewell Bar Bouchee. See you only during the week. You obviously don't need us any other time.

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        1. Ok. I'm going to try here. And if this is removed I'd like the moderators to post why is is being deleted to help others understand. I don't get why the eapter thinks it's ok to publicly blast a restaurant based on one visit for a situation that did not involve food or service and it appears that no mention was made during the meal about the offending party. I also am put off by eapter's comments about "new money" and bowling banquet crowd. And if the moderators do feel that this review is OK, why was a comment posted removed, (I believe it was the first comment) that offered a different opinion of this restaurant from someone who has frequented this restaurant, including on weekends? Chowhound team-please enlighten us.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Leslie

            Negative reviews are okay on Chowhound, so the original post was fine.

            Many of the follow-ups, however, went past sharing the poster's own different experience with the restaurant into implying or outright saying that the poster should not have posted on Chowhound or attacking their motivations for posting. That kind of thing is always off-topic here -- one of our mantras is rate chow, not chowhounds.

            If anyone wants to share their own opinions about Bar Bouchee, that would be great. But opinions about eapter aren't okay.

            1. re: Leslie

              Thank you, Leslie. I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly. Perhaps my third attempt to post will be the charm!

              I had the pleasure of dining at Bar Bouchee on a Saturday night over the summer and experienced nothing by way of "ambiance" as eapter described except that it was, in fact, busy.

              The food and service were excellent. And my dining partner has been there without me on other occasions and reported the same experience.

              My guess is most people will realize Bar Bouchee couldn't possibly remain so busy on an ongoing basis if the scenario described above were symptomatic of a larger, ongoing problem. Certainly, at just about any restaurant, and on any given night, some patrons could possibly get out of hand. And I don't think that behavior is limited to any particular income level, "people who bowl" or "people who attend banquets." It can happen when too much alcohol is involved, period. And should really be off-topic here on a friendly (?!) site about food. But I digress.

              I would not hesitate to return to Bar Bouchee on a Saturday night or any other day or night of the week.

              Their steak tartare is fab. Their cocktails are great. Our bartender was very welcoming, as was the other couple we talked to as we ate, comparing notes and enjoying a pleasant evening at the shore.

              PEACE. THE KAT.

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