Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bouchon: It's Kellerific!

As is my tradition, when a glamorous new restaurant opens, I try to wait until the hype has died down, the celebrity chef has gone back to his home restaurant and the reservations are available. Using that measure, it was time to try Bouchon, the Beverly Hills outpost of Thomas Keller's bistro that opened last fall.

I've never been to a Keller restaurant, so this was my first exposure to the cuisine of one of the most highly regarded chefs in the world. No pressure though.

We went for charcuterie and pate for appetizers, all of which pleased. There is little nicer than a jar of pure foie gras terrine. I like that it was served unadorned, without jellies, glazes, nuts or berries; it was just a jar of Sonoma foie gras, some toast strips and sea salt, leaving nothing to cover the pure, silky taste of the terrine.

Pate de campagne looked like the traditional country pate, but one bite reveled it to be so much more. It was moist and porky with much more spice than a traditional pate de campagne. It quickly disappeared and was among our favorite dishes.

The Assiette de Charcuterie consisted of a number of salamis and a dry cured ham. All very good, but not as exciting as the pate or as sublime as the foie.

I was thrilled to see boudin noir on the menu. I love a blood sausage, but I haven't seen boudin noir much on LA restaurant menus(morcilla, yes; soondae, yes, but boudin noir, not so much). And this one was divine. A modestly sized sausage, the boudin noir innards which spilled out of the sausage once the casing was severed were moist to the point of melting in your mouth with a few chunks interspersed within. The flavor was deep and pure, spiced well enough but not such that it got in the way of the pure blood sausage flavor. It was served with mashed potatoes and caramelized apples.

As the meal progressed, it became apparent that Bouchon's food aimed to highlight the main ingredient with as little adornment as possible. Sauces were mild, there were no molecular tricks or other gimmicks, and it really was about showcasing great ingredients.

Another great dish was a rack of lamb special. The lamb was rich and tender, but the highlight of the dish was a few slices of a house made merguez sausage, which hit all the right notes, which had all of the requisite merguez spice without losing the taste of the lamb.

We ordered a plethora of desserts, but my favorite was the Ile Flottante, a traditional floating island (meringue in creme anglaise) with the addition of caramel sauce. The meringue was light and airy while also being moist and creamy; it was served in anglaise with caramel poured over it tableside. It was all I could do not to lick the bowl to get all of the sauce out of there.

Other desserts were all very good. The chocolate mousse was thick and rich, pot du creme infused with almond was delightfully subtle, profiteroles came with a hot fudge sauce on the side which was another lap it out of the container situation. The two desserts that were less exciting were the creme caramel, a well executed but fairly typical flan and the restaurant's trademark dessert, chocolate bouchons. Bouchon means cork in French, and the chocolate bouchons are small cork-shaped chocolate cakes topped with chocolate sauce and raspberry sorbet. The sorbet was fantastic with a strong raspberry taste, but the bouchons were just okay.

Bouchon opened last fall to mixed reviews from the food bloggerotti, but count me as a convert. Less is more at Keller's only Southern California outpost which goes for traditional interpretations of bistro dishes that put ingredients first.

Bouchon Bistro (at the Montage Hotel)
235 N Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, California 90210
(310) 271-9910


Steve said...

Bastide makes an excellent boudin noir, superior to Bouchon's in my estimation. However, it is a special and so a call to the restaurant beforehand to ensure availability is advisable.

sku said...

Thanks for the tip Steve. I have never made it to any incarnation of Bastide. I'll have to put it on my list (of course, if I don't go soon, they will probably change it again).