Thomas Keller’s serving up French Bistro classics in Beverly Hills, and I think you should stop on by.
It is true. It has been said on this site again and again and again. I am an unabashed Anthony Bourdain fan.
In case it’s not painfully obvious by now.
What he respects, I try to respect. Who he respects, I try to respect.
Thus, when he calls Thomas Keller the best freakin’ chef in America, you better believe I want to try his food.
His number one Flagship Operation is in California, Northern freakin’ California, and a bit out of my price and commuter range. I had an opportunity to go to his Bistro operation, Bouchon while in Vegas, but my party and I wound up at a different Casino for the night.
Finally, I got a chance to try the Beverly Hills version of Bouchon, the original (what I understand) Bouchon, and I was reasonably impressed.
Why only reasonably? Stay tuned gentle reader.
It was a strong and amazing meal. Thomas Keller’s name may be (theoretically) over the door, but what’s coming out of that kitchen is straight ahead Bistro faire. Keller isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. He’s just trying to serve up the best French Bistro food you’re going to have outside of France. He’s trying to give it to you with a firm, steady practiced hand at the wheel of a top flight kitchen.
Food aside, Keller is also a chef who knows full well he’s in the pleasure business. Bouchon’s setting is first class. It’s crafted with an old world, 1890s feel. The Staff was first rate, if not a little busy. These were things that I liked.
But something was going on the night I was there.
I don’t know what happened, but something happened with that kitchen that night. Maybe it’s how they always are, I don’t know. But I remember looking back toward the Kitchen, and for a long, long, stretch of time there wasn’t ANY food coming out for service. After a while things resumed, but it kinda threw off the balance of the kitchen for a while there.
Also…and I feel the need to mention this since this still kinda chaps my ass. I reserved my table a month in advance. Bouchon called me to confirm my reservation the night before. Very good, all very professional. My party and I arrived on time, and…
…the table wasn’t ready.
Really? Really? A month’s warning? Due diligence performed by the restaurant, and the table still isn’t ready to go? Am I the only one who finds this just a little bit ridiculous? Is it too much to ask that one of the Nation’s great restaurants have it’s act together.
Yeah, one of the Hostesses saw how pissed I was, and avoided eye contact with me for the rest of the night. Just sayin’.
But still, a damn, damn good restaurant. Just a weird night.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Good food cures all.
The first thing that arrives at your table is what can only be described as a braid of freshly baked bread, and a small tin of good, good salted butter. With the French, it is always the simple things that are the best.
The next thing to arrive was the Soupe a l’Oignon, the French Onion Soup, and…my God, it was the strongest, most powerful tasting French Onion Soup I have ever had, either here or in Quebec. I mean, you get it in front of you, and it looks like the typical French Onion Soup. It’s crusted in fine, baked Gruyere Cheese. You crack that magical shell, which was the whole world to me, and underneath is a fountain of the darkest, richest, beef stock even put into a bowl. More than likely, you’re going to love the Soupe a l’Oignon. The only reason why you may not is because, you’ve been spoiled on ordinary, flat, salty light brown French Onion Soup. But trust me, this is the good stuff. I wonder if I can go back to ordinary after having had it.
The next thing to arrive was the Croque Madame. This is a massive, massive Ham Sandwich, in between two thick cut pieces of Brioche Toast. Now, there is Ham and Cheese in between those two pieces of Brioche. Atop the Sandwich is a Fried Hen Egg, and a generous helping of sauce Mornay, a creamy white sauce. After all the bread, which I couldn’t resist, and the soup, the Croque Madame was tough sledding. I am eternally, eternally grateful for our Waiter for pointing me in the right direction, and just getting the two appetizers.
For dessert I went for the Chocolate Bouchons. Bouchon means “Cork” in French, so imagine if you will three nicely sized ultra dark, ultra rich chocolate corks, covered with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Really nice. Really delicious.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Well, I’d say to make reservations in advance, but…who knows if that’ll work?
Also, if you’re looking for a quiet, intimate place to bring your date for a nice evening out, as good as Bouchon is, you might want to go elsewhere. The food is spectacular. The Waitstaff is good. But the restaurant is loud…almost A-Frame loud. You and your date might have to text each other to have a conversation, even if you’re sitting cheek to cheek. This is not the restaurant’s fault, just know this going in.
Also, finding the restaurant is a bit more a challenge I was prepared for. There is a sign saying Bouchon and all but what you’re really looking for is the Bouchon Bakery. Go through that door, and look for the steps to it’s right. Go up the steps, curl around to your right…and…you’re still not there. You need to take another little walk (again to your right), to get to the Hostess’s table.
A little confusing, not impossible.
PARKING: It’s Beverly Hills. So you’re looking at either Valet Parking for $8 bucks, or a Garage occupying the same building as Bouchon for $5.
I went for Valet, figuring that as tempting as the garage was, the Valet was probably using it for their own parking, and if there was going to be a problem finding a space in there, I decided to let it be the Valet’s.
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tel: (310) 271-9910
Monday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday-Friday: 11:30 am – 10:30 pm
Saturday: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am – 9 pm