Highlights (and Not-So-Highlights) of Bouchon Bistro
Posted on May 29, 2012
The towering brick wall with the royal red shade gives Bouchon an air of je ne sais quoi, of a midnight romantic stroll through the quaintly pebbled Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Walking through the door, you catch a whiff of a neighborhood bistro in France that heritage of centuries-old culinary tradition perfectly emulated within the four walls of Bouchon in Yountville, California.
Capturing this ethereal moment filled with anticipation and excitement is well… pretty darn hard, either in photographs or in words, yet I’m going to try to do my best to overcome my embarrassment of busting out a Canon SLR to take pictures at a swanky restaurant and awaken my inner Rimbaud sitting in front of my Mac to elucidate on my experience.
We started our meal with the Pâté de Campagne, which was a country style pâté with watercress, cornichons & radishes. The pâté was creamy and meaty, literally like a piece of meet butter melting in your mouth, but yet delicate. As a perfect pairing, the radishes being fresh and tart cut the oiliness of the pâté balancing out the dish.
A family friend who used to work there recommended us, so we got two off-menu items. One of those items was the Rillettes aux Deux Esturgeon, which was a creamy Esturgeon pâté served over toasted brioche. A Rillettes is a method of cooking similar to pâté where the meat is cooked in fat until it forms a paste that is used as a spread. The Esturgeon was slowly poached in cream, inside a jar until it made for a buttery, fishy spread. So far, what is not to love?
The appetizers were so good that I was bursting with eagerness for the main courses to arrive. The table ordered Steak Frites, which was a pan-seared, prime flatiron, caramelized shallots & maître d’hôtel butter served with French fries. As much as I’m a meat lover and a Thomas Keller worshiper, the meat was painstakingly bland. Each bite was like a drop of water from a Chinese torture dripping in my forehead, driving me insane. I just could not believe that despite all that butter and premium steak, it tasted nothing short of frozen Costco meat.
My dad ordered the Onglet Grillé, which was grilled hanger steak with crispy bone marrow, wild mushrooms, watercress & natural jus. The ingredients in tandem acted as an orchestra playing in your mouth, it just worked. The hanger steak, which was grilled to perfection, was smothered in the steak’s jus. The wild mushrooms were not only adorably small, but also infused the dish with an earthiness tone, adding a layer of complexity to the dish. The fried bone marrow was perfectly crispylicious with a golden crust and fritterrific with a gooey center of beef fat that melted in your mouth, just sinfully delicious.
The Moules au Safran, a dish with mussels in a white wine, Dijon mustard, & saffron broth, served with French fries was my order. The broth in which the mussels were steamed on was divine. The citrus from the white wine and the floral aroma, a perfume-like note, from the saffron elevated the sauce to heavenly heights. I dare to say, however, that I was a hugely disappointed with the French fries as a side. I’m not opposed to them, but they must have to be freaking crunchy and spectacularly delicious for them to be up to Bouchon standards…and cost 30 dollars, but they were more like In-N-Out Burger’s fries natural, but not crunchy and rather flavorless.
The Truite Amandine was pan-roasted Idaho trout with haricots verts, toasted almonds & beurre noisette. This dish was tasty with the trout cooked to flaky, buttery perfection. However, the whole dish with the green beans and almonds was a bit under seasoned for my taste.
Île Flottantea, a flawless meringue with vanilla crème with anglaise, almond & caramel was scandalously decadent. The other dish that the kitchen sent out, a lemongrass crème brulée with a berry Gelée struck the deliciousness chord, sending goose bumps through my body.
Being engrossed in the holy trinity of French cuisine: butter, butter, and butter, I was happy, partly sluggish and in a deep food comatose. Luckily, Dr. Cup of Silky Espresso was there to cure me with a quick picker-upper, so I could continue skipping away to explore the wonders of the French Laundry’s garden …