Truffle fries... hello. We hadn't really planned on eating many fancy meals in LA but really, how often does an Aussie get to eat food by Thomas Keller? So on our first full day in LA, we found ourselves booking in for a late brunch at Bouchon in Beverly Hills.
Let's be clear. Brunch is a whole other thing in the US of A. In Sydney, brunch is just an excuse to get out of bed late. In the United States, it's An Event. We found entire sections of the menu devoted to this time-bound social institution.
At Bouchon, in downtown Beverly Hills (Rodeo Drive is only a few blocks walk away), the brunchtime crowd is brimming with the well-heeled. Sure there are a few tourists here and there, but there are plenty of well-to-do families all dolled up in their Sunday best with the kids answering politely whenever Mother asks a question.
Bouchon Bistro dining room
The dining room is bright and airy. We're immediately welcomed by the maitre'd who sets the tone of friendly professionalism. Service is highly attentive throughout our meal but there's no air of pomposity or stiffness.
Bloody Mary US$14
Thomas Keller may be the celebrity chef behind Bouchon but at the Beverly Hills branch the Chef de Cuisine is David Hands, a British ex-pat who first started working at Per Se in 2007. He has worked at Bouchon Bistro since it first opened in 2009, starting as a sous chef and working his way up to Chef de Cuisine in late 2012.
We start our journey with a round of Bloody Marys, spiced with a noticeable kick of chilli that whets our appetite.
Terrine de Foie de Volaille US$14.50
Chicken liver mousse served with toasted baguette
The brunch menu is a full page of more than 30 options that run from pastries to porridge to a US$27 chicken and waffle dish elevated with Tahitian vanilla bean butter. Suze immediately zeroes in on the chicken liver mousse. It's wondrously fluffy and smooth, with a creaminess that has Suze in throes of bliss.
Halfway through our appetisers, our server appears with another plate of toasted baguettes, explaining quietly "these are warm" and replaces them before disappearing again.
Petit Plateau US$65
Half lobster, 8 oysters, 4 shrimp, 4 clams and 8 mussels
Lex makes do with the petit plateau, a small seafood platter that is dramatically plated on a bed of ice and real seaweed. There are clams, mussels, prawns, half a lobster and four different kinds of oyster: Cook's Cove from Prince Edward Island, Fancy Sweet from New Brunswick, Kumamoto from Washington and Nathan Cross from Massachusetts.
The oysters are nowhere near as briny as Sydney Rocks, exhibiting a mellower creamier flavour. The clams are particularly tasty, and the prawns have a delicate sweetness.
Tartare de Boeuf US$18.50
Prime steak tartare with quail egg yolks, confit garlic, caperberries and black pepper lavash
I'm all over the steak tartare, hand chopped and pre-mixed with a tempting array of garnishes that include plump caperberries and tiny pickles. The meat is soft and well-seasoned, and bursting that quail yolk is all kinds of satisfying.
Haache du Jour US$12.50 with summer truffle US$35 supplement
The hash of the day is pork and Lex makes no hesitation in adding a supplement of summer truffles to his dish. It's a rich and hearty dish that includes fingerling potatoes, roasted vegetables and a fried egg sunny side up. The egg is from a Jidori hen, all the rage in LA restaurants right now because of their darker richer yolks and Japanese lineage.
Summer truffle fries US$18.50
It's a truffle party at table 24 as a huge cone of truffle fries is dispensed as well. There's no mistaking the smell of truffle, but the flavour of summer truffles is noticeably milder compared to their winter cousins. We do like the fries at Bouchon, cut into shoe string size and fried with their skins intact.
Croque Madame US$18.95 with summer truffle US$35 supplement
We all turn to stare at Suze's Croque Madame when it arrives, our eyes drawn to the oozing puddle of mornay sauce that makes it look just like a dripping fried egg. To say this dish was rich would be an understatement. Two hefty slabs of buttery brioche wrapped around ham and gooey cheese engulfed in a rich mornay sauce and creamy egg yolk.
And why stop there when you can add truffles to your fries as well?
Oh boy. It was nice knowing those arteries.
Flat iron 9oz steak frites with sauce Bordelaise US$36
My main is the flat iron steak, a 250 gram steak served with your choice of sauce.
Perfect medium rare
The steak is covered with an impressive duxelle, a layer of finely chopped mushrooms and shallots cooked down in butter. Inside, the steak is cooked to a perfect medium rare. Tender and succulent, it's one of the best steaks I've ever eaten. My accompanying Bordelaise sauce is ridiculously silky, glossy in colour and enriched with marrow.
Beignets du Jour
By this stage we're all so ridiculously full that we wave away the dessert menu - quelle horreur! - but our charming waiter insists we try the beignets du jour, saying they'll be on the house. Who said spending US$72 on truffle supplements doesn't pay off?
Cherry jam inside the beignet
The beignets are soft and airy, rolled in fine sugar and plump with a cherry jam filling. Maybe it's the sugar hit that gets us going again, but we find renewed appetite in visiting the Bouchon Bakery downstairs...
Queue at Bouchon Bakery
Bouchon Bakery is a hive of activity, with a crowd of shoppers clustered around the small pastry counter.
Sandwiches, macarons and pastries
It's a sugarholic's dream of macarons, pastries and desserts - plus several sandwich options for those that insist.
Chicken liver mousse US$26 and salmon rilette terrine US$30
You can even buy the chicken liver mousse and salmon rillete terrine to take home.
Better nutter cookies US$3.50
Biscuits, pastries and cake jostle for space in the modest display case. It's quite endearing that everything isn't laid out in austere and sterile rows.
Bouchon croissants US$3.25 and pastries
I missed out on the croissant in Beverly Hills but I nabbed one later on in our trip in New York City, and can attest it was remarkably flaky and light.
Kouign Amann US$4
I did take a Kouign Amann hostage, releasing it later that day. If you like the crispy caramelised edges of any pastry, this is bliss in every mouthful. It's like the crisp flakiness of a croissant mixed with the buttery caramelisation of a palmier. It's every bit as good as it sounds.
Chocolate bouchon US$2
We also spy the little bouchon chocolate cakes, from which the bakery and bistro take their name. Bouchon means cork, and these brownie-like cakes are named for their resemblance in shape.
Vanilla custard beignet US$4
There are more beignets too - these ones piped with vanilla bean custard.
Cannele US$4 and Religieuse US$4.50
Our bakery haul was consumed over the next couple of days. The Religieuse was eaten for breakfast one morning, the choux pastry balls filled with creme patissiere. And I savoured the cannele one afternoon, gloriously eggy with a chewy dark brown crust.
Kouign Amann US$4
Bouchon Bistro, Beverly Hills
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Bouchon Bistro and Bakery
235 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, California, USA
Tel: +1 (310) 271 9910
Bouchon Bistro opening hours:
Lunch - Monday to Friday 11.30am-2.30pm
Brunch - Saturday and Sunday 11am-2.30pm
Dinner - Monday to Sunday 5.30pm-10.30pm
Bouchon Bakery opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday 7am-9pm
Friday and Saturday 7am-10pm
>> Read the next USA 2013 post: LA Donuts - Randy's, Bob's and The Donut Man
<< Read the first USA 2013 post: Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC
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7/08/2013 02:24:00 a.m.