Bouchon in Yountville is part of the Thomas Keller restaurant empire. For Keller, great cooking is all about the virtue of process and attention to detail. Most notably he began his food dynasty with the iconic French Laundry. With his passion for Bistro cooking, he opened Bouchon. Bistro is to Paris as Bouchon is to Lyon. Parisian bistro food is typically slow-cooked (braised), whereas Lyonnaise cuisine revolves around cured and forcemeat processes. Lyon (and not Paris) has the reputation as the French capital of gastronomy.
Restaurant Club was making its final journey for 2009 and it was my turn to make the selection. After careful thought and keeping to the cardinal rule that we can only choose a place where none of us have been before, Bouchon was my choice. We arrived about 15 minutes prior to our 11:30 reservation. Visited the Bouchon bakery next door and selected a box of treasures to bring home. The chocolate Bouchon’s (corks) are to die for along with the macaroons. I even selected a couple doggie biscuits for Max.
We checked in for our 11:30 reservation and were seated right away. The restaurant is authentically French in décor and is a feast for the eyes. We were seated at a table for four in the middle of the restaurant with a large palm tree in the middle and the other three tables flanked the palm tree. Our server promptly arrived and let us know that the paper wrapped around the napkin was our menu – very cleaver. The bread and butter arrived shortly, just as you would expect, crunchy outside, fluffy inside, quintessential French bread with a twist.
The menu was robust with such wonderful choices along with the daily specials; it was a challenge to make our selections. We wanted to all choose different dishes, so we could have more to sample and enjoy. Bouchon highlights local vintners and has a “vin de carafe” board next to the bar. Today there was a Viognier and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Lynette selected the Viognier and I had the Cabernet. Both were outstanding and a value along with being unique.
For our starters, we had Salade de Celeri-Rave et Choux de Bruxelles which was a salad of caramelized celery root, black trumpet mushrooms, cranberries & Brussels sprouts with brown butter gastrique. It was an amazing dish and the gastrique and cranberries simply put the dish over the top. Next we had Salade de Saumon Tiede that was warm poached salmon salad with frisee, black truffle, potatoes & salmon roe with lentil vinaigrette. Final starter was a Lyonnaise Salad with frisee lettuce, crispy largons, soft poached egg and brioche toasts.
The first course was amazing and created quite a bit of chatter about what terrific selections we all made. Onto the main event, first was the Poulet Roti; roast chicken with crispy spatzle, winter squash, chestnuts & white wine poached pears with whole grain mustard jus. The flavor profiles were out of this world and the whole grain mustard jus was spectacular. People often do not order “chicken” at restaurants, since they think it is ordinary – well this was extraordinary!
Next delight was the Gnocchi a la Parisienne that was sautéed gnocchi with a fricassee of vegetables & beurre noisette. Final delicacy was the Truite aux Topinambours – pan roasted trout with roasted sunchokes, marinated mushrooms, toasted almonds & beurre noisette. This dish comes with the head on the fish and in an all-clad copper dish – outstanding presentation.
Even though we were quite satisfied, we needed to experience dessert. After much contemplation, we chose the Tarte au Citron. A large slice of lemon tart was placed on our table, that screamed meyer lemon, cream and butter. I ordered a cappuccino to complete the entire experience and to prevent a food coma.
Bouchon was a gastronomic dining experience that transcended us into France and left us wanting to return very soon. The service was outstanding. The food was amazing. Restaurant Club was very pleased with the experience and are already deciding on our next adventure to kick off 2010 .