Saturday, September 11, 2004
Restaurant Bouchon - A little France in the hearth Napa Valley
Thomas Keller has become a legend in the American food scene and his own sactuary next door from his famous French Laundry is a wonderful place. It has alot of France without the typical American affection for surface, without substance. Here the mood is authentic, Thomas Keller proclaims in his book about Bouchon that is is a big lover of bistro food and that this is where he wants to have a meal after cooking the whole evening at the French Laundry.
We had a small table on the tiny patio, it was a beautiful day after doing some wine tasting and discovering 'Graisins' - the overrip grapes, which I blogged about here. The company made the experience extraordinary, thanks Sarah and Steve. We saw the sun set starting with champagne and a set of oysters. I liked the informal environment, the food was good, but there is a clear distinction between haute cuisine and bistro food. The dish I really want to highlight was the soup on fresh corn. This soup was amazing, I like the flavour of corn and with crispy corn in the pureed soup made it a very memorable dish. Sarah picked it, her ability to see through the meny to the dishes makes her excellent company at great restaurants. Thanks for having vision! The three of us later convinced the waiter to bring in a starter sized porting as a taster and that taste is still in my mouth. I even tried to re-create it from memory when returning home. Mine was not as good, but still a good soup.
The service was not the best I have experienced, I felt the name, the heritage brought some stiffness, yet the attention to detail of the servers was not perfect. I am now splitting hair, but at the top margins are hair thin. On the other hand I was scoring a bistro with a haute cuisine criteria, not fair, but the service was not bistro, something familiar, cozy was missing, which is what you find in French bistros.
If you are in the area, I really recommend you visit the place, the bakery next door is great and the whole area is very Americana.