5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

5×5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 8/20/12

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I attended the first 5×5 dinner of the season at Melisse, but have unfortunately missed the last two due to some conflicts (Providence & Angelini Osteria). I was glad to be able to attend this latest one, which happened to be one of my most anticipated L.A. meals of the year. Having an all-star cast of L.A. chefs was part of it, sure, but there were four other opportunities for these 5×5 dinners. The difference-maker for me was the rumor that Thomas Keller (one of my favorite chefs, duh) would be around to survey the kitchen and meet & greet guests.

The guest chef for this dinner was Richard Rosendale of The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Rosendale will be representing the U.S. at the upcoming biennial chef competition Bocuse d’Or, something Thomas Keller has been strongly involved with. In preparation for the competition Keller has been taking Rosendale around the country to broaden experience and exposure. This was their latest stop (Rosendale revealed the next would be a stint at The French Laundry).

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Similar to previous 5×5 dinners, each chef prepared one course, while the home restaurant’s pastry chef created a seventh.

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We started with a few cocktails (left to right).

Moscow Mule 
Basil Basil Basil Hayden Bourbon, Normandin Mercier Pineau des Charentes, Fever Tree Soda, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Basil, Basil Simple, Highball
Blackberry Bramble Nolet’s Gin, Lucien Jacob Creme di Cassis, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Blackberries, Rocks

cocktails

We generally found the cocktails to be fairly watered down, which may have been partially caused by us waiting until all three were served (it took some time for the last one to come).

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

The first thing to come out of the kitchen was this strong amuse bouche. The gougeres were similar to one of the signature starters at The French Laundry, albeit this one had a strong truffle flavor that really separated this bite. Hard to go wrong with cheese and truffles.

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Next was home chef Rory Hermann’s dish. The caviar and sweet onion flavors were what stood out most, and I found the rye panna cotta to be very interesting – essentially a rye bread in smooth custard form. The flavors came together pretty well in this light starter.

A trio of breads were available this evening: the signature epi, brioche and multi-grain. I went with the first two; the epi was reliably good but I enjoyed the soft, buttery brioche even more.

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Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Voltaggio’s dish featured a duo of cuttlefish – one in pasta-like ribbons and the other as fried “cracklings.” I really liked the texture between the delicate chew of the cuttlefish, crispy fried cuttlefish and crunch of the dehydrated dressing. The spring peas added a welcome sweetness to the overall plate.
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Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Perfectly cooked spot prawns, clams and mussels were smothered in a complex broth with earthy olive tones and a duo of sweetness from the tomatoes and raisins.

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Guest chef Rosendale’s dish was a major disappointment. The layered halibut and  leeks was a good pairing, but way over-salted. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the accompanying carrot, tomato and “truffle ribbon” were rather bland and tasteless. While I hoped that the over-seasoned and bland would offset each other to create a perfectly seasoned bite, this just wasn’t the case.

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

Angelini reliably creates something rather simple and delicious in meals like this, and this was no exception. An al dente saffron risotto was topped with a tender piece of veal shank, while the gremolata provided a little bit of fresh citrus to counter the richness. A great balance of flavors – I just wish the portion wasn’t so tiny.
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Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Cimarust’s duck dish was the final savory course. The duck was cooked a nice medium-rare and Cimarusti was able to imbue it with a pretty strong smoky flavor. It was complemented by sweet figs and some frisee; I’m not sure if the tromboncino squash made it to the plate.

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Allen Ramos, Bouchon)

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Alen Ramos, Bouchon)

Dessert was a very simple, yet satisfying dish. Sweet peaches were paired with a meringue and a foam with floral and lemon flavors. Light and refreshing.

As a parting gift, we were given earl grey and pistachio macarons as well as a canele.

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I thought the food overall was good, but not great, and didn’t meet the expectations suggested by previous 5×5 dinners or the $150 price tag. I just didn’t think anything really stood out, and flavors didn’t quite come together as well as anticipated. I understand that even with an all-star cast of chefs, dishes often don’t come out as refined during a one-night special event in a foreign kitchen – it won’t detract me from attending future 5×5 dinners. Plus, my experience was definitely made up for by the fact that Thomas Keller was there working the dining room. I just hope that leek & halibut dish doesn’t make its way anywhere near the Bocuse d’Or judges’ table.

Chef Keller signing an apron. An apron with a bunch of notable chef signatures happens to be a great conversation-starter.

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KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

KCET Uncorked!
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/13/11

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Anyone who knows me (or has read their fair share of posts from this blog) knows that I’m a huge fan of Thomas Keller. Huge. Borderline obsessive. So, when I was invited to a seven-course dinner (with wine pairings) at Bouchon with a chance to sit down and dine with Chef Keller, this was truly an invitation I couldn’t refuse.

The dinner was a fundraiser for KCET, the public broadcasting network with shows such as America’s Test Kitchen and Simply Ming. The company I work for is a sponsor for the network, and had 4 seats at the $2,500 a plate dinner. Somehow, I got one of the seats. Can I say…best work perk EVER?

The benefit dinners spanned two evenings – one catered more towards the public (on the 12th, $250pp) and a more intimate affair (on the 13th, $2,500pp) catered to businesses and other large donors. Due to the nature of the event I didn’t bring my camera in, but I did take some quick shots of the food with my crappy camera phone. However, I did have my camera for the second half of the meal.

Before dinner was served, hors d’oeuvres were passed around, consisting of gougères, caviar and smoked trout crostini, some sort of mushroom tarts, and cups of French onion soup.

We started off with a few things at the table as the first formal course.

Olives

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Rillettes aux Deux Saumons fresh & smoked Scottish salmon rilletes, served with toasted baguette croutons

A really well-balanced blend of fresh and smoked salmon, this was delicious with the toasted slices of baguette.

Pate de Campagne country style pate with watercress, cornichons & radishes

pate

I don’t often like pates, but I enjoyed this one. Knowing many courses were to come, I abstained from eating too much of it though.

Grand Plateau Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, little neck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels & dungeness crab
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, Santa Barbara County 2009

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I’m no stranger to Bouchon’s raw seafood bar (see: American Wine & Food Festival), and it’s hard to go wrong with a tower full of ice and fresh seafood. Everything was good; my favorites were the clams and the lobster (particularly the claw). The clams were plump and had a nice chew, while the lobster was really sweet and delicious. Loved it.

Salade de Fenouil et Abricot young fennel bulb, apricots, Bellwether Farms ricotta cheese & garden sorrel
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Maria Valley 2009

salad

I enjoyed this salad. It incorporated a couple of in-season ingredients (fennel and apricot), and really came together with the rich ricotta.

“Carnaroli Risotto Biologico” summer truffles, English peas, sweet pea shoots & parmesan mousse
Pinot Noir, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Rita Hills 2008

risotto

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. One of the best risottos I’ve ever had was the white truffle version at The French Laundry; while this wasn’t quite on the same level, it was executed just as well. Again, seasonal produce was showcased in the form of the pea and pea shoots, lending a lighter, cleaner flavor to this risotto. Little bits of black summer truffles made the dish extra special. Best way to get my veggies and carbs in one spoonful.

Throughout the meal, Chef Keller moved from table to table, eating one course at each.

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Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye “Cuit Sous Vide” fricassee of fava beans, butter poached morel mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions & natural lamb jus
Syrah, Rusack Vineyards, “Ballard Canyon Estate”, Santa Barbara County 2008

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The lamb was prepared a nice medium-rare, leaving it very tender. I also enjoyed the addition of the morels and fava beans. I thought the rich, savory lamb jus really made the difference, bringing everything together. Really enjoyed the syrah with this dish.

Selection de Fromages Artisaneux beemster gouda, marisa & fourme d’ambert with honey comb, candied nuts, cranberry currant campagne & walnut bread
Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot, Rusack Vineyards, “Anacapa”, Santa Barbara County 2007

cheese

During the cheese course, a live auction was held, featuring trips ranging from across the street (Montage Beverly Hills) to Europe (Monte Carlo).

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As the savory courses came to an end, two desserts came out. I was a little surprised they didn’t serve their signature chocolate bouchons though.

Tarte au Citron lemon tart
Semillon, Rusack Vineyards, “Soul of the Vine”, Santa Ynez Valley 2009

lemon tart

I’m not a huge “sour” person, so I found this lemon tart to be a little bit too sour for me.

Ile Flottante meringue with vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel

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I liked this dessert better…kind of like a marshmallow, but more complex. It was light, airy and sweet, with the bulk of the flavor coming from the accompanying vanilla creme anglaise. I thought the almonds and caramel worked really well with this dessert.

Mignardises nutter butters, TKO, cookies, macarons, jellies, chocolate tart, lemon meringue

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Of course, we had the requisite kitchen tour.

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I knew coming into this dinner (experience) that I’d probably remember it for the rest of my life. After all, being able to meet and spend some time with Chef Keller was such a unique opportunity for me. I would have to say he was a little less easygoing than in prior meetings, but it was still very cool to spend some time with him.

As for the food, I would call it an excellent Bouchon dinner. I was hoping the food would have glimpses of the cuisine at the French Laundry level, but that wasn’t the case here. Still, similar to previous Bouchon experiences, the dishes were really well-executed and pretty delicious.

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Bouchon – 9/26/10

Bouchon Bistro
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

As the first meal post-American Wine & Food Festival, my family and I wanted something reliably good. Enter Bouchon. Thomas Keller’s LA outpost serves some well-executed, comfortable French bistro fare. The brunch menu shares some of the popular dinner dishes, such as the steak frites, trout, and roast chicken, as well as some brunch-only items. Given our party of nine was mixed between Bouchon veterans and Bouchon newbies, the varied offerings would fit well.

Quiche du Jour leek and Roquefort cheese quiche, with mixed greens

The quiche is so smooth, almost custard-like. The flavors of the leek and Roquefort shine through, and the blue cheese is not at all overpowering.

Plat de Cotes de Boeuf Hache braised short rib hash with piquillo peppers, caramelized onion & a hen egg served sunny side up

This was a brunch-only dish, and it was a good one. The short ribs were tender and delicious. Roasted potatoes are combined with this dish to create a really hearty, almost stew-like dish. The caramelized onions and piquillo peppers added a little bit of sweetness, while the egg with its runny yolk (I love runny yolks!) engulfed the dish with its richness. This one sat pretty heavy in the stomach, but it was pretty easy going down.

Steak Frites pan-seared prime flatiron, caramelized shallots, maître d’hôtel butter & French fries

The classic bistro dish. The flatiron was extremely tender and had some pretty good flavor. The fries are consistently some of the best in the city, and you get a heaping pile here. Can’t go wrong ordering this dish.

Truite aux Amandes pan-roasted trout with haricots verts, almonds & beurre noisette

Stepping away from the “comfort” of the steak, we have a whole trout. It’s interesting that the head was kept on, as I don’t see that very often outside of Asian restaurants. The fish was moist and cooked well, while the almonds and green beans rounded out the dish and lended some texture.

Poulet Rôti roasted chicken with sweet corn, currants, pickled red onions, lardons & chicken jus

Bouchon makes one hell of a roasted chicken. Exceedingly moist, the chicken has a lot of flavor as well. Combined with the chicken jus and a little bit of bacon flavor, and you’ve got an excellent dish. I recommend some fries for dipping into the chicken jus!

Bouchon offers their full dessert menu during brunch. I had mentioned that the profiteroles was my favorite dessert here, so we got a few orders to share.

Profiteroles vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

The pastry is light and the vanilla ice cream is excellent. However, what separates these profiteroles apart is the Valrhona chocolate sauce.

Rich, not overly sweet, and with a deep chocolate flavor, I love the vanilla-chocolate interplay. A simple dessert done very well.

I always have a solid meal here, and Bouchon’s brunch menu did not disappoint. Combining some of the favorite menu items from dinner with some brunch items, the menu is appealing and approachable. Given the soaring windows and ample natural light, it’s a great place to spend a weekend morning or afternoon.

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken – 8/1/10

I purchased the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit from Williams-Sonoma a while back. I saw it in the store and immediately had to get it. Nevermind the fact that I had never made fried chicken before, and am slightly averse to frying in a big pot of oil at home – it was Ad Hoc fried chicken, and I had to have it.

The kit comes with enough brine and seasoned batter for two uses, and I first made the chicken pre-blog. Because I would be using so much oil to fry the chicken, I figured I might as well cook as much as I could, and invite some fried chicken-appreciating friends over and turn it into a bit of a potluck.

First, the chicken. I was able to fit 24 pieces of thighs and drumsticks into the brine, which sat overnight. They were dried, and allowed to come to room temperature.

Ad Hoc’s method is to batter the chicken in the seasoned flour, dip in buttermilk, and then dip again in the seasoned flour.

When the chicken was battered, we let it sit for a few minutes to let the batter set.

After that, they went into the oil. I started with oil that was approx. 350 degrees, subsequent batches were frying at around 330 degrees.

After about 12 minutes, the first batch was done!

After about 5 batches, all 24 pieces were fried. I continuously put in sprigs of thyme to flavor the oil, as well as to act as a garnish.

The chicken was pretty damn delicious, if I do say so myself. The exterior was a golden brown; very crispy. But what made the difference was the very flavorful, juicy interior – definitely a result of the brine. Easily some of the best homemade fried chicken I’ve had. While it was a lot of work, and involved a lot of cleanup (all that oil!), it was worth it…though it will probably be a while until I do it again.

Heather baked some jalapeno cornbread as an appetizer/side – luckily, it wasn’t too spicy…but had just the right kick.

Kristen brought some watermelon, which was quite juicy and delicious.

Angelo brought a couple of salads, and James put on his chef’s hat, making baked corn and a homemade crab dip. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of these. As I wasn’t sure we would have enough food, I had also made a beef stew ahead of time.

I’ve posted enough times about braising dishes at home, so I didn’t do a step-by-step pictorial. I roasted some cauliflower and broccoli as well.

These were cut up, and roasted in my cast-iron skillet with salt, pepper and olive oil.

I also made some mashed potatoes using russet potatoes, butter, beef fat (from the stew) and heavy cream. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get a picture.

Mike and Lilly of LA Beer Hopping were in charge of the beer.

The selection included Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Allagash White, Alesmith X, BridgePort IPA, and a Ninkasi Spring Reign. I threw in a Pliny the Elder for good measure. I thought this was a pretty good selection. The IPAs would satisfy the “hopheads,” and the Allagash White, Alesmith X and Ninkasi beers attracted those that wanted a less bitter, perhaps lighter, craft beer.

For dessert, we had a couple of options. Heather brought a homemade peach/blueberry/raspberry cobbler served warm.

And I made a tiramisu.

This was actually fairly simple. I whipped up some cream, adding vanilla extract, marscapone, and sugar once it reached the ‘soft peaks’ stage. I layered lady fingers (dipped in a mixture of coffee and kahlua) and the cream mixture, with grated chocolate at each layer.

I was pretty pleased with the meal. It was a lot of work cooking so much (especially all that chicken), but it was a good opportunity to get some people together and enjoy some good food and good brews.

Bouchon – 7/24/10

Bouchon
The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Bouchon has become an ‘old staple’ – the restaurant consistently serves up delicious and comfortable food. So, being in Vegas this past weekend with a big group, Bouchon was a good choice to provide some good food that would appeal to everyone.

A meal at Bouchon always starts with their famous epi bread. Oddly, we received two loaves – one underbaked and one overbaked. The juxtaposition of the two loaves made that fact more evident.

With the bread came a simple cup of pistachios, lightly salted. These were actually quite tasty.

I ordered a French Onion soup, reminiscing on the strong effort from Daniel Boulud Brasserie on my last Vegas visit.

This soup was another very good rendition, with a hearty beef flavor. The onion was not overpowering, and provided a nice sweetness. Great soup for a warm day. Granted, it was 110 degrees outside on this day – and this was still good.

Carré de Porc kurobuta pork loin with summer stone fruit, field greens & whole grain mustard sauce

This looks like a very simple dish, and the pork looks rather plain and dry. However, this was not the case. The pork was quite moist and flavorful, and the peaches added a sweetness that went well. The portion was rather inconsistent with many of the other entrees on the menu, which tend to be on the large size.

Roasted Veal Costalleta Chop glazed Tokyo turnips, whole grain mustard spatzel, bing cheeries, Forestiere butter

This dish was the entree of the day, and came highly recommended by the server. The veal, served bone-in, was cooked perfectly, leaving a very moist and tender piece of meat. The turnips and cherries were great accompaniments, along with the al dente spatzel.

Gnocchi à la Parisienne sautéed gnocchi with a fricassée of vegetables & beurre noisette

Bouchon makes some very good gnocchi. The gnocchi are very light and pillowy, and the vegetables add a vibrant, fresh flavor.

Pommes Frites

You can’t come to Bouchon and not order the fries. You just can’t. These are quite simple, and seasoned just with salt. But the execution is flawless, with a consistently crisp exterior and fluffy interior. Beautiful.

Next we were on to the desserts. For me, many restaurants fail to have desserts that live up to the appetizer and entree. At Bouchon, this is definitely not the case. If I had to make a meal out of the dessert menu, Bouchon would be a pretty damn good choice.

Bouchons vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

Their signature dessert, which is always an off-menu “special,” are these cork-shaped brownies made of valrhona chocolate. Usually they have a selection of ice creams, but it was only vanilla on this day. I love the interplay of chocolate and vanilla, and this dessert hits that spot on.

Profiteroles vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce

What a pretty dessert. The profiteroles are brought to the table and then topped with a chocolate sauce. Again, the vanilla and chocolate flavors meld very well together – really a simple and delicious dessert.

Beignets pastry cream filling & vanilla ice cream

This was the daily special dessert of the evening. The first thing I thought of when I heard “beignets” was the coffee & doughnuts dessert at The French Laundry. I loved that doughnut, and I loved this one too. Light and fluffy, this beignet was filled with a light, sweet pastry cream. It was kind of reminiscent of a lighter version of a Krispy Kreme cream-filled doughnut. Excellent. I wish we had a different flavor ice cream, however, as this was the third of three desserts with the same flavor.

Overall, a very good meal at Bouchon. I’ve come to expect well-executed, comfortable food at each location, and Bouchon seems to always come through.

Bouchon – 4/16/10

Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

It’s been a little while since going to Bouchon. Since going twice on its opening weekend, I hadn’t been back until now. I was interested to see if the food and service still held up to what I remembered from the first weekend. My friend and I came on this Friday night at 8 without a reservation – and were able to be squeezed in outside under the heat lamps.


I have said that Bouchon is one of my favorite casual restaurants. It’s simple French bistro comfort food done well. The execution, as expected at any Thomas-Keller restaurant, is top-notch. The first dish we ordered was one of the daily appetizer specials: salmon tartare.

The salmon tartare was topped with lemon juice, and accompanied by shallots, capers, chives, eggs through a sieve – and topped with creme fraiche. The crostini that came with it provided the crunchy texture, and the salmon and creme fraiche the bulk of the flavor.

Poulet Rôti – roasted chicken with riz rouge, Michigan sour cherries, wilted spinach & chicken jus

I’ve had the roasted chicken at Bouchon before, and it really is top-notch. The skin is very nicely browned and crispy, and the meat (both white and dark) is superbly moist and flavorful. The chicken jus is rich and delicious, and I almost like the accompanying red rice/spinach/cherries mixture, adding some extra heartiness to the dish. A really well-executed dish.

Steak Frites – pan-seared prime flatiron served with maître d’hôtel butter & French fries
Bouchon’s fries are delicious. Wonderfully crispy, perfectly salted. Add a tender, perfectly-cooked steak with a compound butter, and you’re set. The flatiron steak was very tender and cooked a beautiful medium-rare.

Profiteroles -vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce
Probably my favorite dessert at Bouchon, these profiteroles are wonderfully simple. The valhrona chocolate sauce sets the tone here, as a rich chocolate flavor that’s not overly sweet. The interplay with the vanilla ice cream is just wonderful. The pasty adds some crisp – in all, a very satisfying dish.
The food tonight was good – on point. However, service was not. Entrees came out before we were finished with the appetizer, and even before our next set of silverware was placed down. We were totally devoid of bread service the entire night. When we inquired about this after finishing our entrees, we were given a pair of loaves to take home. This was definitely nice, though never should’ve happened in the first place.
Is Bouchon still my favorite casual eatery in LA. Possibly.  I think the food was still consistent; however, the service on this night was definitely lacking. I’m still a fan of the place, but it’s not the slam dunk that it was when it first opened.