Le Bouchon is no French Laundry (although when Chef Jean Claude washes his whites, he has French laundry, hahahaha). Both, however, are exceedingly hard to reserve spots. We managed last Saturday to squeeze in (no pun here!) with an ultra-early reservation. Ideal for making a movie later in the night.
I've mostly missed the bistro revolution around town even though it is a genre I enjoy. So, I do not have a lot of reference points to compare. What I can say, without a doubt, is that Bouchon offers tremendous value in food and in drink. I do not think an entree tops $16, appetizers average around $5 and the winter salad assortment offered an extreme portion for that price. We got to drink a very pleasant and crisp H. Natter Sancerre half bottle at $21 and a few other glasses of wine too (although the Bordeaux is dreck). The only area where there seemed to be real compromise was the cheese plate. Entirely pedestrian with small servings of brie, port salut and something blue.
Before doing my report, I did a bit of searching for other reports on Le Bouchon. It turns out that our entrees mimicked in a lot of ways, what others ate. Unfortunately, our meal will not add much to the knowledgebase. We also go the hanger steak, but failed to heed Gary's advice to have this steak treated like the streak frite. I wish I would have followed Ultimo's advice. Outstanding meat, maximum beef, without the livery flavor I got with a hangersteak at Charlie Palmer Vegas. The mashed potatoes were average, too thin, really tasting more diner than bistro. The sauce was good enough but superfluous.
Like Tom Armitage many years earlier, we also ordered the cassoulet. In fact, my mother easily guessed what we would have ordered on an early winter night. Like so many chow things, I do not eat enough cassoulet to compare version to version. Generally, it is a dish I will like sight unseen. Cooked beans, rich meats, something to use dijon mustard, fat, what's not to like about this classic. Bouchon's cassoulet relied mostly on the beans to fill you, keeping with the low price points. Nothing more exotic than duck confit and small piece of slab bacon in the bean mix. Which of the three towns uses the bread crumbs--this was a crumb version.
Again, the cheese course paled compared to the other offerings. Not only were we disappointed with selections pretty much out of Dominick's, but we were also disappointed in their state on our plate. OK, maybe it is more to ask to have runny, drippy brie, but at least room temperature would have been better. Again, the winter salads, excelled. On the plate, all those things you savor in Paris but rarely get in the states: carrots drenched in mustard dressing, tiny lentils with onions, another onion heavy salad I forget, a bit of green salad and some couscous too. I think I am even missing one more (sorry). And speaking of onions, CQ had a decent enough bowl of onion soup. I liked the cheese on top.
I've linked to somewhat recent talk on Le Bouchon. If you do a search on the page, you can find a pit more information. Le Bouchon may not be the best French food in town, but surely one of the best French food values in town.
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