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Bon Vivant in Yuma (long)

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Bon Vivant in Yuma (long)

e.d. | May 31, 2005 04:05 PM

Bon Vivant is Yuma's newest fine dining establishment. Opening in the space that once held Villa on the Main, this is a stylish dining venue with dark walls that are decorated with sophisticated posters and with jazz standards by such artists as Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Obviously meant to compete with the River City Grill and Julieanna’s, Bon Vivant serves luxurious food at prices to match. Lunch dishes average around $10, and dinner entrées are all over $20.

At lunch I had the most decadent French dip sandwich I've ever eaten, with sliced beef tenderloin, cheese, and roasted Portobello mushroom slices tucked into a crisp French roll. The au jus was perfect -- with great natural beefy flavor but not too much salt. My dining companions were somewhat less impressed. One said his Kobe beef burger was good, but no better than a comparable, less expensive burger at River City. Another said that his chicken saltimbocca on pasta was just okay. All agreed that the thin cut crispy French fries were wonderful.

I have also tasted some fine dishes at dinner at Bon Vivant. The crunchy, crusty French bread, served with butter, accompanies all the meals and equals some of the better breads I have eaten in California. The only appetizer I have tried, the steamed clams in wine and butter sauce ($12), was perfect. The clams were perfectly cooked, tender, and succulent.

There are about a dozen dinner entrées -- one page of seafood choices and one of meat entrées. Each entrée comes with vegetable, a choice of starches, and soup or salad. I have tried two of their soups: a clam chowder and a creamy potato and wild mushroom. The first was pretty ordinary, but the potato and mushroom soup was out of this world -- with a mixture of textures and a complex flavor added by the mushrooms. Both of the dinner salads (you get a choice of dressings) I've had were also outstanding. The first one came with baby yellow pear tomatoes, slices of cucumber, and an assortment of mixed greens. The second replaced the yellow pear tomatoes with a large section of avocado and a couple of slices of tomato. Both the Italian and ranch dressings are made on premises and are tasty.

The main courses I've sampled have also been generally very good. The halibut in parchment with lemon and leeks, once slightly overcooked and once done to perfection, is a very nice dish. The Hawaiian sea bass, not regularly on the menu, may be the best piece of fish I've ever eaten in Yuma. On my last visit, I ordered the most expensive entrée on the menu, lobster medallions and giant shrimp in wine and butter sauce ($34). The lobster, which I would more properly describe as two large chunks of lobster tail rather than medallions, was outstanding, perfectly cooked, and richly flavored. The five or six very large shrimp were good, but had a slight musty flavor that I found unpleasant -- not that I had any trouble finishing them. Still for $34, I was hoping for perfection.

The side dishes with the entrées have been uniformly excellent. The kitchen is very skilled at cooking vegetables, serving them neither undercooked nor overdone. The mashed red potatoes last night were rich and buttery and creamy. The potatoes with blue cheese, while not sounding appetizing to me, were perfectly balanced – the blue cheese flavor is not overdone and the potatoes in places have a crusty, crunchy texture. The pasta with a butter and Parmesan sauce that I had the first night was also very good.

I have also sampled two desserts: the chocolate brownies with chocolate frosting were rich and flavorful and contrasted nicely with the vanilla ice cream. The chocolate cheesecake topped with chocolate mousse and served with whipped cream, was not as impressive. I would've preferred a simple chocolate cheesecake, for I found the complexity of flavors in the chocolate cheesecake somewhat lost when topped with the chocolate mousse.

The restaurant also has a small, single-page wine list, really too small for a restaurant with such pretensions. Oddly enough, few of the wines are priced at over $30, and the list contains many of the usual suspects, for example Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Firestone Riesling. While Chardonnays do match the richness of the cuisine, I would have liked to have seen at least one sauvignon blanc and a wider range of other white wines. No red zinfandels were listed though many other red varietals were available.

The service on all visits has been professional without being snobbish. The pacing of the meals has been proper and stately. I love the atmosphere and the ambience, and I will happily return, hoping that the food will get even better, and the wine list will grow and improve over time.

ed

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