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Bouchee and More Report

Trailrunner | May 16, 200510:23 AM

We visited Carmel and Carmel Valley for the weekend. Friday night we were shopping at the Barnyard and decided to eat at Bahamas Billy’s, as it was right there and I had seen it mentioned on Chowhounds. Certainly a nicely decorated interior, the place was festive. The specialty mixed drinks looked good, but we were entered in a trail run Saturday morning and decided to pass on the drinks. Probably in retrospect I should have had a drink, maybe I would have liked the food better (or more likely I wouldn’t have cared). I had the “jerk” chicken, which was a perfectly-cooked piece of chicken with a sweet sauce. I am not an expert on Jamaican food, but I am still looking for the jerk. No spice, no heat that I could taste. My wife had the hoisin-glazed salmon, which she said was good. I thought that the best part of the meal was the Calypso cheese bread that they brought at the start of the meal. It’s a large menu, so there may well be some gems on there that we didn’t try.

After the trail run Saturday (I missed a turn, ran an extra mile, and slipped on a rock and fell in the river ….) we shopped in Carmel and had dinner at Bouchee. After reading all of the good reviews we had been looking forward to this for months but were concerned after reading the negative review here last week. We needn’t have been concerned, it was a very good meal.

Both my wife and I had the tasting menu. For each course there were two selections and we ended up ordering opposite so we both had the opportunity to try everything. And I had the wine pairing. For the first course we had the tuna tartare on avocado with a red miso soy broth, and a scallop salad with asparagus and a Bernaise sauce. The scallop salad was the clear winner, with three perfectly-cooked scallops and a light but delicious Bernaise sauce for the asparagus.

For the second course we had the asparagus soup with a crab cake and crème fraiche, and red abalone on a potato fourchette with black truffle sauce. The asparagus soup smelled and tasted good and “asparagusy”, but the abalone was the best dish. My only complaint was that there was very little abalone, just three of four small shavings of it.

For the main course we had the salmon and the Niman Ranch beef short rib with wild mushroom ragout. The favorite was the beef short rib, this was excellent. It was just a small piece of meat, but imagine if you took a large pot roast and condensed all of the flavor into one small piece of meat, this was it. Next time I would order this as a main course instead of the tasting menu, just to get a larger serving.

We had the cheese sampler (a Roquefort, Gouda, and a goat cheese), and the buttermilk panna cotta and a chocolate sampler for dessert. The cheese was very good, but the desserts were just average, the weakest part of the meal.

We didn’t have any of the serving miscues that ruined the experience for the previous poster (and I can certainly understand how forgetting a course at a restaurant such as this would make me really upset). The pacing of the courses was fine, and I would definitely return.

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