I returned recently from a two week trip across Northern California. I had absolutely wonderful meals at La Folie, Chez Panisse and Ubuntu, to name a few. But I really had to post about the worst. And-long pause, many gasps, it was at none other than Bouchon.
I had already read mixed reviews on this board about Bouchon, but since my companions and I have never experienced any of Thomas Keller's cuisine, we decided Bouchon would be a good opportunity-especially given we are all French food fanatics. Of course, we did not manage to get a reservation at The French Laundry (our first choice), but now I think that may have been a blessing in disguise.
First off, this is not a bouchon. Not in the traditional sense or otherwise. There may be pretty French pictures on the wall with cliched French music playing but it didn't fool me. And the prices or clear lack of Lyonnais influenced cuisine (with the exception of sausage maybe) certainly don't warrant a bouchon name but I digress. I certainly knew the price point in advance given the information on the website, so that wasn't a shocker. What shocked me was the absolutely atrocious food at such a high price point. It seems that people will flock to this place as a feeling of winning "second prize" in losing the reservation battle for The French Laundry. Well, let me tell you, it ain't.
I had read that any of the raw bar offerings were exceptional. Unfortunately, I was not in the mood for that, nor were any of my companions. We decided to order a round of mains; the boudin blanc, the roasted chicken, the steak frites, and I had the special of the evening, Rabbit two ways, a rillettes and sausage. All of them were so salty that we could not finish what was on our plate. Now, I am sensitive to salt, but two of my companions are not-one person could even be described as a salt lover. Well, even he could not grasp the amount of salt in the food. It was very obvious that the kitchen is not tasting the food before it goes out, otherwise they would have noticed the huge cube of SALT.
We all stared at each other in disbelief. Is this really the quality control that Thomas Keller wants in any of his establishments? Because as far as I could tell, there was none. It could have been excusable if one, or even two mains had been oversalted, but all four??? At least the bread and Merry Edwards Pinot saved our meal-we had that to be thankful for.
With myriad spelling mistakes noted on the wine/aperitif/digestif list, I had had enough. Dessert? No thanks. Service was fine, albeit clinical. And yes, it is loud and cramped, as many people have noted before me.
Its hard to establish a true sense of any restaurant based on one visit alone, but when you are charging those kinds of prices, and have the supposed name behind them to back it up, I have much less patience for slip ups. In the end, it all seemed so contrived to me.
But what did I expect when I heard the answering machine say "Welcome to Bou-SHAWN"?