With one more day remaining in to take advantage of dineLA's prix fixe, I thought I'd better get another review in. This time it's Bouchon, Thomas Keller's relatively affordable French bistro in Beverly Hills.
The $25 lunch includes a choice of Soupe du Jour, Salade Maraichere, Mousse de Foie de Volaille, or, for an additional $3.00, Tartare de Saumon for the first course, and Confit de Canard, Tartine de Thon Nicoise, Moules au Safran, or, for an additional $5.00, Salade de Steak for the second course. A dessert course can be added-on for $4.00 and includes a choice of Creme Caramel, Creme Glacee / Sorbet aux Fruits, or Bouchons. (For full descriptions, check the dineLA page: http://discoverlosangeles.com/restaur...)
The meal started off with the bread service, with a ramekin of butter, a small ceramic container of mustard, and a pain d'epi, a loaf of bread shaped like a wheat stalk. The butter was creamy and salty, the mustard was tart and spicy, both of which elevated the bread, which was good but nothing special.
For my first course, I decided on the Mousse de Foie de Volaille ("chicken liver mousse with red wine poached prunes and toasted pain de campagne"). I tried little frisee salad on the side first, and was surprised that the dressing tasted of star anise. The mousse was very good. The sweetness of the prunes and the salty unctuousness of the mousse played off each other very well. The country bread was quite hard, not just toasted to a crisp, but it actually hurt my gums biting into it. I had to switch to the pain d'epi to enjoy the mousse.
For my second course, I decided on the Moules au Safran ("Maine bouchot mussels, steamed with white wine, mustard & saffron served with French fries"). The mussels were not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I had better at FIG recently. The mussels themselves were just a bit shriveled, like mollusks get when overcooked. The broth that the mussels were cooked in was too tart to be consumed as soup, but it was still excellent for consuming with the remainder of the pain d'epi as a delivery vessel.
The frites were above average, and the aioli had a very subtle garlic flavor and a heavier olive oil taste. I'd rather have grilled baguette slices to eat with my moules, but it was a good accompaniment.
I had to get back to work, so I asked my waiter if I could get the dessert course to go. He said it was no problem, and I opted for the creme caramel, since it was the only dessert that did not have an ice cream component to it. Also, I happen to love creme caramel, so that worked out. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of it (example from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickpoon...), but it was excellent.
In conclusion, I had high expectations for both food and service, and Bouchon definitely exceeded my expectations on the latter. The food, though not bad, did not quite meet my albeit lofty expectations. The chicken liver mousse was excellent, but the mussels were not as good as I had hoped. Still the entire meal was above average, and definitely a steal at $25 for what appeared to be full-size appetizers and desserts, and for a smaller, but still satisfactory, portion of the main course (I saw a full order of the Moules au Safran, and it seemed like quite a bit more, which makes sense considering it's more than the dineLA prix fixe amount on its own on the regular menu).
The highlight of the meal was definitely the level of service, which was among best I've experienced. The waitstaff were attentive without being intrusive, apologetic when something went "wrong" (I finished my water once during the meal, and my waiter, being busy with other tables, left me with an empty glass for a whole 2-3 minutes, oh the horror--sarcasm, if you can't tell) without being sycophantic. Truly excellent service.
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
[Full-size photos, with captions, at http://theoffalo.com/2012/07/bouchons...]