I've been writing on Chowhound since Jim Leff started it in the mid 90's. Under various logins I've been an "official" book reviewer, I've been a beta-tester of various versions of the board, and in all those years, I always wrote about the food, about the viewpoint, about technique, and about ingredients. This is the first time in almost 20 years I've felt compelled to write about the ambiance of a restaurant and I only do it now because a place with some of the best food in the state has apparently decided to play host to the Bowling-Banquet crowd on weekends, to pay its bills. Enough. The review follows:
During the season, we're up at the cottage a bit at best, but then spend virtually all of September there, when Madison is at it's finest. This month we've (as usual) tried a slew of new (to us) places, and gone back to our absolute favorites, Bar Bouchee in Madison, and Le Petit Café in Guildford, at least twice a week. Tonight, for the very first time, we tried Bar Bouchee on a weekend night. Never, EVER again.
There are restaurants where the chef just can't do his best work in the madness of a Friday or Saturday night crowd. In one-man-shows like Le Petit Café, this is perfectly understandable. Chef Ip cooks brilliantly for 10 tables but more than that and there is a bit of his usual attention to details lacking.
Bar Bouchee is to be commended for the quality of the food on a Saturday night - you wouldn't even know the night of the week by what you put in your mouth; however, management (or the lack thereof) absolutely ruined what should have been a great dinner. Eating out on the patio, as we always do, is normally quieter and less stressful than eating inside. Tonight, however, next to us was a party of three couple, loud, drunk, and with that new-money self-centeredness that shouts (quite literally) "Look At Me!" They were there, finished eating, when we arrived; they were still there drinking when we finished dinner and ran for the hills (without after dinner drinks, of coffee, or dessert which is unheard of for us) and are probably there still, shouting and drinking.
Other tables left quickly, after pointed looks in the direction of the offenders did nothing. The waitress did nothing but continue to serve the drinks (I wonder if CT has no bar-owner liability law) and the manager never even came outside, even after we voiced our complaint while rushing to get our check and get away from this disaster.
We'll be back next season, but for weekends, the sports bar up Rt 1 is probably a more quiet and relaxing place. Frankly it's also probably a more suitable place for the sextet at the next table, but if they want to make BB theirs on the weekends, then farewell Bar Bouchee. See you only during the week. You obviously don't need us any other time.