Friday, September 5, 2014


Bouchon offers traditional French bistro fare with a menu that showcases the best products available each day. Bouchon, located in Yountville, CA - the heart of Napa Valley - also features a raw bar with select oysters on the half shell and many other Fruits de Mer. Seasonal offerings change throughout the year and are complemented by Vin de Carafe, a unique wine program that brings recognition to local wine producers.

I have always wanted to visit Napa Valley in Northern California ever since I fell in love with wine.  So when Keith had to attend a work conference in San Francisco, we jumped on the chance to take a little weekend trip to Napa in advance.  I will write up a more detailed post about all the wineries we visited while in Napa, but first we researched all the restaurants to check out while there.

Thomas Keller is renowned for his culinary skills and his exceptionally high personal standards. He has established a collection of restaurants that set the standard within the hospitality industry. Chef Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three star ratings by the Michelin Guide.  His other restaurant in Napa, The French Laundry, is lauded as one of the best in the world and is impossible to snag reservations at.  Believe me, I tried. 

Alas, I figured Bouchon would be just as good and a little less formal - perfect for our first dinner in Napa after a long day of travel.  Bouchon, which means 'cork' in French, also has a famous bakery next door, so I knew we would have an amazing bread basket.  Served with salted butter, the bread was hard on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside, typical of the French style.

To accompany our meal, we chose a $64 bottle of cabernet sauvignon called Chappellet, Napa Valley, Cervantes Mountain Cuvée 2011.  It was our first sip of the dark berry nectar of the gods made locally, and it was glorious.

Many classic French appetizers stood out on the menu.  We decided to share the Beignets de Fleurs de Courgettes - fried zucchini blossoms served with olivade.  I've usually had bigger flowers that were stuffed with ricotta, but these were smaller and perfectly fried.  The salty olivade had great flavor, and caused me to drink more wine.  Not that I was complaining.

Being more adventurous than me, Keith really wanted to try the Terrine de Foie de Volaille. A cute glass jar arrived filled with chicken liver mousse and capped with a thick layer of solid fat to keep it fresh.  It was served with toasted baguette spears, raspberry jam, and mustard.  Keith absolutely adored this dish and convinced me to try "just a taste."  I did, and I must say, although a bit intense in flavor and salty (Keller really likes his salt), it was pretty good.  Luxurious and velvety, the mousse was plentiful in the jar and paired lovely with the raspberry jam, and another sip of red wine.  I felt like we were in France.

Additionally, Keith had to try some oysters from the raw bar.  He just asked for a sampling to make up a half-dozen and I didn't catch all the names, but most were from the west coast.  He said they were large and briny, and tasted great with just a squirt of lemon juice.

For my main course, I chose the Moules au Safran. Maine bouchot mussels were steamed with white wine, Dijon mustard, and saffron, and served with French fries.  The mussels were smaller than the PEI ones I'm used to, and had a very strong taste of the sea.  I could see the little strips of saffron floating in the broth, yet could not really taste any.  Our server brought me some garlic aioli to go with the fries, which were also heavily salted.  Overall, I enjoyed my dish but it was pretty standard.

Keith ordered the Gigot d’Agneau - roasted leg of lamb with chickpeas, broccolini, eggplant, and young carrots.  Cooked medium-rare, the meat was generous and the vegetable broth very classic in both technique and flavor.

Lastly, for dessert we shared Chocolate Bouchon with almond gelato and coconut shavings. These small brownie-like moist treats, named for their shape, are the house speciality.  Though chocolatey, I was a bit underwhelmed.  I was expecting an amazing dessert, but perhaps the brownie was not the best choice.  Nevertheless, we finished the plate and it was a nice end to our meal.

The food at Bouchon was fresh and enjoyable, with the appetizers being the best part.  Our server was professional, but too robotic in her recitation of specials.  Also, it took her a while to initially greet us or take our orders.  I found it a bit odd that we were not given any small bread plates either.  The ambience was very busy and loud - I was sitting right next to Keith, as opposed to across the table from, yet had to practically yell at him at times.  In the end, we were glad that were able to eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant, but were left wondering if TFL would have been any better.

Total Rating: 4.13
Food: 4.5, Price: 3.5, Service: 3.5, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Beignets de Fleurs de Courgettes
fried zucchini blossoms with with olivade

Moules au Safran
Maine bouchot mussels steamed with white wine, Dijon mustard & saffron, served with French fries

Chocolate Bouchon
with almond gelato and coconut shavings

Plus Keith ate:
Terrine de Foie de Volaille
chicken liver mousse served with toasted baguette

Gigot d’Agneau
roasted leg of lamb with chickpeas, broccolini, eggplant & young carrots

Bouchon on Urbanspoon

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