This is not a formal review, but just a commentary on our experience with Bouchon, which was clearly a restaurant with an identity crisis. So I first turned to Wikipedia to get some clarity. What is (a) Bouchon?
Wikipedia states that a “bouchon is a type of restaurant found in Lyon, France, that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork. Compared to other forms of French cooking such as nouvelle cuisine,
the dishes are quite fatty, and heavily oriented around meat. There are
around 20 officially certified traditional bouchons, but a larger
number of establishments describing themselves using the term. Typically, the emphasis in a bouchon is not on haute cuisine, but rather, a convivial atmosphere and a personal relationship with the owner.”
Hmm. The menu fits that general description but but who charges $35 for (Flatiron) Steak Frites? The food is bistro in design, but sold as Haute Cuisine.
Service was attentive…and yet not. They were quick to replace our bread every few moments with fresh warm bread, but we mostly refilled our own wine glasses. The decor of the restaurant is quite elegant, but the disposable menus are printed on brown paper and there is white paper over the tablecloths. (No crayons, though.) We had beautiful Burgundy glasses for the Volnay we brought, but the $87 Bordeaux we ordered off the wine list was served in water glasses. One of the couples with us was celebrating a wedding anniversary, a fact that was made clear multiple times to management. There was no acknowledgment.
As for the food, it was hit and miss. The foie gras pate was probably the best item of the night, but it was $48.50! As for the rest, we found ourselves comparing each dish negatively to the same item at places like Anisette, Church and State, Eva, Chez Melange, etc.
The preparations were not particularly inspired or creative in execution. And I was expecting a deliberate attempt to focus on local, sustainable cuisine like what you might experience at Bouchon in Napa. But instead, I observed things on the menu like Scottish Salmon and Big Eye Tuna. No information was offered on the sourcing of the other proteins.
I left this restaurant with much confusion. Admittedly, I have not been to its sister location in Napa, but my understanding is that location is much truer to its french Bouchon roots than what we experienced. I will say as a result of this experience I am not nearly as excited to explore Keller’s other restaurants.
Bottom line, if you go to Church and State you will get a very similar menu, but with much better food at much lower prices.