Yay, food porn! It’s been a while, and fortunately a birthday always provides a wealth of obscenely gorgeous food photos as a side effect of what’s usually a fantastic meal.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the pics are necessarily obscenely gorgeous this time, as for some reason the camera was set at the lowest possible resolution, and that plus extremely low light equals highly mediocre pictures. You’ll get the basic idea, though.
The usual semi-annual routine for Wesly’s and my birthdays is that the birthday boy gets taken out for dinner, and never knows where until the moment the car pulls up in front of the restaurant. We’re big believers in the element of surprise, combined with sometimes absurd levels of misdirection. Usually each of us would conspire with Mary as to where to take the other (although sadly, this was the last time for that), and our conspiracy ended up with my plan to take Wes to Bouchon, Chef Thomas Keller’s French bistro in Beverly Hills, for his mumblety-mumbleth birthday on March 8.
Unfortunately, for a change Wesly was quite forceful in expressing his birthday wishes this year. “I wanna go to Bouchon. And I wanna go see ‘Dreamgirls.’” Well, so much for the element of surprise.
We don’t frequent Beverly Hills, unsurprisingly, but we were familiar with the location as it’s right up the block from Spago (which is one of our favorite occasion restaurants and not nearly as expensive or out-of-reach as you might think). This is the third Bouchon location, after the Michelin-starred original in Yountville in Napa Valley and the glitzier one in Vegas. The building in which Bouchon resides is called Beverly Hills Gardens, and shares a beautiful courtyard with the Montage Hotel. There’s a narrow veranda along the side of the restaurant overlooking the courtyard, which will be a really lovely place to dine once spring has sprung.
Upon passing the intriguing-looking Bar Bouchon on the ground level, which we must explore later, we entered and ascended a rather grand staircase into the restaurant and were seated at a cozy table after passing the rather grand curved zinc bar not unlike ones we’d seen in Paris.
The main dining room is vibrant without being overwhelmingly loud, and we still felt well-connected to the whole space while still being afforded a good bit of privacy at our table. (Ours was the two-top in the lower left corner, below.)
Around each napkin at the place settings was folded a crisp brown piece of paper that turned out to be our menus, leading immediately to the problem of what to order when everything on the menu looked so good — I imagine the menu is more or less the same at all three branches, and this one has a terrific chef, Rory Herrmann, formerly of Keller’s New York three Michelin-starred restaurant Per Se. Some of the dishes were eye-raisingly pricey (unsurprising, considering the world-famous chef-owner and its posh location) but many were quite reasonable. We saw (and smelled … holy frak) magnificent plates of steak frites go by, Gargantuan steaks accompanied by what looked like a basketball-sized clump of crisp Belgian-style twice-fried frites for $36.50 which we could easily have split. But not tonight.