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Bouchon in Yountville, California

Rating: 90.
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Did you know that America's largest veterans' home, housing some 1,000 veterans, is located in the small town of Yountville? I didn't. I guess most of us are much more familiar with Yountville as the home of the The French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc, all restaurants owned by gastronomic veteran Thomas Keller. After establishing the French Laundry in 1994, Keller opened his second Yountville restaurant in 1998 and named it Bouchon, after the traditional "bouchons" you'll find in Lyon, France. Since Yountville is such a small town, both The French Laundry and Bouchon (and the Bouchon bakery next door) have become quite the landmarks in Yountville - both restaurants are just steps apart. Bouchon offers traditional French bistro-style food and the restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2007.

The menu at Bouchon (open daily for lunch and dinner) features a large selection of starters ($10-25), salads ($11-14), mains ($18-59), desserts ($5-10) and seasonal dishes. In the weekends there is a special brunch menu on offer. I had lunch with my husband at Bouchon on Sunday 5 April 2015.

First to arrive were "Oeufs Mimosa", devilled eggs with a soft and creamy egg yolk filling and garnished with deep-fried capers, which we shared as a pre-starter.

My starter was from the seasonal selection on the menu, "Salade de Asperges Verts", a simple but delightful salad of green asparagus (from the Sacramento Delta region) with fresh and creamy burrata, thinly sliced Bayonne ham and a mildly sweet tomato marmalade. The well-cooked asparagus had lovely sweet and nutty flavours and was complemented wonderfully by the salty-sweet Bayonne ham.

"Poulet Rôti" followed. Bouchon's chickens are first brined and then roasted, resulting in a beautifully tender chicken (leg and breast) with a perfect golden brown skin, and with the right touch of greasiness, as you'd expect with a roast chicken. The chicken was placed on top of a delicious mixture of spring peas, soft onions, garden lettuce and bacon lardons, and served with a fantastic chicken jus that had a great depth of flavour. A superb dish made with exquisite ingredients.

With the chicken I ordered some truffled French fries, which were terrific.

Dessert was "Fraise-Rhubarbe Parfait". A traditional ice cream glass was filled with layers of strawberry puree, lightly whipped vanilla diplomat cream, and airy sponge cake, followed by some buttery biscuit crumbs, a large scoop of rhubarb-strawberry ice cream and with an almond croustillant placed on top. An excellent and perfectly executed dessert.

Bouchon is a charming restaurant that does exactly what it says on the tin: handsomely cooked (traditional) brasserie-style dishes, made with high-quality ingredients. The kind of place you leave feeling satisfied and with a smile on your face. On the Sunday I was there the place was busy and bustling, very similar to the atmosphere in many French bistros. Service came with a broad American smile and was very professional. The pace was hurried in the beginning (the Americans do love to turn their tables), but after I asked the friendly staff to put things into a lower gear, I had a very relaxing lunch. Bouchon is just a couple of years short of its 20th anniversary and it is clear to see why this restaurant and brand have become one of the jewels in Thomas Keller's crown.

Posted 10-06-2015


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