Twenty-One Reasons to dineL.A.: January 19 – February 1, 2015

Lobster Roll – Blue Plate Oysterette

DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.

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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.

May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.

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Star Chefs Showcases Best Talent in Los Angeles

Wagyu Short Rib, Cream of Dehydrated Broccoli & Cheddar Tagliatelle - Michael Voltaggio at The Langham

It was a special night in overcast Santa Monica, when the rising star chefs (and mixologists) of Los Angeles came out to dance. Their individual tables showcased a dish of their choosing, with propped-up lamps shining into the coastal darkness. The Fairmont Miramar was the setting, with FIG hosting the bungalow-side VIP reception to precede the walk-around gala held on the hotel’s turnaround.

Apricot Tortellini from FIG

FIG, headed up by Chef Ray Garcia, was up for the sustainability award. Representing their fresh and inventive menu were spoonfuls of apricot tortellini – subtly sweet but tangy and way more complex than I could have imagined a sweet bite of pasta could be. Also generously passed around were fingerling potatoes and chips topped with creme fraiche and Petrossian caviar. The generous part was undoubtedly the option to add a spoonful more of caviar atop each potato – a point Petrossian chef and James Beard Rising Star Chef semi-finalist Ben Bailly agreed with. Rosé champagne complimented each of our beginning bites, but nothing prepared me for what was to come during the main program of the night.

The Highlander (With Highland Park 12)

The main sponsor of the night was Highland Park, and what a fortunate arrangement that turned out to be. Highland Park 18 was being served neat or on a big Néve ice rock. On the other end, Eric Alperin of the Downtown Los Angeles bar The Varnish served up The Highlander, a simple yet beautiful treatment to Highland Park 12 which the likes of Thomas Keller was also spotted sipping.


“The Highlander” by Eric Alperin of The Varnish

1/2 oz cherry Heering Liqueur
2 oz Scotch Whisky (Highland Park 12)

Stir in a whisky glass over a big rock of ice.

Eric Alperin and Thomas Keller - Photo credit V.Wasik/

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Opening Night At Bouchon Beverly Hills

I had heard stories of the red carpet opening a couple nights prior, for which my credentials didn’t quite make the cut. Ultimately, I convinced myself, I was going to have a full meal at Bouchon on opening day – that is, one of the first meals ever served at the Beverly Hills outpost. While I’m not the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth, is not the full meal the important part? Fun as it may have been able to ogle A-listers and pretend I was one myself, the entire dinner experience last night was indeed a privilege.

Jeremiah and Chad were gracious enough to include me in a reservation Jer so blithely secured the first day the lines opened – by merely walking across the public parkway that separated his employer, The Montage, and Bouchon. Our 4-top was set for 6:15 PM and while we were seated, our greeter thanked us for visiting: “You are our first guests.”

Beignets de Brandade de Morue (cod brandade with tomato confit & fried sage)

As we enjoyed the fresh house-made bread and delicious butter, Thomas Keller escorted family into the dining area and Laura Keller – beautiful as ever – oversaw her post in the high-ceilinged, pink light-tinged, perfectly French bistro. Half the entertainment in the duration of the night was hearing Jeremiah’s story of packing up and leaving his home in Arizona to work at Bouchon Yountville – and of course the invaluable stories in the kitchen that ensued after the uproot.

We ordered a Pisco Sour, Tonic & Gin and a spritzer with orange bitters to start things off. My Pisco was nice and eggy, the way I like it.

Frisee salad with mushrooms (special)
Frisee salad with mushrooms (special)

Oh, cod beignets. So dense and yet delicately fried. The sweet tomato confit complemented the salty fish and the crispy sage was just the touch of green the bite needed. Chad got the Salade de Betteraves et Poires (marinated beet & poached pear salad with toasted hazelnuts, garden mache & black truffle vinaigrette) which he was extremely happy with. Jeremiah went with a watercress & endive salad with Roquefort – but I was extremely happy having ordered the salad special – a cornucopia of mushrooms topped with frisee in a sherry vinaigrette. I was impressed with the variety and quality of mushrooms. While a sweeter take than I’ve usually had involving mushrooms, it made me really appreciate the frisee it was topped with.

Plats des Cotes de Boeuf (red wine braised beef short rib with caramelized Savoy cabbage, glazed sweet carrots, parsnips & jus de Boeuf)

This is where we moved to the carafe of wine – a perfect Pinot Noir from Sashi Moorman (Stolpman Winery north of Santa Barbara) from their Vin de Carafe Rouge program. It was suited to everything we’d order thereafter. My braised shortribs were of course tender, savory but also not too sweet. The tang from the jus de Boeuf was perfect and while it’s tough to go wrong with a braised shortrib, I was ultimately happy with the dish and promised I’d go harder on them the next time. The other omnivore at the table, Jer, got the roasted leg of lamb (with Swiss chard, pommes boulangere, Swiss chard ribs & lamb jus) while Chad ordered the halibut with grapefruit confit, which was a special last night. Jeremiah was happy with how perfectly-cooked the lamb was from the cross-cut and I was forever intrigued by the delicious briny Swiss chard the meat was topped with.

Ile Flottante
Ile Flottante (meringue with vanilla, creme anglaise, almond & caramel)

While cheese enthusiast Chad asked our server to choose three cheeses for him (one each of goat, cow and sheep’s, of course) Jeremiah definitely got the winning dessert of the night. He recognized it as a new dessert that wasn’t on the menu while he worked at Bouchon – and indeed it was brand new. The Ile Flottante resembled a panna cotta yet had a looser consistency. The salted caramel sauce made to pour was divine. (Yes, I admit – I’ve been a salted caramel fan for awhile now. What – aren’t you?) The almonds finished off the taste and gave the dessert an overall weight. Such a beautiful dessert. My lemon tart was refreshingly light. Pine nuts were in the crust and the consistency of the lemon for once wasn’t custard-like but incredibly fluffy. I wondered how they got the fluffy texture so brown, to which Jeremiah divulged that it is broiled on multiple sides to achieve that color.

Our server, recognizing that Jeremiah had spent his fair share in a Thomas Keller kitchen, asked if we would like a look inside theirs. Uh, absolutely. We met his old boss, Jeff Cerciello, who oversees all of Thomas Keller casual dining (Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc) as well as “TK” himself – a very gracious and kind soul despite the reputation he has built for himself. Yes - very surprisingly to me. Bonus. I was giddy just to witness Chef Keller ask Jer where he is now after having left Yountville.

After failed chances at reservations at Per Se and never even having visited the Napa area, I finally had my first Thomas Keller experience (That is, outside of a grilled cheese and Arnold Palmer at Columbus Circle’s Bouchon Bakery). I was floored by the quality and perfection strived for in each dish, all on opening night. The intention was clear: To make everything extremely well and to perfect homemade recipes without the distracting flourishes high-end dining so often has come to rely upon. While I don’t have another reservation in my sights, I would be content to sit down at the bar – perhaps after 10 o’clock – and enjoy this caliber of French Bistro as much as possible. I can think of many more nights where I’d run into fellow food bloggers like I did Kevin Eats and Christine of Folie à Choisauce on this night. (I also heard I missed Betty Hallock of LA Times and Joe Pesci. Oh right – I also saw Don Johnson. Yep.)

Bouchon Beverly Hills Opening Night Flickr Set

Further reading:

Opening Night at Bouchon – Kevin Eats

Q&A With Head Sommelier Alex Weil – LA Weekly Squid Ink

(Expect reservations to be booked for the month ahead)

Bouchon Bistro
235 N Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills CA 90210

Bouchon Brings French Country To Beverly Hills

Croque Madame

Add Bouchon Los Angeles to Yountville and Las Vegas, and then add Bouchon to The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery. This is Thomas Keller up front and right here in our city and on Cañon. And it’s about time, Chef: “I am very excited to open Bouchon in Beverly Hills. I was born in Southern California and worked in LA for many years. It feels good to be back home.”

And we are glad to have you “back.”

Opening day is Wednesday, November 18 – when the curtains open on the fruits of labor by a meticulously crafted team headed by Chef de Cuisine Rory Herrmann (Per Se). GM Greg Rowen is formerly of Jardiniere (also GM) and Four Seasons San Francisco (Restaurant and Bar Manager). Pastry Chef Scott Wheatfill, Head Sommelier Alex Weil and 23 others fill out the Bouchon team.

As for the menu, expect bistro classics like Roast Chicken, Leg of Lamb, Quiche Lorraine and Trout Amandine. And of course – a raw bar featuring east and west coast oysters on the half-shell. On the other tiers will be cold poached Maine lobster, sweet gulf white shrimp, tiny Bouchot mussels, littleneck clams and Dungeness crab.

The wine list at Bouchon Beverly Hills location will focus on winemakers on the Central Coast of California. The program, entitled Vin de Carafe, will periodically feature an exclusive selection, blended specially for the restaurant one barrel at a time to showcase the distinct personality and flavors of the featured vintner. At opening, Bouchon will unveil its own pilsner-style beer called White Apron, crafted by James Hayes.

Bar Bouchon, which opens in Mid-December, will be a classic French wine bar with an indoor and outdoor terrace and a capacity for 46 guests. Small plates will compliment an extensive wine and beer list. Expect potted foods, salads, charcuterie, cheeses, tartines, sandwiches, caviar and desserts.  “Escargots Bourguignonnes and Tarte Flambé will be featured alongside seasonal dishes including Macaroni au Truffes (macaroni with black truffles) and Courage (winter squash with red currents, sage and beurre noisette)” notes the press release. Divine.

Adam Tihiny recreates the atmosphere of Bouchons past – but do check EaterLA for first photos of Bouchon. Check below for hours and to make your reservation. Do it now – because for certain they are probably into the first few weeks of opening. I am super excited to be a part of a reservation on opening day! (Thank you Chad and Jer!) And by the way – they are open until pretty late at night! I can’t wait until I can just drop in. All the time.

While you’re there, just shake in your boots at the technology to come and yet you may never see:

“We’re going to have a video feed between all three Bouchons–Bouchon Yountville, Bouchon Las Vegas and Bouchon Beverly Hills. Three-way. By early summer it will be all five-way. So each restaurant can view the other restaurants. Only the kitchens.”

Q&A With Thomas Keller – LA Weekly Squid Ink

Open 7 days a week for lunch & dinner.

11:30 AM – 12:30 AM

Make a reservation on OpenTable

Bouchon Beverly Hills
235 North Cañon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.271.9910 (reservation line)

Mussels au safron (Maine bouchot mussels steamed with white wine, mustard & saffron; served with French fries)