Bouchon, Beverly Hills

My fingers were cramped up from crossing them the entire month of October. I was hoping for an on-target opening date for Bouchon to sync up with my birthday. And contrary to common restaurant opening delays, Keller's establishment actually pulled it off, opening it's doors on November 18 as promised. After some intense stretching, my hands were fork-ready.

I attended the celebrity-studded opening as a sort of pre-party for my birthday meal, and though the various hour d' ourvres were better than most, what really had me gushing were the pastries, breads and massive tyred dessert station (the macarons put Paulette to shame, for the record). As it turns out, this was a pretty good indicator of how my dinner played out.

We started with freshly baked epi baguettes, baked in the shape of an olive branch, which came with salty herbed butter, giving the bistro a traditional Parisian kiss--and a good reason to ruin your appetite. The foie gras terrine served with little soldiers of toast and a side of sea salt was silky, earthy and unctuous--just the sort of sinful treat one should savor on a special occasion. And the house-cured olives, whose dark, meaty texture was accentuated by preserved lemon and plenty of thyme, were as good as any souk in Morocco.

But the honeymoon was over when my lamb came luke-warm at best, and served on a bed on intensely over-salted chard (mind you, this is coming from someone who adores a smattering of salt and seasoning). My partner's steak frites--ordered medium rare--was cooked with a nice seer, but again was a bit saline and certainly nothing to write home about.  It wasn't the worst violation of the palate, but it certainly wasn't what I'd waited months for.

Dessert, however, was an entirely different story. As luck would have it, we were seated next to George Lynch of Dokken, who we'd been eying throughout night, as the entire menu was whisked out to clutter their tiny bistro table ( compliments of the chef, I'm sure). He and his wife had their fill by dessert, so we got to sample a few of theirs.

Il Flotante, a delicate sugared cloud of a meringue-meets-panna cotta topped with praline brittle shaped like little sails, swam in a shallow soup of salted caramel and cream. Absolute perfection, and at the moment I'm hard pressed to recall a better dessert.

Then, of course, there were the dense, brownie-like bouchons to cork off the meal, as well as a zingy lemon tart with a perfect, flaky crust, and a creme caramel that put all it's predecessors to shame.

So, would I go back to Bouchon? For dinner, if you're buying.  Now if there was an outpost of Bouchon Bakery attached, you certainly wouldn't have to ask twice. What can I say? I love carbs.

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