Bouchon


Venetian (last visit: October 2012).
French bistro.


Wikipedia defines a bouchon as "a type of restaurant found in Lyon, France, that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork."  The restaurant Bouchon is a French style bistro that more or less matches that definition.  Opened by Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Per Se fame), Bouchon's forte is simple food, prepared very well.

Bouchon is my favorite place for breakfast in Las Vegas.  I've had breakfast here more than a twenty times, and still look forward to going.  I've also had dinner here a few times, and have been very pleased.



The Menu
The breakfast menu lists about a dozen meals, revolving around such basics as eggs, sausage, waffles, quiche, and their signature Bouchon French toast.  Pastries, yogurt and fruit platters are also available.  There are usually one or two specials, such as steak hash.  French fries are available at all meals.

Weekend brunch is very similar to the weekday breakfast menu, with the notable addition of chicken and waffles. The dinner menu is a little larger, but still simple.  Pork, chicken and lamb figure prominently, as do all kinds of shellfish.




The Atmosphere
Bouchon is very bright and cheerful – a good place for a leisurely meal.  I've seen Bouchon described as the most beautiful in Las Vegas.  I wouldn't go that far, but it is pretty.  It combines formality with informality: tables are graced with white tablecloths, but a piece of white paper is placed on top; some men arrive in business suits; others arrive in shorts.  This is a good place to bring your newspaper.

When the weather is nice, consider asking for a table outside.  The courtyard is surrounded by hotel towers, but nonetheless seems peaceful.  A water fountain provides pleasing background noise.  Plants soften the overall feel.  It's easy to forget you're in Las Vegas.

There's also a bar, where the full menu is offered. I prefer a table for breakfast, but as a solo diner thought that dinner at the bar was very comfortable.

With one exception when the timing of dishes was off, I've found service to be efficient, friendly and relaxed.



Breakfast and Brunch
Before your breakfast, you'll get some very crusty, very good bread.  It's excellent with some butter or jam.  There are numerous choices for tea and coffee.  The lattes that I've had (caramel and mocha) have been good.

I've eaten my way through much of the menu:

•   Perhaps its most famous dish is French Toast Bouchon style.  It's a cylinder of something like sweet bread pudding, with apples, and a crisp glaze on top.  I thought it was good, but not memorable.  However, I seem to be in the distinct minority, as I continue to read rave reviews of the stuff.

•   My personal favorite is boudin blanc with scrambled eggs, croissant and beurre noisette.  Boudin blanc is a large white sausage, soft and smooth, with a distinct acidic tang.  It's unusual enough that the server sometimes cautions you if you order it, but I think it's delicious.  It's served with a small amount of beurre noisette - brown butter that adds even more flavor.  The scrambled eggs are a perfect example of what I mean by "simple food, prepared very well."  The eggs are standard scrambled eggs - but are delicious:  cooked through but still soft and creamy, with lots of flavor.  The croissant has varied between very good and truly excellent.

•   Chicken and waffles (available only at brunch on weekends). To quote the menu, "roasted chicken, bacon & chive waffle, Tahitian vanilla bean butter & sauce Chasseur." This is seriously good stuff! The skin on the two pieces of chicken is crisp and delicious; the meat is moist and flavorful. A whole waffle (four large quarters) is crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside; just right. Sauce chasseur is a high quality version of brown gravy, and was perfect on both the chicken and the waffle; I didn't even bother with the supplied syrup.

•   Omelet with chicken, piquillo peppers, onion confit, tarragon and swiss cheese; sausage links served on the side.  This was a daily special.  The sausage was very good, although no match for the boudin blanc.  The omelet was really good.  The egg was cooked through but still soft; light but not too airy; rich.  The tarragon flavor was strong but not overpowering.  There was a lot of onions, soft but not squishy.  The chicken was not dry.  Lastly, there were two thick half slices of toasted brioche.  A winner!

•   Steak hash with eggs any style, and brioche toast.  Another daily special.  The hash was very good, with lots of tender diced steak.  The scrambled eggs were well prepared, and I liked their brioche a lot.  Again, simple food prepared very well.

•   Croque madame.  Toasted ham and cheese sandwich on brioche (a rich bread made with eggs and butter), with a fried egg and mornay sauce on top; served with a mountain of French fries.  I know it sounds a little strange, but it's very good...almost always. On one occasion, the sandwich was lukewarm, the bechamel sauce nearly cold, and the fries were so salty as to be inedible. It's worth noting that this version comes with a lot of mornay sauce. To me, that's one of the things that makes it better than versions at other restaurants in town; to others, it might be overkill.


•   Waffles with strawberries and applewood smoked bacon.  The waffles were light and fairly crisp.  The bacon wasn't as crispy as I would have liked, but the flavor was very good.

•   Bouchon's croissant is always worth ordering, as are the sweet pastries.  The one I remember the most was a blueberry muffin, flavored with blueberry juice and with bits of fruit, and a top made crunchy by a glaze of sugar.

•   Yogurt parfait.  Rich and creamy yogurt, crunchy home made granola, and fresh berries.  The one time I ordered this, the yogurt was very good, but the berries were unripe and too sour.  Perhaps I'll give it another try someday.

•   Brunch Bretagne.  This was a brunch special. Brunch, available on weekends, is pretty much the same as breakfast, but with additional offerings and slightly higher prices. Brunch Bretagne consisted of potatoes, cheese, spinach, pimiento, pequillo peppers, ham and mushrooms. On top of this was ladled Hollandaise sauce and (I think) Béchamel sauce. The dish was baked until slightly brown, then two poached eggs were placed on top, along with two pieces of toasted brioche. It was a very large portion. I had never seen anything like it before. It was very rich, and very soupy. I sopped up the sauce with the brioche and with the complimentary bread that comes with all meals. I liked it, but it was just a little too soupy for my taste. Call it good to very good, but there are better dishes at Bouchon.

•   Beignets.  For you New Orleans fans out there, this is not what you're thinking. In Bouchon's case, it meant house made spiced doughnuts with apricot jam and chocolate spread. The doughnuts, served warm, were cake style, with a slightly crunchy sugar glazed. While I like chocolate, the apricot jam was a better foil for the sweet doughnuts. I was a little disappointed; the beignets were good enough, but I was hoping for something special.


•   Chocolate Almond Croissant.  A crescent in name only, the pastry was almost circular, about five to six inches in diameter. Drizzled with chocolate and sliced toasted almonds, the croissant was very crisp and flaky on the outside, and soft on the inside, with almond paste and yet more chocolate. It was very, very rich - a meal by itself. It was also very, very good, although I prefer Payard Pȃtisserie's almond croissant by a little bit.




Dinner #1
As at breakfast, the atmosphere combined elegance with informality.  There were table cloths, but the menu was on thin folded brown paper.  Music played in the background.  It was a little more animated, and a little noisier, than at breakfast.  Service was efficient, yet friendly and relaxed.

My meal consisted of:
·     Beignets de Brandade de Morue.  Three small balls of mashed cod, covered in a thin coating, and fried; served on a moistened dried tomato and a small fried herb leaf.  In essence, a grown up cod fish cake.  Very, very good.
·     Braised Lamb Shank.  This was a special, recommended by the server.  It was a large piece of meat, so soft it fell off the bone.  Served on a bed of potato puree, along with micro chives, capers, lots of garlic cloves, and pimiento strips.  The lamb flavor was strong, the garlic soft and sweet.  Also very good.
·     Pommes Frites.  There was no need to order them, but I had heard such good things about Bouchon's French fries that I had to give them a try.  They were a huge portion of thin cut potatoes, twice fried in peanut oil.  According to the server, peanut oil doesn't get absorbed as much as some other oils.  They were good French fries, but I was a little disappointed.  Perhaps all the hype made for unrealistic expectations.
·     Bouchons.  Three small chocolate morsels, like brownies but crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.  The chocolate flavor was dark and intense.  Served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, it earned its name.
·     Mignardises.  A few sweets at the end of the meal.  This is becoming more and more common, and is a nice touch.

When I first read the menu, I was underwhelmed.  There were no knock-your-socks-off fancy dishes.  However, like breakfast, the chef concentrated on simple dishes, and executed them very well.  This was a very good meal indeed.


Dinner #2
Before anything else arrived, the server provided a dish of warm pistachios and a loaf of Bouchon's excellent bread (pain d'epi).

I chose an appetizer of Rillettes aux Deux Saumons: fresh and smoked salmon rillettes served with toasted croutons. This was a rich dish, which used a lot of clarified butter to make it even richer. It was somewhat salty, as expected, and had very good flavor. Both fresh and smoked salmon flavors were apparent. It arrived in a glass crock which looked small. Wrong! It could easily be shared. Overall: very good.

My entrée was boudin noir: blood sausage with the traditional accompaniments of potato puree and caramelized apples, and a little beurre noisette for added flavor.


It's not obvious from the picture, but the portion was generous. The blood sausage was spicy, soft, with chewy bits here and there. Four large chunks of caramelized apple were tasty and still firm. The potato puree was very rich, with what must have been a lot of butter. Brown butter added more flavor to the mix. This was my first time eating blood sausage, and I was a little squeamish about the whole idea. However, it was a success. When eaten together, the ingredients were actually quite good; the more I ate, the better I liked it. I could even see ordering it again.

I again has bouchons for dessert, but it came as a special - with three flavors of ice cream. The bouchons - three flourless chocolate tortes - were again excellent. Peanut butter ice cream was excellent, with a strong peanut flavor but without the cloying sweetness that so much peanut butter ice cream has. Mint chip ice cream was very interesting. Instead of the standard mint flavor, it used spearmint; very good. Vanilla was good, but no better than commercial versions like Häagen-Dazs.


Summary
A trip to Las Vegas wouldn't be the same without at least one breakfast at Bouchon.  I always leave in a good mood, ready for the rest of the day.



The Bill
A full breakfast runs about $15 - 25, plus drinks, tax and tip. Brunch runs $20 to $30, plus drinks, tax and tip.  Dinner runs $60 to $70, plus drinks, tax and tip.


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