Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Post 86: A Glorious Easter Feast - Bouchon Ad Hoc Fried Chicken (LA: Beverly Hills)

In celebration of National Fried Chicken Day this past Friday, I am writing about none other than fried chicken and waffles.  The last post was about a multiple course foie gras dinner that almost stopped my heart, so this post about a fatty feast of fried chicken is going to seem relatively healthy.  Where did this fried chicken feast take place? KFC? Roscoe's? Not even close.  It was Bouchon in Beverly Hills, a French inspired restaurant known for its steak frites, croque madame, and platters of fresh seafood... not a likely place for fried chicken.  Having been to Bouchon many times before in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I had only ever noticed the chicken and waffles on the menu once, and it was amazing.  I knew immediately that I wanted to bring friends and family to indulge in the delicately prepared chicken and waffles.  News that the restaurant would embark on an ad hoc fried chicken meal served family style was more than intriguing.  I made a reservation for a group of six on Easter Sunday, an appropriate day to gather for good food and good company, especially if the good food happens to be from a Thomas Keller restaurant.

While waiting for our friends to gather, we were greeted by the ever gracious manager of the restaurant Stephen Cook who never ceases to provide superb services to the guests of the restaurant.  We were presented with an assortment of freshly baked pastries on the house... still toasty from the restaurant's very popular bakery.  The viennoiserie stole the spotlight for me.  The croissant was buttery just as it should be, and the pain aux raisins with the honey glaze over the top was simply remarkable.

Every visit to Bouchon requires some sort of platter of fresh seafood.  I love a raw oyster down to my core, so we arranged for an assorted dozen of Kumamoto and the Kusshi oysters.  The two types of oysters are relatively small compared to types such as the Blue Point, which can grow to be larger than the average tongue.  The Kusshi grows deep within its shell, so it's a bit harder to dig out, but the prize is worth the work.  With a squirt of lemon and a splash of mignonette, the small Kusshi oyster is a light start to the meal.  Next we slurped up the Kumamoto, an oyster with a very milky taste and creamy texture.

The fried chicken meal finally arrived in all its glory.  We ordered five servings for our group of six.  It was served family style with accompaniments such as waffles, grits, and all the butter, gravy and Vermont maple syrup the heart desired.

The buttermilk fried chicken was beyond crisp... in a good way.  Every bite was met with a deafening crunch, quite possibly loud enough to cause an avalanche had a mountain of snow been nearby.  Whether it was dark meat or white meat, the flesh was beautifully moist inside.  And it was because of my last experience with the juiciest white meat chicken I've ever had that brought me back to Bouchon.  The sprigs of thyme helped with the aesthetics, but they got brushed aside when it came down to business.

Some serious waffles came to play with the serious chicken.  Little bits of bacon and chive dotted the waffle canvas.  Spreading the Tahitian vanilla bean butter over the bacon and chive waffles was like painting pristine clouds over landscape.  The waffles were light and airy... truly.  Along with the sauce chausseur, mushroom gravy in layman's terms, it was a truly decadent experience.

The cheesy cheddar grits was smooth and creamy... enough to be swiveled and swirled by a fork.  It was not too salty but actually savory.  It provided a great flavor and texture contrast for the chicken and waffles.  The presentation in the cast iron skillet was simply... cool.

Although we had more than enough food, a meal at Bouchon seemed a bit inadequate without the steak frites.  The steak is one of the most consistently made dishes at the restaurant... absolutely succulent and tender all the way done to the last bite.  And although the steak did not need any help from the butter, it definitely did not hurt to have a bit of the herb infused lipid melting all over the top.  Oh, and who can resist fries?

My friends sure can eat.  A few pastries, a dozen oysters, five servings of fried chicken and steak frites later, our bellies were protruding and our hearts were content... but it seemed like everyone had a little extra room just for dessert. 

We were first brought a dessert on the house that intrigued us with its looks.  The Ile Flottante had a center of meringue, and it sat afloat a vanilla creme anglaise.  Almonds and caramel were drizzled over the top, and two crispy ears jutted out of the meringue.  Could it be the Easter Bunny in dessert form? It sure resembled it.  The meringue was smooth to the taste, and the anglaise brought a milky sweetness. 

I've had the Marquise au Chocolat on previous occasions.  On such occasions the dark chocolate mousse was simply irresistible... this was no different.  The dense yet ever luxurious mousse balanced with the freshly made whipped cream did not taste overly sweet at all.  The carefully placed drops of burnt orange gave just enough bite to the mousse to truly allow the tongue to dance around the slightly bitter dark chocolate.  As long as Bouchon has this dessert on the menu, I will order it... forever.

Our final dessert arrived in the form of a Tarte au Citron.  The seemingly simple lemon tart was just that... a simple, lemon tart.  With enough pucker in each bite to help us truly appreciate the tartness of the lemon, this may have been everyone's favorite dessert.  Simplicity done right is the epitome of haute dessert, and we definitely witnessed it here during the final course of our glorious Easter feast.

As always we were well taken care of by the staff at Bouchon... many thanks to the great attention to detail that Stephen Cook holds to the employees that work with him.  The restaurant's high standard of customer service was what helped drive them to press through the brunch rush straight into the dinner service on that busy Sunday afternoon.  The staff did not take any breaks that day because so many patrons had arrived at the last minute without reservations.  And although the restaurant did their best to accommodate everyone who had arrived, I would highly suggest making reservations well in advance for any future events.  Thank you Stephen and the Bouchon staff for the great food and hospitality.  Until the next glorious feast, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

This post features photography by Ken Lee and Diana Lui.

ML - 20120731/20120408

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