Bouchon advertises itself as a farm-to-table French comfort food restaurant that supports the local economy by using fresh ingredients gleaned from the immediate area whenever possible. Their website also claims that all disposable materials they use are compostable/biodegradable. Why wouldn't we want to reinforce that business model with our patronage? And when the food is as wonderful and authentic as what Dogboy and I enjoyed this week...well, it just makes you feel good all over (conscience and tummy alike).
The place was bustling early Thursday evening when we arrived. The interior is a charming, brick-walled little brasserie with a small bar. Space was pretty tight inside so we put our names in, grabbed a drink and waited outside around the tiny, front sidewalk terrace until a table was available (maybe 15 minutes, which wasn't terribly painful). Do we look like we're suffering much?
I was delighted when we were led to the back alley which had been magically transformed into a French outdoor cafe. If I squinted my eyes and drank a glass of Champagne (or three), I could almost believe we were back in Paris (except we could order in English without feeling like "Ugly Americans")...it was that nicely staged. UD scans the wine list:
Service was attentive and professional without being overbearing, and we appreciated the fact that we were able to enjoy a leisurely dinner without being rushed along. Pâté is my go-to starter whenever it's available, so I homed right in on Le Pâté Maison. It was a visually a stunning example...country-style, studded with pistachios and a tiny quail egg. When it comes to pâté, my sentiments are "the more liver-intense, the better"...but this one was fairly mild and fell a bit short in that respect (I'm actually not sure if it contained liver at all). Still delicious, nonetheless.
The sighting of Les Escargots Bourguignon (classic escargots baked in garlic, wine and butter under golden brown pastry toppers) also incited an auto-response on my part and they were immediately added to our "eyes bigger than heads" order list. Escargots are fairly readily available in Florida and I enjoy them often in many different preparations...but you just don't find them offered en croute that much anymore. They were tender, buttery perfection and I was charmed by the traditional presentation.
Now is the time for those who are squeamish about anything other than mainstream American cuisine to quickly scroll down. Dogboy went rogue (too much Food Network, I guess) and had a platter of L’Os a Moëlle Braisé (braised beef marrow bones with a sherry mushroom sauce and toasted baguette) delivered to the table. To my credit, I was able to overcome my momentary lightheadedness and sample some of it, which brought to mind a gelatinous, savory "meat butter". I must confess that I determined pretty quickly that marrow is not my thing, but a wolf pack couldn't have cleaned these bones any better than UD did. Can someone pass me the smelling salts?? ;)
My entree, La Truite Aux Amandes (fresh trout encrusted with almonds, sautéed, finished with fresh lemon juice, white wine & butter) was stellar. I love trout to begin with, especially when it's as fresh as this fillet tasted, and it was perfectly prepared. The sauce was very light and added just the right amount of acid to balance the sweetness and delicacy of the trout. Veggie sides tasted like they were right out of the garden and were cooked to simple, al dente perfection.
My intrepid Neanderthal companion set my head to reeling yet again when he ordered Le Lapin a la Moutarde en Cocotte (braised rabbit in Dijon mustard sauce with carrots, onions, English peas, mushrooms & fingerling potatoes). Thumper...is that you??? *sob* Rabbit is another of those foods that I've never been very open-minded about (not rodents, I know...but a little too close for comfort), but I tried it and must admit that the meat was reminiscent in flavor and texture of a pleasant cross between dark and white meat chicken. Am I going to order my own rabbit main course the next time I have the opportunity to do so? No. Still, it was a rich and gorgeous "pot pie" that I would inhale on a dime if someone told me that poultry morsels were nestled inside instead of lagomorph. Totally my wackadoodle issue...His Dogishness reveled in this rustic French dish.
For dessert we selected the Crème Brulée Flight...four mini brulees flavored with lavender, rosemary, Grand Marnier and lime. Appearance and taste were both very nice, but they were still a little on the loose side when they showed up at the table. I like my creme brulee a tiny bit more "set", but hey...that may just be a personal preference. Both camera and Sweet Polly were a little out of focus by the time dessert arrived, so no pics.
This was a wonderful, romantic dining experience. We enjoyed an incredibly inexpensive bottle of French sparkling wine with dinner (Louis Perdrier Rosé Bourgogne - $18), had a glass of wine and a cocktail apiece before dinner, and the hubster drank a glass of port with his dessert. The damage was right around $125 before tip when all was said and done. The surprisingly reasonable price point considering the food quality/quantity, attractive venue and excellent service all combine to make this a must-do dining option in Asheville.