Napa Downtown might offer more modern day conveniences, but for wine lovers visiting the valley, Yountville is undoubtedly the center of wine country. Two years ago my first visit to Napa concluded with a meal at The French Laundry, yet in between repeated drives up and down Silverado Trails and St. Helena Highway, we never properly toured Yountville and the other Thomas Keller Restaurant – Bouchon.
Surrounded by shops and other eateries, Bouchon is built to resemble a casual French bistro. The meal starts with a piece of epi baguette being dropped onto the paper table cover. It’s truly one of the most flavorful piece of bread you’ll find, and likely came from the Bouchon Bakery next door. The wine list is expansive, and features quite a few Thomas Keller restaurant exclusives like the Schramsberg Extra Brut made for the French Laundry.
The beef tartare is served with pickled peppers for taste and textural contrast, and adorned with pearl onions and battered and deep fried greens. The natural rich flavors of the beef was excellent, and the kitchen nailed the creamy, savory seasoning with just the right amount of acid.
Bone marrow comes unashamedly rich and fatty. Using a knife, you smear the marrow onto delicious pieces of bread. Not for the feign of heart, but if you’re a fan of bone marrow this is very well done.
I know quite a few friends who’re afraid of eating fish with a head on it, Bouchon takes it further with a head that’s uncooked. If you can manage to not stare at the head, the meat’s well cooked, and the creamy seasoning brings together the artichoke and other vegetables with the fillet.
The chicken was somewhat of a letdown. I ordered the chicken because it was the simplest item on the menu, hoping to catch a glimpse of how chef Keller can catch lighting in a bottle and upgrade the rather humble bird. The seasoning was pretty good, a rich French bistro style flavor. The meat itself was cooked too dry, a glaring disappointment.
Bouchon is perhaps becoming a victim of its own success. The career defining French Laundry has elevated Thomas Keller to such an elite status in the eyes of food enthusiasts that anything but perfection is viewed as a letdown. Bouchon is everything it was meant to be, a casual restaurant that takes full advantage of its location and surroundings. This wasn’t meant as a life altering restaurant, simply enjoy the food, it’s pretty darn good.
On the way out, head next door for some treats. It makes the drive between wineries much more interesting.
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6534 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599