q

qli's Profile

Title Last Reply

The best haute cuisine restaurants LA has to offer.

In August/September I will visit LA to discover the best haute cuisine restaurants. This is my planning so far:
- Urusawa
- Melisse
- Patina
- Providence

Is this the best I can get or am I missing some interesting restaurants? I would like to hear what you think of this!

Mar 22, 2011
qli in Los Angeles Area

Mugaritz 2011 season

I'm wondering to as I will eat there in the end of May. Would be a good choice to have just one menu, in the last few years it was always difficult to choose and everything is clear!

Mar 22, 2011
qli in Spain/Portugal

Tom Aikens - a little bit sad... [London]

Sadly I have the same opinion as yours. Once this chef was very talented but at this moment it is a sad story. Below you find my review I placed on my blog but I'm even more critical...

Tom Aikens was the UK's most promising chef a few years ago. His restaurant was fully booked long in advance, his dishes applauded by the critics and everything seemed to do well. Until he ran into major financial problems, which brought many others with them.

If you go to his Chelsea restaurant now, you will probably not feel much of these problems. He has kept his place, the absolutely gorgeous decor and all the rest. The only thing that has suffered a lot are his relationships with the city's best suppliers. It is said that he was unable to meet his payments to most of them, and therefore has to rely on lesser produce nowadays.
To be honest, the mediocrity of the produce can be felt everywhere in his cooking. His style is something you could define as controlled chaos. Some plates look like a mess, but make perfect sense when being eaten. The only problems they have are the bad produce and the portion sizes that are very much on the stingy side.

A scallop dish of his is a picture on a plate. It could be called a study in red, and even delivers on the palate. It is tasty, with a great mix between sweet, sour and intensely salty flavours. In this, the scallops are the only, major weakness. They are of such poor quality that they have a texture nearly like a bouncy jelly, not a firm, meaty, fleshy scallop. That makes a potentially very good dish much less interesting.

In a way the same is also true for a pigeon dish of his. It is served with a herb puree, a very sweet pigeon confit and some grains. Visually, again it is a beautiful composition, but unfortunately this one can't deliver in terms of flavour. It is an overly sweet dish, in which the most prominent component, the pigeon confit, is so sweet that you could imagine it would not look bad in a dessert. The breast, one per a la carte order, is trimmed so much, cut so thinly and so overcooked that you hardly get to feel it. All in all, this dish is quite simply sad. It is badly conceived, suffers from poor produce and seems awfully stingy for a main course.
Funnily enough, the same can be said for most of the other dishes he serves too. A sea bass is uninspired, bland, on the smaller side of things and accompanied by not much of interest. The only area where this kitchen still delivers are the desserts.
A pistachio one is simply beautiful, with a whole lot of very rich flavours and varied textures, it brings you pretty much all you could want from such a dessert. The only issue here is that it lacks freshness or acidity.
Tom Aikens certainly is a good cook, but even a very good or excellent cook cannot even hope to serve decent food without proper ingredients. In this case not even the beautiful can make up for it. It is a place that seriously disappoints. If you go, at least don't order his "classics", where it is claimed that the best seasonal produce is served in a simple manner. If the best of it is also used in the other dishes, then such simpler creations must be even less appealing.

For pictures you can look at my blog qliweb.com

Mar 22, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton - any recent experiences?

I have visited the place 4 times during the last 3 years. It's because of the superb winelist that I visited the place more then once. The last visit is from early September 2010 ....

Mar 15, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton - any recent experiences?

Here is my review I published on my site. Hopefully it works out for you.

The Bay Area of San Francisco is full of interesting modern restaurants, all of which have taken French cuisine and turned it into something their own. That's why this is one of the most interesting gastronomic regions of the world. Despite this wealth of avant-garde restaurants, here you can still find an American version of the grand restaurant.

The Dining Room in the Ritz Carlton is one such grand restaurant. Featuring elegant chandeliers, plush carpets and expensive china, the decor is undeniably grand. Indeed, the staff are trained to perfection and will not make a single mistake during your meal. Everything they do is designed to make you feel comfortable and at ease. And besides the good service and luxurious surroundings, this restaurant has another strong point: The wine list. Well-chosen, it represents remarkable value for a restaurant of its class. However, all this cannot make you forget the one grand weakness of the place: The food.

Chef Ron Siegel loves French food, but he adds lots of Japanese products and techniques in his cooking. French/Japanese is not an easy style to cook, and here you feel that the food suffers from an identity crisis. Somehow the dishes are not really French, nor are they truly Japanese. Thus, most are mediocre. A sashimi of big eye tuna served with Ponzu and freshly grated wasabi is problematic as the product quality is poor. The fish is devoid of taste and very dry, spoiling such a simple dish. The abalone with shitake mushrooms, miso and a dashi broth is no more convincing either since the abalone is chewy and flavourless, and lacks the little something that would lift the dish a bit.

Despite such uninspiring dishes, there are signs that this kitchen can deliver. One sign is the Sonoma duck with hot foie gras. Here, both products are cooked properly and have good flavour. But the finest moment in the Dining Room comes with the dessert: a few preparations deftly balancing sweet and bitter flavours create a light and refreshing end to a meal here.

Afterwards, you cannot help thinking that the Dining Room is not about the food. Clearly it caters to wealthy, conservative diners who seem to care more about seeing and being seen in these ever so grand surroundings, rather than eating grand food.

For the pictures you can look on my blog http://www.qliweb.com/food/The_Dining...

Mar 15, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

The Square [London]

The writer, Felix Hirsch, visited The Square at least 20 times in the past three years so the review is not based on a single visit. With the line "It seems that one of London's best restaurants is also one of its most successful." he means the fact that The Square is amongst the best restaurants in London but always fully crowded, no matter what day you come. There aren't mny restaurants with a trackrecord like The Square...

What is the thing you don't like about the square?

Mar 10, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

Ubuntu Napa

I ate there in September so you're right. @Concur You're probably right about Aaron but still his technical skills seems to be at the same level of Jeremy. What do you think about his technical skills?

Mar 10, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

Ubuntu Napa

At the beginning of 2010, the vegetarians and foodies in the Bay Area panicked when the news spread that the "king of vegetables" Jeremy Fox was about to leave the yoga-studio annex restaurant Ubuntu. It seemed that the magic in Napa was gone. But happily, life is always full of surprises and Fox's continuator Aaron London, was under a lot of pressure when taking over this kitchen.
Despite all of the pressure, it seems as if he manages to live up to the high expectations. Perhaps it has to do with the owner of Ubuntu, Sandy Lawrence. She wanted to start a restaurant with a special concept, the concept of harmony between the land and the people who work that land. In this light it is no surprise that the name Ubuntu means "humanity toward others" in the Zulu language. Therefore, she works intensively with local artisans (like cheese makers) and gardeners, supplying her with the best vegetables of the region. Ubuntu is a joyful restaurant with a stylish atmosphere. Upon entering the building, it is hard to not see the large oven as centerpiece. Ceramic sculptures decorate the inside, whose centre-piece is a giant wooden communal table. But the most interesting aspect by far is the yoga-studio located above the kitchen. How many fine-dining restaurants in the world have a yoga studio above the dining room?
Unlike most of the dishes, the melon gazpacho is easy digestible and stands out in terms of elegance. The quality of the melon is superb, having a great firm structure and being full of flavor. The acidity of the gazpacho is highly complex and well-dosed, making this a very refined dish. A salad of (unripe) tomatoes is reminds you of an iconic Alain Passard dish. The tomatoes are concentrated in taste and seem to burst with flavor. Their acidity is balanced beautifully by a creamy dill sauce, which adds a little something special to the dish. A delicious and intelligent dish, which is again in perfect balance, and harmony if one links it to the yoga studio. The restaurant works with local artisanal cheese makers, which is shown by a steamed bun stuffed with Burrata. The bun is of a perfect structure and the creamy Burrata cheese is very delicate. In combination with the figs, the flavors are lifted up nicely, making this is an interesting composition of different textures and flavours.
It is easy to continue with the long list of dishes that can be eaten here. Be it a squash dish, or one of the several dishes based on beans or even a dish composed with potatoes, everything is delicious and intellectually interesting. Chef Aaron London has the privilege to work with the best vegetables and cooks very confidently with them. He is showing technique skills as all his dishes are seasoned perfectly. The price of experiencing this wonderful kitchen is surprisingly cheap (around $50 per menu) making this restaurant very enjoyable and relaxing to visit. Ubuntu might be the States' leading vegetable-based restaurant.

Hopefully you think this review is helpfull. For pictures you can take a look at qliweb.com

-----
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

Mar 09, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

The Square [London]

Mayfair is one of London's ‘upper class' areas, housing hedge funds, jewellers, fashion brands, grand hotels, and some of the city's finest restaurants, including a standout The Square. Having moved from St James to Mayfair, it has become one of the city's five best restaurants, and still continues to evolve even with Phil Howard as head chef for the past 19 years.
Upon entering The Square, you notice the bustling atmosphere at once. There is something special that reigns in this place, whether you come for a Monday lunch or a Saturday dinner. The room is packed 24/7, which is not that common even in a town like this. It seems that one of London's best restaurants is also one of its most successful. Yet, unusually for a popular restaurant, the place isn't that good looking. Rather, it feels cold and dull, so there must be other things that attract the punters. Indeed, most people come to eat and drink exceptionally well. And you can certainly do that better here than in most other British places. The wine list for instance is unique. It is one of the city's best, full of world greats: Selosse, Coche Dury, DRC, Sine Qua Non, Chave, all feature on it with large selections. But, since this list is constantly evolving and moving around, it's worth to just pop in and see what would match your food best.
Chef Howard started cooking professionally only after finishing his university degree, which might give him a different approach to food than some of his colleagues. Modestly wanting to serve comforting food, Howard has created some extraordinary dishes, which will stay in your memory forever.
Arguably his most famous creation is a starter of langoustines with gnocchi, truffles and wild mushrooms. The langoustines sit on the gnocchi, surrounded by the wild mushroom purée and butter emulsion. It is simple, comforting, but oh so very good. The main reason for its success is the product quality, as the langoustines are bought in alive, an essential feature with such a delicate crustacean. On the first bite, you feel the crunchy, juicy flesh bursting in your mouth and simultaneously, the intensely earthy mushroom purée and fluffy gnocchi complement this sensation. Bravo! As this is a truly remarkable dish.
Another unbelievably good dish are the stuffed chicken wings, with white truffles, macaroni and Vacherin. Again, the flavours are comforting, rich and speak for themselves with gusto. This superb dish puts the truffle at the centre stage, supported by the chorus of other elements in the background. Howard really lets the product speak for itself, and does not show off his technical skills or creative genius. That is one of his greatest strengths.
Unsurprisingly, the desserts here are also amongst the better ones in town. The classic cheesecake and phenomenal soufflés are always featured on the tasting menu in various combinations. Both are a fine way to end a meal, and demonstrate once more how comforting flavours are turned into something delicious, yet subtle.
In a way that is what makes his food so special. It is subtle, in some ways at least, tasty and simple. There are no components on the plates that are superfluous here, and everything is of the highest order in terms of product quality. With Ben Crofton having taken over the service brigade, things should be quite good here!

For pictures look on http://www.qliweb.com/ .

Mar 09, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

June 2011 Honeymoon dinner - Amsterdam

Excellent recommendations! I love especially Gartine. Another great restaurant I would like to advice is Le Restaurant, a 20 seat restaurant, very good food and wine for just 65 prix fixed. It has a star and is months ahead fully booked! But if you are looky you will have a great evening!

Jan 09, 2011
qli in Europe

Pierre Gagnaire's Lievre a la Royale

I wrote an article about one of Gagnaire most iconic dishes.

Pierre Gagnaire's restaurant in the rue Balzac is a legend. Just as much as he himself is a legend. Eating here on a good day can bring you the meal of a lifetime, whilst coming on a less good one can be less exciting and very expensive. What causes such large differences to appear is the approach to cooking he takes. Up to this day, there is hardly one chef on the planet who can say that he combines what seem random ingredients in such a coherent way. Gagnaire truly has a unique style, which is incredibly complex and can seem crazy more often than not. But, what most forget is that he is first and foremost a perfectly trained classical cook.

or those who don't believe that, go to Paris in winter or autumn and try his game dishes. Among these, an interpretation of the classic lièvre à la royale is without doubt the most interesting.

Not only because it is one of the most complicated dishes to prepare, but also because only a very restricted number of chefs on the planet manages to pull it off properly. The preparation is intricate and takes a couple of days. In addition to that it is an expensive dish to make: two hares are needed to prepare "one" final piece, one needs truffles, foie gras, lots of good wine (the original recipes call for Chambertin, no less!) and countless other things. Out of one hare one prepares a stock, which is then used to cook the other hare in. Whilst there are two versions, that of Ali Bab and of the Senator Aristide Couteaux, Gagnaire does something very different with it. He serves the beast in three courses. The description of the dish alone would consume nearly a full page, thus it is best to proceed one after the other.

First of all, you are served the rack of the hare. It comes with cabbage, orange marmelade, almond pouder and a sauce that is more or less the classic one. What is striking here is not only the incredibly tender and tasty meat, but also the balance one gets from the powerful sauce and the fresh, lighter cabbage. Whilst the exact components change on a yearly basis, this dish exemplifies what Gagnaire is all about: Balance and power.

The second dish resembles the version of Aristide Couteaux a bit. It is the leg, which is cooked for a long time and then served with parsnip puree and wild prunes. It has the unctuous, melting richness of the classic version, but the addition of chocolate in the parsnip puree and frozen foie gras lift the flavours up even more. It is a rich, but balanced masterpiece. Again, such flavours are not for the faint-hearted, as they are incredibly concentrated, but will make everyone else fall in love with them. Then comes the final version, a classic pie made with the meat that is scraped from the bones. It is the most intense part of the trio, and shows off how perfect the pastry and jus are in combination with the meat. What is again striking is that by serving a pineapple sorbet just after it, Gagnaire gives you the impression that you have eaten much less than you actually did. After having consumed this monstrous dish, one cannot help but wonder how good food can be. It shows off just how far one can go with such a dish that is more than a few houndred years old.
That is what makes Gagnaire unique. He takes such a recipe and creates a contemporary dish, which respects its origin yet turns it into something even more balanced. This truly is a dish of a lifetime.

You can check the pictures on my site qliweb.com

Jan 09, 2011
qli in France

Lunch in London -- Layover at Heathrow

Go to L'Atelier Robuchon, world class food but you can enter really easily and organize everything exactly what you wanted. They are very flexible! Otherwise The Ledbury in Nothing Hill is a perfect place for lunch serving some of the best food in London.

Jan 09, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

Cheap and delicious [London]

Franca Manca has certainly the best pizza in London, you have to check that out!

Jan 09, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

1st time in London, please Help!

I would say Gordon Ramsay Hospital Road and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. At both restaurants you can get a lunch deal for 45 pound, it's an excellent way to discover this restaurants! Also the Ledbury is very exciting right now.

Jan 06, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

Opus one, a report of a tour

Yes very much! This is one of the few (special) American wines you can buy in Europe so we are drinking a lot of Opus One. It's very well made with a lot of complexity.

Jan 06, 2011
qli in Wine

Expensive Paris Restaurants Really Worth The Money

I would say L'Arperge or Ledoyen. L'Arperge is creative with vegetables with amazing product quality and if you split the dishes (dishes are very generous) you eat much cheaper and have better choice. Ledoyen is classical but has some frivolity in the food (Le bristol too). The main goal the chef has is to create delicious dishes rather then showing of with pretentious food.

Jan 06, 2011
qli in France

Opus one, a report of a tour

High tech wine making with classic French grape varieties.The Opus One winery is situated in Oakville, Napa valley California. Driving on St. Helena highway it's not difficult to spot the surrealistic building of Opus One. The driveway is impressive, just like that of a transplanted French Manor, with grape vines and beautiful trees on both sides it leads up to the parking where a number of limousines indicates that this cannot be an ordinary winery.

The artistic building, designed by Scott Johnson, has a roof covered by grass, contrasting beautifully with the clear blue sky. It highlights the ecological character of winemaking and pairs well with the green vineyards that surround it. The materials used symbolise the joint venture of two men: Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The limestone is classically French, whereas redwood and stainless steel are of more modern Californian influence. Robert Mondavi, one of California’s most well known vintners met Baron Philippe de Rothschild, legendary proprietor of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Hawaii in 1970. There Baron de Rothschild proposed a joint venture, which took eight years before even a framework of the plan was prepared. However, it turned out to be a unique 50-50 joint ownership. This even division still exists today, but between Rothschild and Constellation Brands, since the latter took over the Mondavi winery. Opus one was first produced in 1979, in the facilities of the Mondavi winery. Since 1991 Opus One opened it’s own winery, currently surrounded by 56 hectares of vineyards planted with only traditional Bordeaux varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. Most wineries make several different wines, here they make just one: Opus one

Looking over the vineyards, you can see the plants are very densely planted, for minimal yield and optimal concentration. In mountain areas you need to plant vertically, to reach this density, which is tough for the workers in the vineyards. Here in the valley everything is flat and there is no such problem. Many technologies are used, like the spray systems to prevent the grapes from getting to 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) when there is risk of frost damage. Large ‘ventilators’ have the same purpose, but they mix the cold layer just above the ground with warmer air layers. A few feet under the vineyards an incredible drainage system is hidden for quick water drainage. In a high tech laboratory, bigger than some aging cellars in Napa, the grapes are frequently checked before harvest. The technique continues in the fermentation area, where gravity flow is used to prevent harsh tannins, caused by bruised seeds. Grapes were hand picked and hand sorted: Yes, you read ‘were’, because now they have a machine of which just a few exist in the world. An automatic grape sorting machine makes camera shots of every grape. Grapes are video analyzed according to selection criteria, such as size and shape. At the end all stems and undesired grapes are shot out with air pressure. This machine can handle up to 10 tons of grapes per hour. An amazing piece of Equipment! The best grapes are carefully bruised and transferred to the temperature controlled fermentation tanks. More technique you can find in the aging cellar, where several bacteria removing machines are positioned, to make sure no infections occur in the new French oak barriques. These barriques, made by an astonishing amount of 14 different producers all have their own characteristic wood and toastiness. Great to smell these empty new barrels!

A tasting table is prepared with a bottle of Opus One 2007 and generously filled glasses. The aroma’s blow out of the glass including: Cassis, Cola, chocolate and forest floor. Enough tannin for long aging, but they feel very soft and even at this young age, they don’t disturb at all.

A machine that takes over the traditional handwork might reduce the romantic image of the grapes being both picked and sorted by hand. With cultured yeast, flying wine doctors, and now automated sorting will the character of wine get lost? On the other hand the winemakers can reduce the risk of mistakes at the sorting table and maybe we have to keep our opinion for ourselves until we have tasted the results.

We have made great pictures of the tasting room, vineyard and everything we saw on the tour. It's on our blog www.qliweb.com

Jan 02, 2011
qli in Wine

L'Ami Louis Paris review

Yes that does also happen, but I think that's part of the "game". Or Americans don't know how to play this game or the French waiters ar having a serious problem with Americans...

Jan 02, 2011
qli in France

Bouchon Yountville America's best brasserie?

You're right. My mistake. I was confusing those two words which each other. To bad I can't change the name of the topic.

Jan 02, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

Le Gavroche London Review of several visits.

It's mysterious in a way that it has totally his own "culture". You can not compare it with other restaurants and is unique in that way. Food is complex and unique. Because Roux Jr is frequently on televison doesn't have to mean that everybody knows him well?
The article is written by Felix Hirsch and me so don't worry about that. Thanks for letting me know that I made a mistake with Brittany.

Jan 02, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

L'Ami Louis Paris review

I have many American friends and it's always strange to see how their experiences differs from mine. You see in many Europe a lot of michelin restaurants having special "rooms" for Americans where they get a "special" treatment. But I think it's slowly getting better if I think of decades ago when this thing happened even more...

Jan 02, 2011
qli in France

Le Gavroche London Review of several visits.

I've been many times to Le Gavroche, one of England's most legendary restaurants. Because there are not many full reports of this restaurant including good pictures I will post my article below.
This Mayfair-based institution has introduced the British to the joys of fine dining. That was around 40 years ago, so what is happening nowadays in Upper Brook Street?
Le Gavroche is a Franco-British institution. Established in the 1960's it still exists and is undisputedly among London's better or best restaurants. Despite that, not much seems to have changed since the early days. The room very much looks like when it was conceived at least 30 years ago, in a charming, undoubtedly British way. You don't find very many restaurants looking like this anymore, which makes eating here quite something. Traditions are kept also when it comes to the menus, which are presented without prices to all, except for the host of the respective table. Fantastic that there are still places doing this, even if some feminists might be less happy about it. On the service side too, seems to have not changed much since the early days. The various waiters are dressed according to their rank and strictly have to stick to the classical rules of the game. And that game, they play brilliantly well! Finding better service in London is not the easiest task; that much is for sure. The brigade under Emmanuel Landré knows how to make even first-timers feel more than at home in this very exclusive environment. If one looks at the wine list, it is also different from most other London restaurants. Predominantly French, it lists all of the great names in great vintages at relatively high, yet acceptable prices. Drinking here is a pleasure, because unlike some very well known Parisian establishments, the glasses here do not date from the ‘60s. With all these very traditional elements one might ask why this restaurant is still counted as one of the best in the UK?
The answer is of course the food. Indeed, it is the one thing, which has changed with the arrival of Michel Roux Jr. as chef. He has slowly modernised the style of the kitchen, and did so in a very subtle, if efficient manner. With most of the evergreens still on the menu such as the soufflé suissesse or the omelette Rothschild (the older Roux had been personal chefs to that very family), he also puts on some dishes of his own. Looking at the style, it is undoubtedly very classical, yet it is somewhat modern as certain dishes can be very minimalist. Take for instance one of his strongest starters, a little toast of pig's trotters with a salad. It is simple, a few mixed leaves, pig's trotter on a thin piece of toasted bread and a vinaigrette, nothing else. Yet, the dish does not need anything else. It is perfect. Why? Because it is both rustic and very fine due to the great attention that has been put into every step of its confection. Priced at a mere £16, one can hardly complain about excessive prices here. On other occasions he produces equally tasty and gutsy food. The foie gras Lucullus, which features a sliver of foie gras, sitting on an artichoke heart, surrounded by truffled chicken mousse is such an example. Served with a intensely flavoured black truffle jus, it is another brilliant dish. Again, the kitchen shows how well it can cook, and delivers something of rare finesse and quality. It is truly a three-star dish. Whilst most classics here are truly phenomenal, a lievre a la royale was a little underwhelming. The main reason being a sauce that lacked punch and power. This, arguably most glorious dish of French cooking, is served in a version that is again technically perfect, yet lacks the intensity of what one can find in other restaurants. That is one of the few weaknesses of this restaurant: Some dishes can be a little weaker then the (very) strong rest. If one accepts that, one can have a fantastic time in this little basement in Mayfair. One can spend hours here that feel as if they're a happening in a different time and make you forget all sense of it.

Hopefully this article gives a good impression of this somewhat mysterious restaurant. For pictures you can have a look on my blog qliweb.com

Jan 02, 2011
qli in U.K./Ireland

L'Ami Louis Paris review

It's a strange thing but I have the impression that as European you can have an amazing time at L'Ami Louis but when you're American the difficulties will start. From my experiences (as a European) is that the cuisson of the chicken is most of the time brilliant, when they know that you're an aficionado they will do their very best.

Jan 02, 2011
qli in France

Bouchon Yountville America's best brasserie?

@512window you're right that Parisian bistro's are also terrible, but the ones in Paris are much bigger restaurants with a lot of space. Bouchon is relatively small and is in my way far more chaotic than the Parisian ones. The point is that Bouchon has a Michelin star and therefore it has been judged by me more critically. The Parisian ones are less good then Bouchon.

@Vulber you're right, but Thomas Keller definitely thinks it is a brasserie. So who are we with discussing if it is a brasserie or not?

-----
Bouchon
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Jan 02, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

Bouchon Yountville America's best brasserie?

Hi there,

After several visits of this famous restaurant I wrote this article about Bouchon for my blog. Hopefully you like this way of writing.

Bouchon seems chaotic: From the people queuing up to get in, those that are either being picked up or dropped off by limousines, up to the service trying to coordinate it all, this is the usual situation in front of one of the country's most successful restaurants. Here, it is like that every single day of the year, as the doors of Bouchon, Thomas Keller's idealised version of a bistro, hardly ever close.
Yet, Bouchon is by no means a new, trendy restaurant. Opened in 1998, just four years after Thomas Keller had founded the French Laundry, it is supposed to serve classic French bistro food, which Keller so much adores. Judging from the success of the restaurant, and the eponymous book, one can say that he did rather well with it. It seems too perfect to be really true (in France) bistro with the classic zinc bar, mosaics on the floors and the other decorative elements that made the Parisian bistros so famous. Yet it is not absolutely perfect, as the acoustics here for example are quite poor. One has to shout to even be heard by one's dining companions in the small, cramped room. This has a destabilising effect on the staff, which seems a little outnumbered in front of such a horde of guests. Luckily enough, the food makes up for these problems.
And the food too is a little too good for a French bistro, as one can expect with a Thomas Keller restaurant. His perfectionism can be felt in the kitchen of this restaurant, just as with his others. Whilst in France, one has to hope for the chef to have a good day, here it is pretty reasonable to assume that bad ones do not come by all that often. Take a Pâté de Campagne, which is classically served with cornichons, radishes and watercress. It is exactly what it should be, with a smooth texture and a balanced and refined flavour. Very good indeed, as are the salmon rillettes. These are made with both fresh and smoked salmon and are an equally well executed classic. Simple, yet satisfying as technically without errors, these dishes are just what one would hope for in such a restaurant. That the kitchen can do some slightly more elaborate food is shown by the black cod with lobster and vegetables. This is another very well executed dish, where the cooking of the fish is exemplary. Meltingly tender, it contrasts beautifully with the other elements on the plate. A real delight! That desserts are of the highest standard here is not surprising neither. The Ile Flottante for instance is elegant and refined, a beautiful rendition of an iconic dessert.
Thus, one can say that Bouchon is a kind of restaurant, that keeps the tradition of classical French bistro cooking alive. It is a perfect introduction for anyone who wishes to discover some of France's most iconic dishes, albeit in versions that might be better than the originals in some places. This is what the restaurant was created to do, and does supremely well, explaining the chaos in front of it.

If you're interested in the pictures you can have a look on my blog www.qliweb.com

-----
The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Bouchon
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Jan 01, 2011
qli in San Francisco Bay Area

L'Ami Louis Paris review

Paris certainly has an awful lot of fantastic restaurants. But few do a better roast chicken or foie gras terrine than L'Ami Louis. If you're looking for authentic French dishes, prepared in the simplest of fashions, and served in more than generous portions, this is the place.
L’Ami Louis is a legend in Paris. This little cosy restaurant has become one of the capital’s most famous eateries. Not only because Chirac and Clinton dined here at one point, but also because it is said to serve one of the world’s best roast chickens. The dining room is charming, a bit antique with an old chimney standing in the middle of it, it gives you a very warm impression. This also goes for the service, which is relaxed, friendly and quite humorous. Rarely does one see waiters, who seem to enjoy their work as much as those working here. It makes you feel well, and you are ready for the food. And what kind of food it was. Take for instance the foie gras. Served whole, this terrine is quite a mighty portion, so it is suggested you share, otherwise it might be all you are able to eat! However, the quality of the terrine is so good, that it quickly disappears, as it is not only very smooth, but also intensely flavoured. A beautifully rendered classic.
When you come here, one thing you can’t miss is the roast chicken. It is served whole, so sharing is advised here too, with a mountain of thin fries. From the moment it is presented at the table you know that this is not your ordinary roast chicken. No, this one has a beautiful, golden-brown skin that makes you drool with pleasure. Once served, it reveals to be crispy, whilst having moist and tasty meat. The accompanying jus makes this dish perfect. This is once again, a simple classic, but elevated to the highest level. Fantastic!
Such a meal is undoubtedly a great experience. It has something special about, which is probably why this restaurant is well-known. Whilst not being cheap, it certainly shows how good the products are, and how generous the portions are too. Thus you are left with a good feeling and certainly won’t regret having eaten here. A gem!

Hopefully this article of L'ami Louis can help you in the future to decide whether you visit or not. For pictures you can look at my site www.qliweb.com

Jan 01, 2011
qli in France