Kid Hit Menu Items: At any bistro, especially a fancy one where it’s obviously catering to a serious grown-up crowd, at least you know quality French fries will be in the house. And in the case of our recent lunch at Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills, apparently a dish of room temperature butter and crusty bread can make for a satisfying meal. Otherwise, splitting a croque madame might work, or sharing a few bites of steak. Because realistically, plats principaux priced in the $20 to $30+ range aren’t going to inspire much risk-taking or extensive ordering. Burgers are fortunately an option at lunch. Soupe a l’oignon ($9.75) is a small bubbly cauldron of rich, soul-satisfying perfection that a lot of kids like, but damn, does it take a while to cool down. I gave up the quarter (!) hard boiled egg that came with the smaller (dare I say stingy) portion of the lunch Cobb salad ($16). Or hold out for a special fried chicken night! Everyone will be happy at dessert time.
Adult Perks: Bouchon Bistro’s being part of the Thomas Keller mini-empire means a respectable wine list and all the other bells and whistles. At the raw bar there’s also fresh seafood piled high and looking splendidly chilled, always at the ready for dramatic presentation. The menu has most of the meaty classics you’d want in a highly stylized bistro. People watching ain’t bad either, as evidenced by us spotting Hugh Grant (Nancy Silverton’s party subsequently occupied his table), Don Johnson, and Lionel Richie all in one night in the restaurant’s relatively early days. But based on experience, embarrassingly enough, those last two 80s-icons and gentlemen-about-town aren’t too hard to spot in certain areas.
Pros: The dining room is large, with a fairly high volume level that’s not intolerable. Service is very attentive. Bouchon’s manager was super nice and appeared much more interested in my child than I would have expected. The outdoor upstairs dining area at lunch was empty and we were smartly seated next to the door, so we could cruise along the mostly shaded balcony. Good thing, because this last visit in particular was not a sit-perfectly-still kind of lunch. Outdoor seating might be the ticket for some parties, weather permitting. But it’s the more casual Bar Bouchon located downstairs in the loggia facing the park that’s MUCH better for families. I wish I had realized this practical consideration before making our plans. At least we got to have fun running around in the quasi-public park between Bouchon and the Montage before heading back east.
Cons: Lunchtime is a business, power agent kind of scene, plus sprinkled with some Ladies Who Lunch. Not necessarily best for us.
Changing Station: No, but one of the bathroom stalls has a flat surface that’s roomy enough for a changing pad. (Add usual caveat that such a use would likely NOT be endorsed by management!)
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Valet, or two hour free parking in the city lot underneath the neo-Mediterranean revival complex.
Other Tidbits: Bouchon might be loosely inspired by the neighborhood bistro tradition, but this isn’t your cozy, warm corner restaurant. It’s a restaurant concept by one of America’s most celebrated chefs, blown up to a large scale located within a flashy new development in one of the country’s most prestigious ZIP codes. Every detail is carefully planned by the best in the hospitality design business, and made to look impressive. The bathroom fixtures are gilded. The ceilings soar. The floor tiles are beautifully hand-painted. I can’t find fault with the food, which seems to perfectly represent and honor its genre, but I don’t go out of my way for it either. That said, if you need a place to meet your Francophile aunt and uncle who are visiting from Dallas and staying in the Marina, Bouchon definitely works. (Also a good deal at happy hour, apparently.) Next time I’ll remember to book an outdoor table park-side at Bar Bouchon instead, especially if Bouchon Bakery finally opens.
235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – midnight, Daily