Le Bouchon still solid after all these years

June 18, 2010

Le Bouchon's onion soup
Le Bouchon's onion soup (photo by Joseph Storch)

Do you miss those days of lugging around a backpack through the streets of Paris? Staying in youth hostels and memorizing train schedules? I don't. I do, however, miss the experience of eating in a real bistro. The kind of neighborhood place where the owner is usually the chef, and he typically knows the regulars, what kind of wine they drink and which cheeses they'll have before dessert. Le Bouchon has been that kind of place for decades. I remember having one of my early dates with my then girlfriend (soon-to-be wife) about 15 years ago, and even then it was considered an old, reliable joint. There is nothing fancy here and owner Jean-Claude Poilevey isn't going to win any James Beard Awards for his take on classic French cuisine, but who cares. This is solid cooking, rooted in years of tradition and executed with modest consistency.

The bread (Red Hen) and the butter are always there for you; the onion soup is topped with (purposely) stale bread and a thick crown of melted gruyere. Duck confit, salade Lyonnaise, foie gras - check, check, check. As part of my monthly "My Country, My Cuisine" feature for ABC 7, I ask a local who was foreign-born to take me somewhere that reminds them of home. My subject tonight, Juan Luis Goujon, actually straddles both France (father) and Spain (mother). He lived in France 15 years and when I pressed him to tell me where he eats when he longs for that mood, and the food from back home, he didn't even hesitate. You can see highlights from our meal at Le Bouchon after 10:30 p.m. tonight, right here.

Le Bouchon's apple tarte tatin
Le Bouchon's apple tarte tatin (photo by Joseph Storch)