Diana’s Birthday Lunch at Bouchon

Taking someone out to lunch on their birthday is always a treat because, when you really think about it, you’re taking yourself out to lunch too. So, a few weeks ago, on my friend Diana’s birthday, I told her to meet me at Coffee Commissary on Fairfax at 12 PM on the dot. From there, I drove us the rest of the way to Beverly Hills where I surprised her with lunch at Bouchon. Considering where we took her for her 30th birthday, this was a fitting choice; it’s not Diana’s birthday if Thomas Keller isn’t involved.

Here’s the thing about Bouchon at lunch: it was almost entirely empty when we went. To put this into context, somewhere right now in America a person is being handed a beeper at a Cheesecake Factory and being told that the wait for a lunchtime table is 30 minutes. It’s kind of shocking, when you think about it, especially when you see the pictures of the food that we ate.

There’s only one word I can think of to describe this meal: flawless.

Here’s Diana with her glass of something bubbly, a fitting drink for a birthday lunch.


To start, we shared a Salade d’Asperges with a spring vegetable vinaigrette:


Lean into your computer screen and you’ll see the skill expressed in this deceptively simple dish. See those vegetables in the spring vegetable vinaigrette? Look how perfectly they’re cut. That’s textbook knife skills, right there. The flavor profile was similar to that of a gazpacho; used as a dressing, it pepped up the perfectly cooked asparagus (firm, but not raw) without overwhelming it.

The real stunner, though, was the Assiette de Charcuterie:


Not only are these meats cured in-house, they’re presented in such a way that it almost feels criminal to touch them. It’s probably the prettiest charcuterie plate I’ve ever experienced, with Bestia being a close second.

For the entree, we shared a Loup de Mer en Barigoule and the restaurant did something that I love, the classiest of classy moves: they split the dish for us in the back, making each half-portion as beautiful as a full portion.

Everything about this dish was lovely–the simultaneous richness and lightness of the sauce, the appealingly sour taste of the artichokes–but nothing impressed me more than the crispness of the fish skin. I’ll have to crack open my Bouchon cookbook to figure out how it’s done; it was like the world’s most elegant potato chip.

Another classy move from Bouchon: they picked up on the fact that it was Diana’s birthday and sent over this little chocolate bouchon with ice cream and a candle.


Here’s Diana blowing it out:


But it wouldn’t be a real birthday without a proper dessert from the dessert menu, would it? Here’s our springy rhubarb tart with strawberry sorbet to finish the job.


Bouchon feels like a hidden-away treasure here in Los Angeles, a palace of riches there for those smart enough to grab them. So you go ahead and order your Double-Stuffed Oreo Cheesecake after your beeper beeps; the next time I have a special occasion lunch, I know where I’m headed.

18 thoughts on “Diana’s Birthday Lunch at Bouchon”

  1. The photos are beautiful. I just want to make a comment about one thing in your post that bothers me, though. I personally HATE Cheesecake Factory and think it’s – forgive the play on words – cheesy. BUT, I just looked up the Bouchon menu online, and saw that the loup de mer is $36. I’m pretty sure that many people who think Cheesecake Factory is a splurge could not even dream of lunching at a restaurant where one entree is almost $40. Most of the fish dishes at CF are around $16.50, and that’s big money for some people. I know you both split the fish, but you did order a bunch of other things too. So I think what I’m trying to say is: never forget how lucky you are to be able to dine at these amazing restaurants.

    1. Kimberly Wydeen

      Thanks for mentioning this — the Cheesecake Factory jumped out at me, too. I also think that sometimes food is just fuel. My office eats out at places like the Cheesecake Factory for lunch frequently, because it is affordable, fast, and usually has something everybody can eat.

      I think this birthday lunch sounds absolutely lovely. But sometimes, a girl’s just gotta eat.

    2. What a ridiculous response to the birthday luncheon. This was a birthday celebration for two food-loving friends at a superb and pricey restaurant. I’m quite sure Adam doesn’t dine at this level everyday nor does anyone else. Splurges are splurges and are perfect for celebrating. To complain that you can get more at Cheesecake Factory for less money completely misses the point. Sure, not everyone can afford a Bouchon, but not everyone can afford a BMW either.

  2. To be fair, the cheesecake at the Factory is pretty damn good (even if the rest of the menu is pretty damn awful).

  3. revolxesnoodlum

    I hate people that say “I’m adding this to my Bucket List.” but I’m defintely adding this to my Bucket List!

  4. I love Bouchon and was able to eat at the one in Las Vegas. It was a very special treat. I love your blog Adam, but have to admit I had the same reaction as the commenters before me. We all would love to pass on Cheesecake Factory for a lunch at Bouchon, but many may not have the means to.

  5. Wow, Ryssiebee and Janice – what a couple of kill-joys. This is a pretty frugal lunch at somewhere not overly opulent (for a birthday) and you are really trying to lay on the guilt. I think you miss the point entirely about Cheesecake factory – price has nothing to do with it. The fact it serves mass produced crap is the reason for the comparison.

    Do you moan to everyone who spends slightly more on something than they absolutely have to? Do you buy the cheapest possible everything regardless of quality?


    1. Kimberly Wydeen

      Cheesecake Factory does serve mass produced food. No question.

      But the fact is that not everybody has the luxury of only eating what they want to eat when they want to eat it. Those of us who work in offices, or have friends and family who likes these restaurants, still go to them even though we know there is better food out there. Because while food is an important thing, it is not the only thing.

      1. You aren’t really making any point here. Yes there are crap restaurants out there. Yes they are popular. That’s not the point.

        The issue here is why someone should be criticized for spending a bit more on a nice meal at a nice restaurant (FOR A BIRTHDAY). Its ridiculous, and not a stance that could be kept up (“You bought a pair of Nikes. There are cheaper brands out there, you should feel guilty”)

        Probably a debate for a different time, but the profit margin places like CF make on their (poor quality) food will almost certainly be more than at places like Bouchon – and most independents.

        Low cost does not always equal value. I would rather have one meal at Bouchon than three at CF.

        1. Kimberly Wydeen

          I am indeed making a point, here.

          My point is pretty simple. Some people may recognize that a meal at Bouchon is better then a meal at Cheesecake Factory. However, just because Bouchon is better then Cheesecake Factory doesn’t mean it is feasible for everybody.

          A lot of people – even people who care about food – live too far from Bouchon and establishments like it to eat there regularly. And sometimes people have other obligations (ie: dining with co-workers, friends, family, etc.) that lead them to eating at restaurants that would not otherwise be their first pick.

          I really like Adam’s blog and his writing, but this particular piece sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Because, while I agree Bouchon is likely better then the Cheesecake Factory, not everybody has the luxury of that decision.

          1. I sort of see your point but I still don’t understand why its such a big deal to question why – even in general – a lot good restaurants are quiet and yet people flock to eat at a crap ones.

  6. What a wonderful meal! That is odd (and maybe tragic?) that their lunch business is slow but maybe they do the bulk of their business at dinner.
    Those plates are all just so beautiful, and having eaten at the bouchon in nyc I know it isn’t just for show.
    Diana is adorable!

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