Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bouchon Bistro, Wembley

*UPDATED REVIEW - click here*

Down in the middle of Wembley lies a French Restaurant that from the outside looks relatively modest and unassuming. The name of the restaurant is Bouchon Bistro and over a number of years has gathered a bit of a name for itself. Bouchon Bistro is owned by Chef de cuisine Gwenaël Lesle and Manager Philippe Kordics who have been running the establishment since 2002. Prior to opening Bouchon Bistro, Gwenaël was head chef of Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.

Inside Bouchon Bistro the atmosphere is casual but has a distinctive character. True to its name, they have furnished the restaurant like a French Bistro, giving a charming feel complete with French posters, French wine, and French staff. On some parts of the wall you will even see testimonies from previous customers writing about their own good experiences of the food and service of Bouchon Bistro.

Bouchon Bistro states that their philosophy is "Delivering the most innovative, challenging and interesting food at the best possible price." A perusal through their menu does in fact show some innovative and interesting dishes all at a reasonable price for food in this category. Bouchon Bistro offers an a la carte menu, a set course menu (a choice of 3 or 4 dishes from the a la carte menu), or for those wanting a surprise - a seven course degustation menu (but must be ordered for the whole table). The degustation menu is where chef Gwenael shows more of his innovative skills with a large range of offerings being largely French based but often containing modern and international elements to further enhance the experience. As far as drinks are concerned, the offerings available include a selection of local and imported beers, as well as a reasonable selection of wines with an emphasis on French wines.

I must admit that once I tried the seven course menu I haven't turned back yet (perhaps some day). So on this occasion there was no surprise that I opted for the degustation menu. The seven course degustation menu must be pre-ordered at least a day in advance as all the courses are specially selected and prepared by the head chef and you don't find out what will be served until they come from the kitchen. The only control you have over what you are served is to indicate any food or ingredients you can't eat or don't want when you make the booking, followed by 2 choices when you arrive: the meat or fish, and the pre-dessert or cheese platter. The degustation menu is also constantly changing so don't expect the same courses if you opt to take the degustation meal a second time - they did say innovative.

To compliment the seven course degustation menu, Bouchon Bistro offers a choice of matching wines. This option costs $50 per head in addition to the $100 degustation menu food bill. For $50 you get 6 glasses of (pretty much) full pours starting from a sparkling/champagne, through to whites and reds and ending up with a dessert wine. The wines are matched by the staff to every course except the pre-dessert/cheese platter course. If you do drink however, I suggest you consider not driving after the meal.

Complimentary bread and butter

I don't really consider myself a big bread eater, but the baguette-like bread had a crunchy crust and was soft (best when slightly warm). The French butter was rich and refined, whilst being soft enough to spread on the bread. I find that one serving (especially if you opt to have the degustation menu which can vary in duration from 2.5-3.5 hours depending how busy they are) is never enough.

Tomato Gazpacho, salmon roulade topped with green ginger, and scallop and tofu topped with sweet pork belly

This dish was interestingly varied in its three components. The Gazpacho was refreshing and light; the salmon roulade was fresh, had a nice soft texture, and the ginger gave it a slight kick; the scallop was tender and had that fresh and natural sweet taste, and the pork belly had a strong flavour and coating of a tasty sweet sauce.

Tuna tartar with quail egg, goats cheese quenelle, and polenta chips

This dish was presented with a quail egg on top of a bed of tuna. As it is served, we're instructed to mix in the quail egg with the tuna. Whilst I have had something similar before, it was with chicken egg rather than quail egg. The result is a very nice combination of fresh tuna with the contents of a small quail egg that adds a softer texture to the tuna without being overpowering. Aside from the tuna, the goats cheese quenelle has a nice creamy goats cheese flavour that isn't as strong as a straight goats cheese, and the polenta chips are had a crisp outer layer and tasty core which turned out nice to eat but pity there were only 2 pieces per serve.

Foie gras custard topped with apple, oyster and parsley foam

This dish was a complimentary course from the chef. The foie gras custard had a consistent texture, and a nice amount foie gras to give you the distinct taste whilst still retaining a custard consistency. The apple, oyster and parsley foam topped off the dish - the oyster being very fresh, and the apple and parsley foam adding a nice refreshing element.

Beef cheek on tapioca, with pureed carrot and an onion reduction

As a relatively tough cut of beef, I am not usually a big fan of beef cheeks. However, the beef cheek cube of this dish was quite tender and well matched with the crumbed coating and pureed carrot and onion reduction. The pureed carrot was smooth, slightly creamy, and had the right amount of salt seasoning to compliment the dish; and the onion reduction was full of flavour (as you would expect from a well made reduction) that gave a nice tasty onion sauce to eat with the beef cheek. The elements of the dish worked together to make this quite a tasty dish.

Lavender parfait with sweet pear and Szechuan crisp

This dish was the palate cleanser before the main course. The lavender parfait was light and refreshing whilst the Szechuan crisp had a bit of a bite. This dish isn't exactly like your standard palate cleanser but felt a bit more substantial whilst offering different flavours of sweet, floral, refreshing, as well as a bit of a Szechuan bite.

Pan fried duck on zucchini, duck cannelloni with eggplant, cauliflower puree and broad beans

This was my first choice allowed of the meal - the main course. Having chosen the meat option over fish, out came a duck dish with two different servings of duck. The pan fried duck was cooked just right - tender and pan fried with flavour giving the duck skin that nice lightly fried taste to it. The duck cannelloni was a bit different - with duck meat filled into a cannelloni and topped with a tasty eggplant sauce.

Strawberry soaked in blood orange and campari, topped with pistachio cream

This dish was the second choice offered. I opted for the pre-dessert option over the cheese platter. The strawberries soaked in blood orange gave this dish a nice light refreshing dessert element, and the campari gave it a small kick. The pistachio cream was nice and light, giving a sweet pistachio flavour. Overall, this was quite a nice light feeling dish, making one ready for a heavier dessert to follow.

Chocolate fondant, almond ice cream and honey madeline

The chocolate fondant was rich and chocolately, with the centre oozing of a rich chocolate sauce. Whether or not you like rich chocolate desserts will determine how much you enjoy this element, but the size was right to make sure you didn't get a chocolate overload. The almond ice cream was rich and creamy - obviously made in house, whilst the honey madeline was quite light with only a small hint of honey and a bit of a fluffy texture
In summary, Bouchon Bistro offers interesting and non-run-of-the-mill food that is well thought out and offers exciting tastes. At the same time, the food quality is refined and generally what I would expect from a more fancily outfitted restaurant.

Points of note: A la carte as well as an ever changing degustation menu.  Ranges from reasonably short to long degustation or multi-course meals in a relaxed environment.  Prices are reasonable for fine dining quality food.

Go for: French and modern French food.  Exciting degustation menu available - but you need to book/advise ahead.  Some of the dishes are real gems.

Bouchon Bistro363A Cambridge Street
(08) 9387 3898

Trading Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 6:30 to late

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