Bar Bouchon: Burger

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There's no burger on the menu at Bar Bouchon. If you ask politely, however, they'll probably say, “We can make that happen.” The burger ($21) comes from upstairs at the more staid Bouchon, where it's officially served only on the lunch menu. If you ask for it at dinner, they can probably make that happen too.

In this version of Upstairs/Downstairs, Thomas Keller's Bouchon is the grown-up big sister, but downstairs at Bar Bouchon, either at its pocket-size bar or on its long patio, is where happy hour happens, where well turned out ladies lunch with their equally stylish toddlers. Squint hard and ignore your peripheral vision; you might, for a fraction of a second, be able to convince yourself you're gazing upon a small field in the countryside of France instead of a manicured lawn at The Montage in Beverly Hills.

Bar Bouchon: Burger

Meat & Bun: The brioche, baked fresh every day, may be the best high-end burger bun we've tried since the chewy, vertical wonder at Lazy Ox Canteen. This is, quite simply, the quintessential brioche, fluffy, glistening and with the tiniest bit of sweetness.

The meat — thick as a hockey puck, ground to medium fineness, packed more solidly than most gourmet burgers and cooked to a delectable medium-rare — tastes remarkably clean. In shape and size, this is definitely a pub burger, but Keller takes the less seasoned path more common with fast-food and diner burgers.

Toppings: You can choose between cheddar, Swiss or blue cheese. The blue cheese here is sharp and generously applied. If you prefer a more mellow blue, stick cheddar or Swiss. The burger rests in a curling leaves of bibb lettuce and is topped by a thick slice of tomato, lightly sprinkled with fine black pepper, and slivers of sweet, house-made pickles. (Ketchup, mayo and Thousand Island dressing arrive in small pots, on the side.)

The overall effect reminds us of a high-class version of the burgers at Cassell's with their Spartan patties. The burger is large and quite filling. We generally forgo a knife and fork for such things, but this is the one burger (that may partly be due to the ambiance) where we prefer utensils.

Sides: Alongside the burger is a mound of perfect skinny fries. If you're going to do frozen fries, this is how they should be done: The skins left on, cooked to a dark golden crisp and liberally salted. The best side dish, however, might be a glass of red wine. This is the kind of place where the waiter might steer you away from a middling Bordeaux and toward a more appropriate 2007 Santa Ynez merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend.

Bar Bouchon: Chocolate Mousse

Dessert: It would be a sin to let the rest of that wine go to waste, so we had to order the noir chocolate mousse. We had to. This small pot of dense yet fluffy, medium-dark chocolate is topped with a dark sticky layer that's akin to really excellent hot fudge transformed into a semi-solid state.

The Upshot: At $21, this is definitely an indulgence, but in Beverly Hills, it's also a bargain. The aura of casual refinement makes Bar Bouchon a charming lunchtime pit-stop or happy hour destination.

Bar Bouchon: Menu

Exercise: 45 min., elliptical trainer.


LA Weekly