The Place: Bar Bouchon, 235 N Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 281-5698.
The Hours: Monday-Friday, 4-7pm
The Deals: Select beers $4, glass of house red or white wine $5, cocktail of the day $7, small plates from $2-$7.
The Digs: If you're not one for making reservations but still want a taste of the cuisine by award-winning chef, Thomas Keller, this approachable, no-reservations-required bar located below his high-falutin Bouchon in Beverly Hills is for you. With indoor and outdoor seating, Rodeo Drive shoppers, tourists and the casually dressed affluent set can take their pick of either inside, at the semi-circle nickel-plated bar to get their classic cocktails straight from the bartender, or the outdoor café tables that overlook a verdant lawn with trees and a fountain. If neither of those spots is available, there are always the bar stools, usually mystifyingly empty, lined along the wall just inside the entrance to the bar area.
The Verdict: Regardless of whether you just had a hard day at work or a long day of shopping, staring out at that grassy lawn while a French waiter coos in your ear is the perfect way to cap off a tough 9-to-5. Unfortunately there isn't much of a selection of happy hour drinks, rather one house red, one house white, one cocktail and two beers. However, the cocktail du jour does change weekly. The day we went it was the Moscow Mule served in a proper copper mug. Although our cocktail tasted like it had more ginger beer than vodka and was therefore pricey at $7, we found solace in its refreshing lightness.
The bar bites range in price from the $2-a-piece oysters to the grilled prime beef sliders ($7 for two). However, we ordered the petite sandwich au fromage grillé, aka grilled cheese sandwich, as well as the deviled eggs and a trio of oysters. The grilled cheese sandwich was simply a half portion with a layer of cheese between very thick slices of fresh brioche bread and served with a small pile of cornichons. Tasty but not all that filling by itself. The four pieces of deviled eggs, or oeuf et lardons, were delightfully creamy, with a nice savory crunch of bacon. And the oysters, which were fresh if just OK, were served on a bowl of crushed ice with lemon slices twisted into some form of art.
With small portions, Bar Bouchon is a place where you can snack oh-so elegantly before your dinner in the not-too-distant future. It may not present many happy hour drink options but its lovely atmosphere, especially outdoors at the café table, and its more affordable Keller fare make it well worth a visit. And no reservations required.
Overall Grade: B+