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Le Bouchon
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  • Post #31 - October 2nd, 2013, 10:58 am
    Post #31 - October 2nd, 2013, 10:58 am Post #31 - October 2nd, 2013, 10:58 am
    My wife and I used the occasion of our kitchen counters being resealed to eat at Le Bouchon, finally, after a long absence. We had an outstanding meal. We had the prix fixe for $27, which is a very good deal. Here's what we ate:

    Sausage with duck fat potatoes: this entree would have made a perfect meal on its own. The sausage was tender and flavorful and reminded me of a boudin blanc, though I didn't ask for details.

    Frog legs: sauteed with garlic and lemon and a slightly sweet and funky sauce that had a touch of fish sauce. Excellent!

    Rabbit: sauteed with mushrooms, carrots, celery, and a exceptional sauce.

    Sweetbreads: An excellent version that was crusted with a honey sauce.

    For dessert we had a creme brulee that was very good and an apple tart with caramel sauce.

    Cocktails, wine, and service were all excellent. The room was packed and loud. I will return soon to try the whole roasted duck and the steak frites with a garlic sauce that has an intoxicating aroma.
  • Post #32 - April 9th, 2016, 7:56 pm
    Post #32 - April 9th, 2016, 7:56 pm Post #32 - April 9th, 2016, 7:56 pm
    RIP Jean Claude :( :( ... story.html
  • Post #33 - April 10th, 2016, 9:01 am
    Post #33 - April 10th, 2016, 9:01 am Post #33 - April 10th, 2016, 9:01 am
    Jean-Claude Poilevey: French Chef

    Jean-Claude Poilevey – born in a Burgundian village, long-time resident of the Village of Oak Park – died Saturday morning on the Eisenhower.

    Many of us probably had our first taste of French food at places like his now closed La Fontaine on Chicago's north side. We first met Poilevey at Le Bouchon in Bucktown, a type of bistro typical of the French city of Lyon that focuses on hearty food, conviviality, and a gregarious chef who might frequently be seen in the dining room, chatting with guests, full of joie de vivre, enjoying his life and helping his diners enjoy theirs.

    In 2013, when Carolyn and I last dined at Le Bouchon (1958 N. Damen), Poilevey explained to us that "'bouchon' means 'cork.'" As corks sit tightly in bottles, so do the Lyonnais squeeze into these usually petite boîtes with, as he described them, "tables on top of tables." And squeeze they did into Poilevey's Le Bouchon (and at his perhaps suggestively named Le Sardine). Walking past Le Bouchon just last Thursday evening, we peered in, happy to see many of tables full of wine and conversation, knowing Poilevey was likely in there somewhere, cooking, serving and being the bon vivant host we'd met years ago.

    Frog legs, compressed.jpg Frog legs

    Of our last dinner at Le Bouchon, I remember in particular the frog legs. We were enthusiastically gobbling them, when his chef-son, Oliver, sidled up whispered to us "I put fish sauce in the frog legs." Oliver (who once delivered for Jimmy John's in Oak Park) was fond of fish sauce and Asian food in general, unlike his father who admitted, "I'm uncomfortable in most Chinese restaurants…except Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula."

    Le Bouchon's frog legs carried the unmistakably delicate funk of the fermented fish condiment – and it worked beautifully! Still, when we mentioned his son's admittedly unorthodox approach to this classic preparation, Poilevey père shook his head and his finger before wakling away briskly, declaring "Fish sauce? In frog legs? No, never. Tsk, tsk. Nevvaaahhh."

    Poilevey was likely just messing with us, well aware of his son's tinkering with the classics. It's fair to say, though, that for traditional French chefs, there are right and wrong ways to do things. The right way, perhaps needless to say, is the traditional French way. Although few would probably say Poilevey was rigidly doctrinaire, he seemed to adhere to the old ways of preparing a meal – and that was just fine with us. Perhaps his respect for the rules was a result of his time as a cook in the French army. European military structure, after all, shaped the French kitchen's brigade system, from chef de cuisine, through sous-chef, saucier, down many ranks to garçon de cuisine, the kitchen's buck private.

    Tartare compressed.jpg Tartare

    At our Le Bouchon meal of three years ago, we started with tartare, a medium-chop of raw beef, mixed with sauce and herbs, topped with a quail egg, flanked by frisee and toast points, a beautiful example of a bouchon's classically substantial, meat-centric dish, executed with grace and finesse. There was also foie gras, with a simple sprinkle of coarse salt and a sweep of raspberry sauce, followed by a duck breast with carrots, lightly cooked in the French tradition, with just the right amount of tooth. Finally, a saddle of rabbit in a light, clear sauce, dusted with fine herbs. How, I wondered, did Poilevey keep the meat of this lean springtime animal so moist; I was told his "secret," well known to any French chef, "butter, butter, butter."

    Saddle of rabbit.jpg Saddle of rabbit

    Such food, of course, explains why Poilevey's bouchon was usually packed, sometimes more than others. After a 2001 "Check, Please" segment featured then-Senator Barack Obama chatting about dinners with Michelle at Le Bouchon, Poilevey smiled as he remembered "Lines…out the door …round the corner…for days."

    About the man who would be President, Poilevey recalled "Obama was a handsome, charming young man, but he was no great gastronome: he liked his steaks well-done."

    We'll remember Poilevey's good-natured tableside manner, his Gallic humor, but most of all immensely satisfying food, prepared in the old ways, that though it may come in and out of style, remains for many of us a touchstone of what it means to eat well.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #34 - April 10th, 2016, 9:22 am
    Post #34 - April 10th, 2016, 9:22 am Post #34 - April 10th, 2016, 9:22 am
    I'm really sad to hear this. When we lived in Chicago, this was a regular spot for us, along with Kiki's. Outside of my own cooking, Le Bouchon - its food, and its feel - was my son's earliest experience of French cuisine and culture. We were as happy to sit at the bar as at a table, crowded or not. Remembering now, in fact, an anniversary with my wife where we just sat at the bar, ate, and spoke with Chef Poilevey about various and sundry things, all in French and about things French.

    Tiniest kitchen producing such wonderful memories. It felt like heaven to us all. My son's first steak frites - less than 5 years old.

    Just want to thank the Chef for his generous spirit and for some special memories held in our heart. Rest in peace, Chef.

    Edit - I just realized I missed your post, Tem, and David, your mentioning the Eisenhower. I'd thought the Chef passed due to natural causes. Doesn't matter as he's gone from us, but this news cuts even deeper. This is just so horribly sad. Peace to him and healing to his family. Thanks for posting and letting us know.
  • Post #35 - April 10th, 2016, 10:49 am
    Post #35 - April 10th, 2016, 10:49 am Post #35 - April 10th, 2016, 10:49 am
    Nice remembrance, David. Living just up the street, I've eaten at Bouchon more times than I can count, dating to its very earliest days. As a Cafe du Midi fan, I was initially skeptical of this French interloper in Bucktown, but Midi closed and my first visit to Bouchon erased any reservations. I've spent so many memorable nights there, either at the shoulder-to-shoulder tables or at the equally packed bar. A particularly indelible experience was a night I went there with my dad, stepmom, Chef Jean Joho and his wife. Jean Claude was floored and excited to see Joho and gave us his very best, including a few off-menu favorites he whipped up on the spot. But he was just as charming and generous whether or not there was a fellow chef in the house.

    The longevity and ongoing success of his restaurant speak to both his skill and passion, and may Bouchon carry on his spirit. With fish sauce, of course.
  • Post #36 - April 10th, 2016, 4:42 pm
    Post #36 - April 10th, 2016, 4:42 pm Post #36 - April 10th, 2016, 4:42 pm
    La Sardine, 111 N. Carpenter St., will open its doors from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday to welcome mourners who wish to pay tribute to the renowned chef and restaurateur who was an inspiration to Chicago's French culinary community. ... story.html
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #37 - April 11th, 2016, 11:28 am
    Post #37 - April 11th, 2016, 11:28 am Post #37 - April 11th, 2016, 11:28 am
    I’ll miss you a lot Jean-Claude. I always enjoyed your “joie de vivre”, that mischievous smile, and your humorous, sometimes in a ferocious way, view of the world and of men. Of course I loved and shared your deep attachment to what I call the real French cuisine and to the people who practice it the right way. This so recognizable voice of yours and its figures of speech will remain in my memory. I am so happy that I will be able to keep a joyous image of you and your “bonne humeur” when you sat down at our table a few weeks ago at Le Bouchon where I celebrated my birthday. We remembered people and places of our pasts both in France and in Chicago. I will always have fond memories of le Bouchon where, for several years since 1994, my old regular group of French business visitors to Chicago always phoned me from Paris and insisted that I call you to reserve the same table and to make sure that you would have Lapin aux tagliatelles, mousse au chocolat, and that delicious Morgon from your friend Marcel Lapierre. But my most memorable lunches where your classic cuisine, with its lovely Lyonnaise touches, was in all its glory, took place in the 70’s at the so charming La Fontaine, on Clark. There, along with 3 other French colleagues, we enjoyed your personalized hospitality and delicious specialties such as savory mousses, rack of lamb, coq au vin, and trout soufflé . The French restaurant community has lost one of its most prominent figures and it makes me very sad.
  • Post #38 - May 14th, 2018, 8:52 am
    Post #38 - May 14th, 2018, 8:52 am Post #38 - May 14th, 2018, 8:52 am
    Lovely lingering Le Bouchon Saturday lunch with Ellen, my niece, in from NY, and her friend.

    Le Bouchon remains one of my favorite places in Chicagoland, warm professional service, delicious on the plate, fairly priced with the best Salade Lyonnaise this side of Lyon. I could happily make a satisfying meal from LB's fantastic baguette, butter with a swipe of Dijon plus Salade Lyonnaise.

    LeBouchonLTH1.jpg Salade Lyonnaise

    LeBouchonLTH3.jpg Pâté

    LeBouchonLTH2.jpg Escargots

    LeBouchonLTH5.jpg Troute en Croute. Horrid pic of wonderful prep including pea mousse, fiddleheads and asparagus in a rose beurre blanc.

    Le Bouchon, Count me a Fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow