A high-end Californian restaurant using French culinary techniques, bouchon Santa Barbara is located in the historic Art District on Victoria Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Opened in 1998, the restaurant prides itself on great, local ingredients from the Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market and local Santa Barbara-made wine.
They feature a great menu with seasonal items. For this season’s items, the first courses include Cauliflower Purée, Warm Pecan & Goat Cheese Tart, ‘Salade Lyonnaise’, Seared Pork Belly and a Trio of Sea Scallops. For the seasonal mains, they offer a Lobster “Pot Pie” and a Cabernet-Braised Short Rib. And finally, for the seasonal dessert, they serve a delicious ‘Sticky Toffee’ Pecan-Date Cake. The restaurant’s signature items include the Maple-Glazed Duck Breast & Confit of Thigh served with a maple glaze and a succotash of butternut squash, corn, leeks and fava beans. Another signature item at the restaurant is the Char-Grilled Rack of Lamb served with herb risotto, sauteed mushrooms and kale with a porcini jus.
The service at bouchon is one of the highlights of the restaurant. My friends and I were welcomed with open arms by a host and we took one of the outdoor tables. Our waiter was also incredibly nice and friendly. For our first courses, my friends and I ordered the Trio of Sea Scallops and the Dungeness Crab Cakes. We asked our waiter if this will be enough food for the six of us and they recommended that we order another appetizer. At the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered a third appetizer called Forest Mushroom Ragout.
Our waiter also recommended a great wine pairing with our food, the Margerum ‘M5’, a local pinot noir wine from Santa Barbara. My friend ordered the wine since she wanted a glass of wine with her food and told me she really enjoyed the pinot noir and that the wine choice complemented the food very well. For our main dishes, we then decided to go with the signature duck breast and confit and another seasonal item, the Lobster “Pot Pie.”
The Trio of Sea Scallops consisted of scallops served in three different ways. The first scallop is a carpaccio, which is a thinly sliced raw scallop, served with cucumbers, orange and citrus segments with chopped red onions topped with watercress. The second scallop is a seared scallop served with sauteed fava beans and mushrooms. The third and final scallop is also a seared scallop served on a bed of paella-flavored risotto with chorizo and asparagus.
The Dungeness Crab Cakes were served on a bed of shaved fennel topped with a delicious citrus vinaigrette and frisée salad. The Forest Mushroom Ragout, consisting of sauteed mushrooms served with two small slices of grilled cheese, sat on a bed of pureed spinach. So simple, yet so good.
Our first courses made us excited for our main courses. The signature pan-seared duck breast was juicy and tender. The sweetness of the succotash compliments the savoriness of the duck perfectly with the maple glaze, providing a hint of sweetness and adding smokiness to the dish.
I then had their Lobster Pot Pie and was disappointed that I missed the pieces of lobster in the pot pie because my friends were able to get the pieces and I just didn’t get to that dish fast enough. I was still able to taste the mushroom velouté, and the side salad of arugula provided a nice freshness in my mouth, contrasting the piping hot pot pie. Adding the Madeira creme after cutting open the puff pastry on top of the pot pie made the velouté much more flavorful and creamier.
After delicious meals from the first courses and mains, I decided I wanted to try a dessert to get the full experience. Two of my other friends and I grabbed a creme brulee, a classic French dessert of cooked custard topped with caramelized sugar. “Creme brulee” translated into English means “burnt cream.”
Our creme brulee was also topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries, reminding me of my childhood and how my dad would make it at home. The custard was cooked perfectly and I got that crack when you put your spoon in the caramelized sugar. The fruits add a hint of acidity and freshness with the cooked custard and sugar. It was a perfectly balanced bite.
Overall, our experience at bouchon was amazing and this is indeed one of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants. This is the ideal restaurant to bring your date, family or friends to indulge a bit and enjoy a unique dining experience. All of the meals I ordered were delicious in their own way. For the price that you’re paying, it is definitely a worthwhile experience.
A version of this article appeared on page 14 of the April 14, 2022 version of the Daily Nexus.