Bouchon Bistro Francais
49 Elgin Street, SoHo
Tel: 2525 9300
Open: noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm
Cuisine: French bistro food
Price: about HK$300 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: the cosy, low-lit eatery (right) is the very picture of a Parisian bistro, with dark wood moulding, brass furnishings, antique-look ceiling fans and vintage plaques and posters. Outdoor seating is in the small courtyard area at the back of the space, conjoined with next door's Soho Spice, Bouchon's sister restaurant in the Dining Concepts group.
Pros: the decor and classic bistro menu do much to transport diners onto an idyllic Parisian side street, as does the French accent of the maaire d'. My guest and I were surrounded with tables of French diners.
Cons: service was friendly and accommodating, but as things got busier, the time between courses stretched a little too much, and empty glasses and used plates idled on our small tabletop. The relaxed atmosphere also gave way to more bustling and the occasional sound of falling plates coming from the food service window.
Recommended dishes: the food in general was simple but almost faultless. We ordered a generously portioned pot of duck rillettes (HK$95) to share. The shreds of duck were tender, not as gamey as expected, and had the right texture to spread easily on the accompanying crostini. The Perigordine salad (HK$98, below) - again featuring duck parts - was topped with morsels of gizzard, smoked duck breast slices and a piece of foie gras, which made it quite heavy as a salad, but it was enjoyable, although the vinaigrette could have been a little sharper, to cut some of the fat from the foie gras. Listed as a Bouchon speciality, the steak tartare (HK$168, below right) had a lovely red hue and correspondingly fresh raw beef flavour. It was topped with a raw egg yolk, which we were told came from the US, and none of the other usual garnishes such as chopped onion and capers, as those were already incorporated into the beef.
What else? Bouchon offers a two-course lunch set for HK$108, excluding dessert and drinks. The current menu features a lot of butter-based sauces - for escargot and frog legs - and heavy mains such as roasted marrow and meats, and braised beef cheek, which may prove too rich for Hong Kong summer dining. However, a lighter menu is expected soon.