EARLY BIRD: Bouchon Beverly Hills

Restaurant Critic

Ladies who lunch: On your marks! Bouchon Beverly Hills just opened for lunch. The lighting is oh so flattering. The setting glamorous. And the food? Let’s just say Beverly Hills has never experienced French bistro food so impeccably executed. Thomas Keller, the force behind the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York, doesn’t fool around.

Like the original Bouchon in Yountville and the one in Las Vegas, the Beverly Hills location was designed by Adam Tihany and captures the essence of a bistro -- yards of shiny brass, graceful potted palms, servers in long white aprons -- without attempting to be an exact copy.

The entrance is grand, up a staircase to the second floor dining room, past an enormous curved zinc bar already populated by regulars sipping Champagne and slurping oysters.

The menu printed on a big sheet of waxy brown paper and folded neatly at each place begins with fruits de mer and caviar. For anyone with a weakness for chilled seafood platters, start saving now. Or maybe you want to save up your dollars for the terrine de foie gras. Other hors d’oeuvres, though, won’t necessarily empty your wallet. Most are under $15 for dishes such as crispy beignets of salt cod brandade scattered with fried sage leaves or pork rillettes.

Of course, Keller has got salads too, chilled leeks with eggs mimosa, frisée au lardons or a simple bibb lettuce salad showered with herbs.

The kitchen turns out Keller’s take on classics such as grandmother’s chicken (roasted, with a full complement of fingerling potatoes, button mushrooms, lardons and pearl onions in a winter savory jus), roasted leg of lamb with pommes boulangère or sumptuous braised beef short ribs with caramelized Savoy cabbage.

Desserts are just as familiar and comforting: an elegant version of floating island, profiteroles and crème caramel -- and one night recently, the definitive crème brûlée.

Ladies, break out your Chanel.

I can picture Coco sitting at the corner table drinking something very, very good.

Bouchon Beverly Hills Where: 235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills When: Open daily for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Price: Raw bar, fruits de mer and caviar, $7 to $135; salads, $10.50 to $13.50; hors d’oeuvres, $6.50 to $48.50; main dishes, $18.95 to $36.50; sides, $7 to $7.50; cheeses, $9.75 to $15.25; desserts, $5.50 to $9.50. Contact: (310) 271-9910; Reservations advised.