Thomas Keller to open Bouchon bistro in Beverly Hills

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Southern California food lovers wanting a taste of chef Thomas Keller’s food will no longer have to travel to Las Vegas, New York or the Napa Valley. The city of Beverly Hills gave final approval Tuesday night on a deal that will bring a local restaurant from the only American chef with two 3-star establishments.

An earlier version of this article misspelled chef Rory Herrmann’s last name as Herman.

Keller will be opening one of his casual-dining Bouchon bistros in Beverly Hills by fall 2009, if all goes according to schedule.

The restaurant will be in the city of Beverly Hills’ Garden Building between Beverly and Canon drives, just north of Wilshire and next to the new Montage hotel.


The restaurant will be a joint venture between the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and the city of Beverly Hills, which owns the building in which the restaurant will be located. The final lease was approved Tuesday night at a meeting of the Beverly Hills Special Parking Authority.

The restaurant will occupy more than 11,000 square feet spread over two stories, and will include a full-service Bouchon restaurant and an accompanying Bouchon Bakery. It will be designed by Adam Tihany.

The chef at the new Bouchon will be Rory Herrmann, currently chef at the private dining room of Keller’s Per Se in New York City. He will be working under the direction of Jeffrey Cerciello, who oversees all of Keller’s casual dining restaurants.

The new Bouchon will combine what seem to be two of the biggest trends in Southern California restaurants these days. The first is classic French bistros and brasseries run by well-known chefs, such as Alain Giraud’s Anisette in Santa Monica and David Myer’s Comme Ça in West Hollywood.

It also furthers the trend of nationally prominent chefs opening local outposts, such as Tom Colicchio’s Craft in Century City, Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak in West Hollywood and Mario Batali’s Mozza on Melrose.

Keller is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest chefs in America. He is certainly the only one with two restaurants with 3-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide (he is equaled only by French chef Alain Ducasse).

Keller made his first great success with the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., which opened in 1994. It quickly became a sensation with his inventive multi-course menus of perfectly wrought small dishes. He followed that with Per Se in Manhattan in 2004, offering similar fare.

The Bouchon restaurants -- there are two, one in Yountville a few blocks from the French Laundry, and another in Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel, as well as a Bouchon Bakery downstairs from Per Se in New York -- offer Keller’s interpretations of classic French bistro fare. (He also has another Yountville restaurant called Ad Hoc that offers classic American dishes in a family dining setting.)

Dishes at Bouchon include such classics as roast chicken, steak frites and quiche. Entrees on the menus at Las Vegas and Yountville average around $28.

But Keller wants to make clear that his idea of a bistro involves much more than menu economics.

“The word ‘bistro’ in our vocabulary has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, so it means more of a price point than a classical type of French restaurant,” he says. “We have American bistros, Italian bistros, there’s even Chinese bistros . . . . It’s ridiculous.

“Bouchon hearkens back to a definition that has not been changed by modern culture. I believe that a bistro has parameters, and I want our food to have integrity and a connection with French bistro history. We’re not being interpretive here; we’re not making crème caramel flavored with lavender.

“But we are modern in the sense that we’re refining and enhancing the flavors of classical dishes through sourcing the best products and using the best equipment and technique, even if it’s just for roast chicken.”