The place was totally charming; quaint, serene (on a Saturday afternoon), and clean. The dining area was not large, there were only seven tables, but neither did it feel cramped. The owner sat contentedly at the bar while some lovely Thai women, some of them wait staff, and one with a child, lingered toward the front in quiet conversation. The menu, scribbled on a blackboard was not entirely convenient but charming nonetheless. We studied it for about ten minutes before ordering.
Subsequently, I did a bit of ‘after-the-fact’ research and found that critics refer to Le Bouchon as ‘Bangkok’s most authentic French bistro,’ and the top regular dining spot for most local Gauls’.
The blackboard menu, I’m told, never changes; it displays a number of classic French dishes. Begin with warm a goat cheese salad comprising three aromatic chunks melted on grilled French bread set atop plentiful lettuce doused in vinegar and oil. Foie gras ravioli with port wine is a tender and melt-in-the-mouth sensation, and the perfect appetizer to stimulate the palate. Main courses at le Bouchon are surprisingly generous. A real treat, frog legs is fried in garlic and served with potatoes and sauteed vegetables, while lamb shank is a large cut of flavorful meat cooked to juicy perfection, topped with white bean sauce and surrounded by roasted potatoes and vegetables. There is a tempting range of traditional desserts that includes creme brulee covered with a very crispy layer of caramel over a rather fluffy vanilla-flavored custard. Mousse au chocolate is sinfully rich and served in a bowl made of edible waffle.
It has become conventional wisdom to love Le Bouchon, which according to another respected critic, is now a Bangkok institution. The restaurant has served mainly Lyonnnaise food to discriminating patrons for over ten years. And it’s unlikely success is due, in part to its questionable location in the heart of Patpong, one of Bangkok’s most well-known red-light districts. The combination of well prepared, down-to-earth French fare combined with the quintessential, sensual Bangkok vibe evokes a charm that few other restaurants can really manage to equal. The narrow, dimly lit dining room typically populated by French-speaking customers and conjures an oasis amid a bit of chaos; the hand-written blackboard menu featuring “specials” that never change signals some sort of old-world attitude. And the charming and attractive all-female wait staff reminds diners that they are really still in Bangkok.
My experience at Le Bouchon was decidedly pleasant; made even more-so by my friend’s inclination to pay for my enjoyable meal. If Le Bouchon is to be the venue, I’m looking forward to returning the favor!
37/17 Patpong Soi 2, Surawongse Rd, Bangkok 10500