We were only going to be in Santa Barbara for one night and we wanted to enjoy a very special dinner (it was my birthday). Online reviews led us to believe that Bouchon was "the best" in Santa Barbara. Wow, were we disappointed!
There's nothing special about Bouchon's location, decor, service, or food. Ordinary retail space painted peach, with only uncomfortable wooden chairs for seating -- no booths. So called "garden patio" is a cramped space only a few feet from a busy side street, and a view of Vons across the street. Nothing "upscale" about it.
Service was exceptionally slow -- well over an hour for our entrees on a quiet Tuesday night.
The food was the biggest disappointment. The NY steak was tough, salmon overcooked, rejected, then redeliverd to our table seared outside, raw inside. Inedible, and rejected again. The lamb left a bad taste in the mouth that lasted for hours.
We're easy going folks, but we all agreed that Bouchon was a total disaster and the worst dining experience we've ever had.
We just ate at Bouchon for our big 25 year wedding anniversary. The food was outstanding - I had a fantastically prepared rack of lamb and my wife had the ahi. Both were delightful, and the sides that came with the dishes were "integrated" into the entree, not just stuff that comes with the dinner. Portion size was a bit on the smaller size (lamb was enough, ahi was not) and we split a salad, which came out on a riduculously small portion. I mean so small you almost had to laugh. Hey, it's $8 or so for a salad so you would have thought it would be normal size, not "trendy small" size. How small was it? You could almost count the number of leaves of spring mix (uh huh, the same stuff you could have bought at the grocery store for $3 a big bag). I gulped it down in about 3 bites. However, and I want to stress this, the lamb was outstanding and the ahi, while not enough, was also fantastic. As for service, we let them know it was our 25th anniversary so expected a bit of special attention. We were pleased when the manager acknowledged the big day, but perhaps he forgot to tell the waitress who was, while professional, not what I would call attentive. When dinner was over, we expected to have them bring out a complementary dessert or something, but there was nothing. A big table then showed up and we never saw our waitress again. We did, however, see a big rat over us in the tree above our table! I would go back, but would not pick it for a top occasion as they just didn't seem to go that extra step to acknowledge that out of all the restaurants in Santa Barbara to celebrate a special day at, we picked theirs.
My friend and I sat at a table outdoors underneath the heat lamp. The service was excellent and the server gave us great tips about wine pairings that would work with the various courses we ordered. One of the whites was perhaps the best Chardonney I'd ever had vinted in the USA. The food was quite good, too.
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