Bouchon – Time Warner Center (And our adventure in getting a French Laundry reservation!)

30 Apr

We were on a shopping adventure this past weekend and it took us to The Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. (For you non-natives, The Time Warner Center is right on the Southwest corner of Central Park, on 59th Street at the convergence of 8th Ave/Central Park West and Broadway. It is filled with mostly higher end stores and the entire basement is occupied by a Whole Foods).  There are a number of amazing restaurants there, including A Voce, Landmarc, and one of the top 3 on our Bucket List, Per Se.  (The other two on top are The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Alinea in Chicago… funny enough, both The French Laundry and Per Se are from Chef Thomas Keller, and Alinea is from Chef Grant Achatz, who worked for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry… and who also wrote the amazing book, Life, On The Line about his struggle with tongue cancer, but somehow as intriguing, his desire to push the food world into the future).

Now a funny sequence of events… we had spent the previous 2 days dialing and redialing The French Laundry with the hope of securing a reservation for our honeymoon. Yes, our honeymoon 2 months from now. But the rule of The French Laundry is that you can only get a reservation by calling 2 months prior to the date you want, on the date (so on the 28th of April for the 28th of June).  We will be in the area for three days on our honeymoon (June 26-28) and we had spent our lunches for the past 2 days dialing in vain.   On the 26th they told us that they have a private party on June 26th so no reservations were available, on the 27th we got in after an hour of dialing, but all the reservations were gone (so we went on the wait list). With the 28th being our last shot, we pulled out all the stops. We booked a hotel in the area and then called to speak with the hotel concierge… of which there was none but there was a man there who offered to help us… by Googling The French Laundry for us (um… no).  We called our credit card concierges and I convinced my Chase Sapphire Preferred to call on our behalf the following day. I even contacted a few well connected friends to see if they happened to have Thomas Keller in their rolodex.  (Alas, no).

So on this day that we set off on our shopping adventure, I suggested we grab a bite to eat and a coffee at Bouchon, which is right in the Time Warner Center.  We realized that we would have to make it a quick one so we could start calling The French Laundry at 12:45 (15 minutes before they officially open their lines at 1pm EST/10am PST… we were hopeful that our starting early would earn us some points in the… um… phone universe?)

Bouchon has a to-go window, but we decided to sit in their cafe and hoped to have a quick pastry and coffee. We sat down and realized that they actually served a full breakfast menu (yet no pastries… hmmm), so rather than croissants and coffee, we wound up with breakfast cocktails and full meals, plus the coffee.

And just a few minutes after sitting down it dawned on me… Bouchon is part of the Thomas Keller empire. On the day revolving around getting a reservation at the very restaurant that made this chef famous, we sat down at his casual cafe.  Hopefully that would be a good omen.

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Mike got a cobb salad, which was filled with incredibly fresh ingredients.  It was a very good cobb salad and the bacon was especially delectable.

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I got the Quiche of the Day, which was a Florentine (spinach and gruyere) and a side salad. The salad greens were very nicely dressed. The quiche was very good and was pretty soft (which I happen to like) with a nice crust. Best quiche I’ve ever had? No… but certainly very tasty and a nice, satiating meal to start our full day of walking all over the Upper West Side. (And to get us fueled up for aggressive phone dialing!)

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As our meal wrapped up and we got the bill, my alarm went off alerting us that it was 12:45. Time to start calling.

We browsed through the Time Warner Center for the next 15 minutes before getting “serious” and finding a bench in Central Park to focus on dialing and redialing.

When it was around 20 after one, I noticed I had received a voice message in between all my dialing.  I switched over (concerned about losing precious redialing seconds) and found it was my Visa concierge… calling to tell me that they hadn’t gotten the reservation but they could put me on the wait list if I wanted.

I was defeated. If Visa had called me, surely they had gotten through and found all the reservations gone. (Though why they wouldn’t automatically put me on the wait list I didn’t understand… just add my name to the list and call back to remove it later if I don’t want it… come on now).  I continued to dial and redial, deciding that I would eventually get through and put my name on that wait list.  Mike continued to furiously call as well… but we were disheartened.

Then 5 minutes later, I got the recording… the magic recording that is only slightly better than a busy signal… It says something about the reservations being open 2 months to the day prior and blah blah blah… Press 3 for a reservationist. So you press 3 and you wait… and wait… and wait… hearing a lovely recording telling you that all reservationists are busy but they will be with you soon… and you wait… and you pray. And you hope that when they pick up that they will not tell you that all reservations are totally gone (like the day before) or that they were closed for a private event (like 2 days before).

After a solid 5 minutes, the reservationist picked up and asks how she could help me. I refrained from screaming that we had been hearing busy signals for 45 minutes (plus all the busy signals and disappointment of the prior 2 days) and we now just needed to know ARE THERE ANY RESERVATIONS LEFT?!?!  So she goes through the whole dog and pony…

“What date are you interested in?”

“June 28th” (why else would I be calling with such fury on April 28th?)

“How many in your party?”

“Two” (but I will beg and/or pay and/or force people to join us if all you have left is a 4-top!)

“Well…”

(You’re killing me lady!!!)

“We don’t have anything left for dinner…”

(She said dinner… but she didn’t say lunch… tell me about lunch dammit… TELL ME ABOUT LUNCH!)

“But…”

(SHE SAID BUT!)

“We only have 11am for lunch that day. Is that okay?”

(WELL OF COURSE THAT’S OKAY! I’d take 3am if you had it!)

“Yes. That would be great.”

So there you have it… after the most epic reservation system (well… maybe Momofuku Ko was close, but that didn’t feel so dire since we live in NYC, so we weren’t under a time crunch of having to secure the reservation during the only three days we would be in town), we GOT IN!  I actually screamed and jumped up and down in Central Park after we hung up the phone.

Though I must say, Visa Concierge… your lack of tenacity has been NOTED. (But pretty awesome they would devote someone to dialing and redialing for us!)

We’ll have to tell you more about it when we return from 2 weeks of eating and drinking our faces off as we road trip from Seattle through Portland and California Wine Country (specifically Russian River Valley since we love their wines so much) at the end of June…

 

Oh right… I was writing about Bouchon!

So Bouchon is a great place to stop for a bite if you’re in the area or finding yourself famished in Columbus Circle. I think it’s a really lovely place for tourists to stop during a day of shopping and Central Park hopping.  We were in and out within 45 minutes and our meal was very satisfying.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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2 Responses to “Bouchon – Time Warner Center (And our adventure in getting a French Laundry reservation!)”

  1. marja samsom May 2, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    love reading bout your eating adventures,
    particularly since I’m a chef
    this way I get a peak into what you as a diner
    enjoy..look forward to..

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    […] will recall it was quite the adventure trying to get the reservation, but I was so excited to be able to cross my first Big 3 off the Restaurant Bucket List (the other […]

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