A La Bouffe on Toorak Rd, South Yarra is one of the many French restaurants around these parts of town. I was trying to pick a good one for a special occasion and was deciding between France Soir and A La Bouffe but saw a string of negative comments surrounding France Soir lately. Not particularly due to the food itself but the service being subpar. With A La Bouffe also offering a Lunch Specials menu where you can order two courses (a pick of Entrees, Mains and Desserts) for $27 or $35 with a glass of wine and coffee it seemed too good to pass up.
A La Bouffe is a small, stylish restaurant that feels cosy yet sophisticated. Their menu is extensive and although the lunch specials menu opts for a smaller selection from their menu, it offers a diverse range of meals to cater to all.
Feeling a bit lucky we ordered the Soup Of The Day (Soupe Du Jour), on the Sunday that we dined on they served an Asparagus Soup. Creamy, but more so subtle taste of asparagus that lingers on the tongue. A pleasant soup, and with a sprinkling of black pepper it makes it pop. The asparagus pieces still have some bite to them which adds texture. Some may prefer it to have a bit more salt seasoning on it, but I find that sometimes withholding salt makes for a very nice starter.
The Huîtres de Coffin Bay aka 3 Natural Oysters from Coffin Bay was fresh, and tasted like the sea. What appears to be a vinaigrette of some sort or a balsamic vinegar in the little cup isn’t something I’ve tried with oysters before. Interesting taste with it but probably wouldn’t do that again.
The Saumon De Tasmanie or otherwise known as Oven Baked Salmon with Crispy Potatoes & Pesto Vinaigrette was a lovely main course. I adore Pesto, it’s a fantastic marinade, flavouring, sauce etc because it’s just so fresh and having it with salmon always goes down a treat. The slight downside to the dish was I found the salmon to be a bit overdone, it was cooked all the way through. I definitely prefer my salmon to be a bit undercooked so the inside can slowly cook whilst you’re eating and then it won’t taste as dry. On the bright side, the salmon skin was extra crispy which was lovely. A fresh dish that was unfortunately let down by the salmon.
A La Bouffe’s Hachis Parmentier (French Sheppard Pie) comes out straight from the oven, steaming hot with a side of salad. I couldn’t quite tell what’s the difference from an English Sheppard’s Pie or any other countries version. The fluffiness of the mash potatoes was certainly the highlight, along with the cheesy top. The mince meat deep inside was flavourful, maybe a tad under salted (a bit of pepper would be great too). Very filling I must say.
The waiter recommended the Poulet Basquaise which is basically chicken cooked in a tomato, capsicum and garlic sauce served with a side of pesto mash. The tomato based soup was fantastic, packed full of flavour that worked so well with the chicken. I could really have that sauce on anything it was so good. Again, unfortunately it has a big downside, the chicken was definitely overcooked. I know sometimes restaurants like to be safer than sorry and especially with poultry but I don’t remember a time when I’ve ordered a piece of chicken that had been so dry. Luckily they were generous with the sauce as it was definitely needed to complement the chicken but it really shouldn’t happen in a place like this.
The pesto mash was stunning. Creamy, buttery and that pesto flavour just exploding in your mouth. A mash that I would like to find a recipe of because it was cooked to perfection.
For dessert we ordered the Crème Brûlée A L’orange & Cointreau. Translation, Crème Brûlée with orange and Cointreau that is torched on your table for that extra effect. For $15, it’s asking for a lot but it feels worth its price. The custard base is so silky smooth and creamy with the hint of orange flavour and the nice crunchy sugar topping gives it a nice crunch. One of the best Crème Brûlée’s I’ve tried but that’s not really saying much as I haven’t ordered that many before!
A La Bouffe’s dishes are tasty and might be worth it’s price for the lunch specials. Points are knocked off for the overcooked salmon and chicken. I could overlook one overcooked dish but two were definitely way over which was a bit disappointing. I’d like to say we dined on an off day as many diners have had better experiences that we have had but I really don’t know. The flavours of the dishes are highlights for me. Would I dine again? It’s a maybe for now.