Formerly known as Thee Bungalow, BO-beau kitchen + bar has immersed the bohemian neighborhood of Ocean Beach with its attentiveness to French fare yet again. As the most recent addition to the Cohn Restaurant group, BO-beau sweeps diners away with a French menu that has been reconstructed with a more European and Mediterranean fusion in comparison to the more conventional Thee Bungalow. Since December of 2010, BO-beau has proven to be a distinctive dining experience with a menu that embraces the seasonal facets of California ingredients while proving that conventional and contemporary cuisine can coincide amicably with one another.
The doors of BO-beau are open daily for dinner, bringing different crowds of people to unite for the sake of eclectic food in an informal and enriching atmosphere. Although standard dining rooms are featured in the restaurant, the bar is a popular option allowing patrons to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while indulging in small plates of tasty appetizers. As Executive Chef, Katherine Humphus possesses a pure mind for pioneering French-fusion dishes that reflect her true admiration for the inventive merging of ingredients to create a menu of inspired dishes. The menu moves freely from sundry appetizer options such as the Charcuterie Board to more staple French entrees such as the Steak Frites or Escargots with Garlic Butter.
BO-beau’s bar boasts a selection of French-inspired cocktails that are just as quirky and delightfully eccentric as its dining menu options. Although the wine menu is extremely extensive, cocktails such as the Le Romantique (made with Belvedere black raspberry vodka, pomegranate-rose petal nectar, champagne, and a rose petal) are popular options. For an original cocktail that commemorates liberation and freedom (historically and literally speaking), the Treaty of Paris cannot be overlooked, mixing Beefeater gin, eucamint sour, and smashed green grapes.
Upon arriving at BO-beau with my guests and making my way through the corridor, I sense the strong rustic feel from the hallway before even opening the door to the restaurant. To my right, a large wooden panel is placed with open drawers that hold compartments of rolled up scarves and bushels of herbs and greenery. As I open the door, I am attracted to the bar, as it is essentially the centerpiece of the restaurant. I am immediately immersed by the enchanting magic that is BO-beau and enter a realm of space that begs me to momentarily forget that after all, I still am in Ocean Beach. I notice that a built-in wine case is to the left of the bar, with dark wooden bins that hold bottles of wine in lieu of the standard wine cellar. A dining room is located to the left and right of me, and an intimate outdoor patio with an open-pit fireplace is to the side of the restaurant, directly across from the bar. Above the bar, I see a beautiful script of French words, “Je t’aimais, Je t’taime et Je t’aime,” which I later learn translates to, “I loved you, I love you, and I will always love you.”
The restaurant embraces pastoral tones with deep browns that are accented by lit candles and the natural light that gently pours through the windows. After being shown to our table by our hostess, we are seated in a dining room that has high, wooden ceilings with stonewalls of beige and nude. The light colors from the stone heighten the hues of honey brown from the wood ceilings even more. The lighting in this room hangs from a circular holster that is complete with a circle of lit candles. As I look above the entrance to the kitchen, I see that old barrels are placed with decorative letters spelling “beau” placed directly before it. Antique farm tools are hung on various walls of the restaurant’s rooms, giving BO-beau a very antique, French farmhouse appeal.
Our server Eric greets us at our table with menus in hand and I feel at ease by his jovial and buoyant personality. After giving my guests and me ample time to browse the menu, I find his knowledge and vivid description of the menu to be above reproach. Aside from just suggesting certain dishes to try, Eric’s passion of the menu and understanding of Chef Katherine’s culinary vision and technique is always articulated in precise detail, which I find to be exceptionally commendable.
I look to the wine menu first, where I see that arrays of wines are served by the glass or bottle within very clever categories. A heavy concentration of Californian, French, Italian, and South American regions are represented in the many ranges of sparkling, red, and white wines on the menu. The featured wines that are offered by the glass are even distinguished in four, self-explanatory categories: cheap, decent, good, and very good. This categorization simultaneously states its taste and price by bundling a selection of wine in the same price bracket regardless of glass or bottle. More traditional wines are represented in their respected class, Les Vins Traditionnels, and as expected, the newer under La Nouvelle Generation.
After looking over the dinner menu, I find it to be very versatile in the sense that diners can very easily order a selection of appetizers to share for a pleasing meal, or can come with the intent of participating in a more traditional dinner course. The menu embraces the expected French classics, but also sheds light on more contemporary dishes that still hold their own in refinement and poise. The Moules and Frites (Mussels and Fries) section of the menu really encompasses the BO-beau vision of dismissing the more conservative layers of French fare and allowing delicate ingredients to be to be complemented by something far more simplistic, such as a side of French Fries. The same concept is also emulated in the bistro Burger Royale with Cheese, a contemporary burger that is topped with Gruyere cheese and green peppercorn aioli.
Our dining excursion begins with BO-beau’s most ordered appetizer, Crispy Brussels Sprouts that are served with pancetta, Parmesan and a port-balsamic reduction. The presentation is artfully mischievous as the Brussels sprouts are served in a small glass jar that essentially overflow, causing them to cover the entire plank of the elongated wooden carving board that they are served on. The port-balsamic reduction is carefully drizzled over the Brussels sprouts and pancetta, adding a dark contrast to the vibrant green bushels of leafy vegetables. The final layer of the dish is complete with segments of shaved Parmesan cheese pieces. The Brussels sprouts are flash fried so they are moderately warm upon first taste with an unexpected and enjoyable crunch. The subtle pieces of pancetta add a restrained saltiness that is elevated by the scrumptious port-balsamic reduction. The surprising tastes of fresh Parmesan offer a refreshing finesse of sweetness that makes this dish a well executed harmony of sweet and savory.
While still enjoying our first appetizer, Executive Chef Katherine Humphus appears at our table with a lustrous smile planted on her face. With ease, she takes a seat at our table and charms us with her witty personality and bursting sense of humor. Her executive title may be intimidating, but her endearing and down to earth personality is quite the contrary. During our conversation with her it is clear that her vision is deeply stimulated by the union of unusual ingredients to create impressionable and memorable dishes that most would not anticipate. Her culinary philosophy yearns to prove that ingredients that taste heavenly on their own should deem to be a marriage of celestial indulgence together.
Remembering Chef Katherine’s philosophy of cooking with ingredients, I see Chef Katherine’s pattern in our next appetizer, Roasted Beets Flat Bread with goat cheese, curry onion jam, crushed red peppers, and jalapenos, that is meant to be served and shared family style. The aroma of this dish cannot be ignored as the scent dares to be nothing short of tempting—and the taste even more tantalizing. The flat bread is prepared in a wood stone oven, giving the bread a pleasant crunch and the goat cheese the expected warm yellow in its melted state. It boasts an animated display of colors; the deep reds are decorated courtesy of the beets and then hints of bright green strike your sight from the various slices of jalapenos. From my first taste I find it to be extremely appetizing, first showing off its sweetness due to the layers of onions that are caramelized with the potent hints of curry. The goat cheese is firm and tangy and works as a faint backdrop in comparison to the bold curry spices. The fresh jalapeno slices leave your senses tickled but become soothed by the mild goat cheese and smooth beets that together work as a moderator to the assorted counterparts with their vibrant spiciness and rolls of flavor.
BO-beau has a wonderful focus of mussel dishes that can be served as either an appetizer or entree item. We are delighted to be served the Moules Au Curry Rouge, literally translating to mussels in a red curry broth. The large white bowl is placed in the center of the table with a generous amount of steaming Prince Edward Island mussels. The deep orange of the curry broth bathes the dark mussels, creating a striking contrast from the animated and profound orange to the deep black of the mussels. The aroma of the red curry broth is intoxicating and I notice how the broth gently pours into each open mussel, further marinating the fleshy mussel meat that just begs to be consumed. A piece of ciabatta is absolutely necessary when eating this dish as the red curry broth soaks the bread while in tandem painting it a lively shade of orange-red. After picking out a tender piece of mussel meat I find that the texture heavily resembles that of a meaty mushroom but it still manages to stay true to its ethereal ocean taste. The flavor of the red curry bursts in every bite and the exotic taste of the curry is a seamless match for the steamed mussels.
After our mussels’ appetizer, we are then served the Housemade Fettuccini. The leg meat of the duck is used in this pasta, along with roasted mushrooms and house-made fettuccini that is tossed together in a Parmesan reduction. Our pasta is served on a thin, rectangular white dish that seems to make the more neutral colors of this pasta dish glisten. I am particularly excited to try this dish as it is my first time eating duck; so needless to say, I immediately fork a piece of duck to taste. Upon putting this succulent piece of meat in my mouth I feel as if I couldn’t have asked for a more gratifying and proper introduction. The duck has a very pronounced flavor that exceeds my expectations due to the essence of its savory and slightly gamy taste. After tasting the fettuccini noodles, I silently swear to myself to never purchase store-bought noodles ever again as the quality and tenderness of this homemade pasta cannot be surpassed. The fettuccini is wonderfully sleek and smooth and although the Parmesan reduction lightly coats the fresh pasta, its presence is distinctively noted. The roasted mushrooms bring a fuller texture to the dish that is a clever addition to further define this immaculate pasta dish.
We could not complete our BO-beau experience without trying the prominent Boeuf Bourguignon with baby carrots, pancetta, mushrooms, pearl onions, and fingerling potatoes so we are happy to end our dinner experience with a French classic. When the large bowl is placed before me I am drawn to the arrangement, as it is reminiscent of a customary comfort food. The stew is intensely deep and this dish does not lack in its abundance of fingerling potatoes, carrots, pearl onions and undoubtedly, the tender pieces of beef short ribs. Eric reminds us that this dish is branded from the enigmatic Julia Child who made and still continues to make this dish a renowned favorite. Boeuf Bourguignon is a particularly complex dish as its preparation takes many hours to properly braise the beef in red wine and in BO-beau’s case, a veal stock bordelaise. A plethora of enticing smells hit my senses; first the rich stew of the broth and then the fragrant pearl onions. After spooning an ample amount, I find that the short ribs are delicately tender as they gently fall apart before melting in my mouth. The broth is decadently rich in flavor and it is clear that the lingering tastes from the braised beef define this broth. Although the technique of this dish is more complex, the cast of ingredients complements one another in a simplistic manner that makes this traditional French classic a rewarding and savored experience.
No meal is complete without dessert, but a trinity of desserts is even more sinfully splendid. We are beside ourselves after our Menage a Trois is placed on our table; it consists of White Chocolate Bread Pudding, Chocolate Pot de Crème, and Chocolate Ganache with Peanut Brittle. I find it nearly impossible to decide on the dessert that I should sample first, but I find myself dipping my spoon into the glass bowl of the Chocolate Pot de Crème. An orange segment completes this dessert that I initially maneuver around in order to collect a hefty spoonful. The consistency is almost that of custard, but once I taste it I am engulfed by the silky-smooth texture. The hints of orange in the chocolate add a much-appreciated fruitful zone to sumptuousness of the chocolate.
The White Chocolate Bread pudding is placed in the center of the platter, so moving in consecutive order, I taste this dessert next. A puddle of white chocolate glaze surrounds the outer layer of this mouth-watering treat and is topped with a fresh strawberry. The top layer of the bread pudding is browned from the crumbles of bread that are sitting in the custard, which gives a wonderful crunch on my first bite. The soft chunks of bread are warm and pleasantly sweet and as I move to the bottom layer, the smooth custard highlights the pronounced and irresistible levels of the warm white chocolate glaze.
The Menage a Trois is complete with the last duo of succulent tasty treats, Chocolate Ganache and Peanut Brittle. The ganache is placed atop the brittle, in two thick-layered bars. I break a piece of the brittle apart and smudge a fine layer of the ganache atop. Once I take my first bite I am met by the buttery finish of the brittle that is embedded with wholesome and crunchy peanuts. Without question, the velvet texture of the ganache is a refreshing finish to the creamy brittle with its silky and rich finishing touch.
After dessert, my guests and I enjoy cups of after dinner coffee while reflecting on our inimitable dining experience. I look around the restaurant and see the groups of people that have filled the restaurant since our arrival; I promptly notice that BO-beau is a full house. I observe the constant hustle from servers as they effortlessly bring out entrees of dishes I recognized from my dinner, and others that I am eager to be introduced to upon my next visit. I notice that Chef Katherine is happily checking in with the occupied tables of diners and I infer from their smiles and friendly exchange that they too are smitten by Chef Katherine’s successful execution of an exclusive and eccentric dining experience.
As I make my way to exit the restaurant, reality makes its way back to me and I am forced to acknowledge that my French escapade has officially ceased. I take one last look at the same French script that intrigued me upon my entrance, and I couldn’t feel more connected to those sentiments after enjoying an enchanting evening here at BO-beau. By a quick glance at happy guests and the sounds of cheerful banter, I am confident that I’m not the only one that feels the captivating affection that is effortlessly captured within the space of these walls.
Insider Tip: BO-beau is open daily for dinner, but reservations are not accepted. However, calls ahead to the host/hostess are encouraged in order to be placed on a waiting list. Also, nightly specials are prepared every Sunday-Thursday, such as the popular “Cheap Date Night for Two,” which includes a dinner for two with a wine pairing for just $39. More detailed information about BO-beau’s nightly “Les Speciaux” is posted on their website.