Bar None

Bouchon goes casual with its new wine bar

Since its November opening, a reservation for Thomas Keller's Beverly Hills Bouchon Bistro is still elusive. That's why the new (and separate) Bar Bouchon couldn't come at a better time.

The ground-floor bar has only about 15 seats, with tables outside along the small park. It's definitely a drop-in-anytime kind of place, albeit one with the Keller stamp all over it. And unlike the restaurant, it stays open between lunch and dinner.

This isn't just an extension of the main dining room: Save for a few items, most dishes are exclusive to the bar. There's earthy chicken liver mousse ($13) and bowls of pretty little pickled vegetables ($6). Butter-soaked escargot ($16), each crowned with an individual pastry puff, are some of the best in town.

As for the oeuf en meurette (pictured, $12.50), we'll take that perfectly poached hen egg and its pool of dark, bordelaise-soaked du Puy lentils over "regular" bar food any day.

To drink, there are expertly made classic cocktails, and wines by the glass or carafe. Keller even does beer: The White Apron ($6), a crisp, pilsner-style beer, is custom-made for Keller by Russian River Brewing Co., and the dark, Belgian-style Blue Apron Ale ($24) was previously only found at Per Se.

Bouchon Bar, 235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-271-9910 or bouchonbistro.com