By Frank Sabatini Jr.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Bleu Bohéme for unleashing your inner Francophile: the Rhone wines, the cassoulet d’escargots, the astute service, and a charming farmhouse atmosphere capturing a slice of rural France. Now, in pure romantic fashion, the Kensington restaurant offers a four-course “dinner for deux” at a flat price of $75 per couple. And we aren’t talking about small, finicky portions.
In high-priced San Diego, the Wednesday night offer is a standout. It includes either a bottle of Champagne, white Rhone, red Rhone, or a three-quarter liter of chardonnay or syrah — plus four shareable plates starting with a choice of salad. Add to the equation a dining room illuminated softly by melting stick candles, and you’ll charm the heck out of whomever you bring — if that’s your ulterior motive.
Hubby and I reveled in the experience, which contrasted our usual dinner outings fraught often by noise, cramped seating and other physical discomforts indicative of the modern restaurant scene. Here, we left feeling un-rushed, completely full, and noticeably juiced up from polishing off the nearly whole liter of wine, a well-structured syrah from Fallbrook Winery. (It’s been a long time since I lucked out with a Temecula vino.)
The special menu features just over a dozen plates from the regular dinner card. As a longtime fan of the place, I’m familiar with most of them, such as the “salade maison” with Dijon dressing.
The salad was split for us, with each portion providing adequate sustenance. Though simple, it’s a reliably gripping combo of velvety butter lettuce, green apples, almonds, diced beets, and blue cheese crumbles that melt on your tongue.
Our three other dishes were served family-style, including a charcuterie board that included garlic sausage, prosciutto, Spanish chorizo and luscious rabbit pate. The latter was as rich and poetically spiced as any pate lifted from the terrines of accomplished French chefs. In this case it’s chef-owner Ken Irvine, who bestows his French-Canadian roots and Culinary Institute of America schooling to the operation.
My only complaint about the charcuterie board centered on the pungent Dijon, which carried the ferocious strength of Chinese mustard. And as a devout fan of cornichons — those mildly sweet miniature pickles that no arrangement like this can do without — I was sad to see there was only one. It was hidden beneath a few olives and brined green beans.
I love my husband for many reasons, like for this touching instance when he also so badly wanted to pop down that lone, little pickle but instead kindheartedly pushed it toward me. It was a minor gesture romantically amplified by flickering candlelight and full glasses of wine.
Skipping over items such as black Mediterranean mussels with pommes frites; Parmesan gnocchi with summer squash; and crab croquettes with saffron aioli (my least favorite dish in past visits due to excessive salt and bread crumbs), we proceeded to two veggie-heavy winners.
A colorful medley of roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and house-smoked pork belly resonated terrifically to a light dressing of apple-balsamic vinegar. The flavors were both sweet and tart, and the textures were suitably varied.
Minced shiitake and oyster mushrooms encased in thin sheet pasta defined a plate of five ravioli, which appear often on the frequently updated dinner menu. The French do wonders with ravioli, no matter the filling. And these lightweight beauties, strewn with spinach and tomato relish, attested to that.
Given its recent debut, the “dinner for deux” menu will likely change to some degree based on what sells and what doesn’t. As a big fan of Irvine’s onion soup gratinée, flavored deeply with braised sweet onions and beef consommé, I vote to see that added.
Dessert isn’t included in the deal. I’m not a sweet tooth. But hubby is. So in exchange for letting me seize the cornichon, I chose for him mousse au chocolat, a trio of bite-size “cakes” featuring dark-chocolate mousse layered atop chocolate-crumb crust and accented with berries.
This was an uncomplicated and well-paced meal geared ideally for couples, close friends or even first dates preferring a nice dose of intimacy with their food and wine. For the price, it’s French dining at its most accessible.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of ‘Secret San Diego’ (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at