We don't normally travel down to the peninsula, but made an exception to dine at Bon Vivant, a well-known restaurant in Palo Alto since 2010. They recently released their new seasonal menu and we were invited as guests of the house for dinner.
The options on the menu consists of traditional French recipes with modern twists that are plated beautifully. There are several new dishes that have been added, such as Tartare de Filet de Boeuf (beef tartar with duck egg and truffle fries), Pâté de Canard (duck liver pâté with Coteaux du Layon jelly, figs stuffed with Roquefort and toasted brioche), and Faisan (young peasant marinated in Armagnac with black truffle butter, caramelized apples and Royal Trumpet mushrooms). When possible, locally sourced and organic seasonal ingredients are used.
the Decor & Live Entertainment
Decor highlights of the 60-seat dining room include a chic charcoal and olive green color scheme with orange accents and nineteenth century Casbah crystal chandeliers imported from France. There's also a community table and sidewalk seating, weather permitting. A live pianist performs weekly, often on Saturday nights.
The Food Review
Chestnut Soup (amuse bouche)
The chestnut soup was one of my favorite parts of the meal. It was nutty, earthy, aromatic, and creamy. I could have easily consumed a large bowl to myself. The texture is smooth and lingers nicely in your mouth.
Gougeres (amuse bouche)
The gougeres were delicious. They were light and airy with a delicate cheesy and eggy taste. They serve this to you at room temp, but I would have preferred it served warm.
Salade Frisée $11
I love a good frisee salad and this version was nicely dressed in vinaigrette, along with mixed pieces of apple smoked bacon. I really liked the idea of the poached egg over a layered pastry puff, but also found the pastry to be a bit tough to cut and to eat all together.
Langue de Boeuf $12
The beef tongue was served with beets and sides of chutney. The presentation was nice and the flavors all worked very well together, but the beef tongue was too tough and chewy. If it was cooked longer, it would make a great dish.
Pâté de Canard $20
If you love eating duck liver, you will not be disappointed with this dish. The duck liver pâté, Coteaux du Layon jelly, seared liver and brioche toast was magnificently rich and full of bold flavors. Each dreamy bite melted in my mouth and drifted me into a lovely state.
Butter Lettuce And Prawn Salad $14
I wasn't sure where this one was going. The prawns were not very flavorful and the citrus vinaigrette did not bring the dish together. The entire salad was on the bland side for me. Perhaps it is a little too healthy tasting for my preferences.
Magret de Canard a l'Orange $26
The roasted duck breast had a nice layer of fat intact and was cooked gorgeously with crispy skin. The dark rich orange sauce was delicious. The side of vegetables didn't enhance the dish and were a bit under-seasoned.
Souffle Grand Marnier $13
I suggest when ordering your food to also put in an advance order for the souffle grand marnier because it takes 20 minutes to make. This dessert alone is worth coming to Bon Vivant for. It is airy, fluffy, and custard-like when you pour in the creme anglaise, which is a vanilla cream sauce that almost resembles the taste of melted vanilla ice cream.
When we were done with our dessert, they brought us each a piece of chocolate to end our meal.
Bon Vivant is a nice option if you're looking for a quiet and intimate restaurant with a good selection of wine in downtown Palo Alto. There were some dishes that needed improvement, but we left with a few favorite dishes in mind. If you plan to visit, you must order the the pate de canard and souffle grand marnier.
Do keep in mind that this is the type of dinner that will take up a couple of hours or more, depending on how many items you order.
Thanks for dinner, Bon Vivant!