As you wind down Point Loma Blvd in the middle of eclectic Ocean Beach, it’s hard to imagine finding a quaint French farmhouse at the end of your journey. BO-beau Kitchen + bar is nothing less than a diamond in the rough, a jewel of fine French cuisine that is distinctive in its location as well as quality.
The front entrance is surrounded by visions of the French countryside, complete with weathered wood containers filled with dried herbs, wrought iron accents and old garden tools. Indoors, gaze upon stone walls, tall beamed ceilings, antiques, and a stone hearth fireplace. All of the tables are packed together in typical bistro style, surrounded by people in conversation, adding an exciting and vibrant exhilaration to the atmosphere.
Be sure to start your experience at the bar, with a wonderful view of the open-air patio and potted vegetation. A large wall is filled with endless bottles of fine wine, finishing the image of a far-away country and simpler life. The wine list is nothing short of impressive, with varietals that span the world, but certainly the French selection is the most logical choice. Be sure to ask your server for a suggestion on the perfect pairing once you’ve chosen your meal, as the staff is well-versed in complimenting your dish with the best wine.
It’s rare to find an authentic and cozy French bistro in Southern California, but this tiny little structure houses one of the finest culinary artists in town. With plenty of big-time experience under her belt, Executive Chef Katherine Humphus has an extraordinary talent in bringing France to your tableside. “We have somehow managed to have a real neighborhood feel and yet be a ‘destination’ restaurant at the same time,” she says. “Plus the ambience is one of a kind.”
Bo-Beau’s cuisine has reached an impeccable maturity displayed by Humphus, who says she’s mastered the art of multitasking, while still understanding the difference and importance of time constraints, quality, and perfectionism. Her propensity for creative cuisine has been seasoned by various stops along the way, including an internship at the revered French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. “I originally started with the Cohn Restaurant Group at The Prado at Balboa Park,” she says. “After leaving for a few years to go to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I returned and asked owner David Cohn if he had any new projects in the works. He told me to check out “BO-beau, a new French bistro idea”.
Using sustainable, local, and organic ingredients, Humphus sources most of her products from Specialty Produce. It’s not only the diners having a good time, but real pleasures await from a playful and modern menu daring to offer French specialties served in large portions that are complete and grounded. Using sustainable, local, and organic ingredients, Humphus sources most of her products from Specialty Produce, also supporting Point Loma Farms as often as possible.
With one of Bo-beau’s most popular dishes, the Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Humphus makes liberal use of balsamic vinegar, pancetta and shaved parmesan, all flamboyantly presented in an old-fashioned glass jar, spilling out over a rustic cutting board as a plate. Also seen floating through the dining room on a regular basis were flatbread choices, highlighting Humphus’ mastery of combining old and new styles to delight her guests. Two perfectly different flatbread examples include the Chorizo with Serrano, marinara, five Italian cheeses and basil, or the Banh Mi, with sesame pork meatballs, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro and sriracha aioli.
The Frisee Salad was a study in freshness and artistic technique, boasting a poached egg as its centerpiece, effortlessly suspended atop tender lettuce and dressed in a warm bacon vinaigrette with truffled goat cheese toast as its base. This salad pairs nicely with the Moules (Mussels) in a red curry broth, that not only boast a nice texture and color, but lends a subtle sweetness and spicy bite.
My standards were set high for the Boeuf Bourguignon, a dish many cooks cannot master successfully. Humphus captures the true essence of this traditional dish that is comprised of a rich and velvety gravy with slow-cooked and fork tender chunks of beef and al dente vegetables, including baby carrots, mushrooms, pearl onions, and fingerling potatoes. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Humphus unremittingly shows off her exotic mystique with a juicy-to-the-bone Chicken Fricassee balanced with tarragon dumplings, seasonal vegetables and champagne mustard seed.
Humphus makes a sumptuous ending to the meal with the Ménage a Trois, which is not only delicious, but impressive to behold. Three complimentary desserts are strategically placed side-by-side, leading to a treasured journey into sugar land. The homemade Peanut Brittle is subtly sweet and studded with salty peanuts, and unlike your run of the mill store bought brand, it is not overly crunchy and offers more of a soft, cookie-like consistency. The Kahlua Pot de Crème is superbly silky, complimented with an amber caramel sauce and topped with miniature fluffy marshmallows. And finally, the pecan praline cheesecake adds a rich and velvety texture to its partners on the plate – definitely all too easy to lap up!
This article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of FINE Magazine
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*All photography taken during dinner
BO-beau Kitchen + bar is in the Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego and the San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City.