When Mother is a good cook, too often she’s also a dainty diner. Her standard of a good outie consists of a spotless floor, a high ceiling, white table cloth, classy customers, and fine china. So when it comes to taking Mother out for dinner, I have to be extra careful. French is always a safe choice. A French restaurant in the City of Trees is even better, as the rows of Eucalyptus loftily overlooked us driving through, bringing her back to memories of Saigon’s Duy Tan Street. The good mood was set. We arrived at La Boheme in the midst of a sun-bathed afternoon Farmers’ Market, white tents made the variegated crowd all the more picturesque. A step into the open-doored restaurant and the ambience transformed into cool air, quietude, and refined elegance.
Seeing that it was past noon, we skipped the appetizers. The benefit of having company is the ease of trying out different categories in a menu: from land to sea to bakery, from duck confit stew to pan-roasted salmon to sandwich la Bohème.
It would be almost contrived to go about describing the taste. The look says it all. Tenderness shows on the lustrous russet hue of the duck skin, succulence is embedded in the creamy tone of “ground apple” purée, garden’s and oven’s crisps join harmonically in vibrant colors. Perhaps the only setback was the acrid zest of dijon mustard on the sandwich, a taste I have yet to acquaint.
Like a palette with no fixed sets of color patches, this pâtisserie does not have a fixed dessert menu all year round. The business goes by daily creations, but the mousse and the mille-feuille are as irresistible to the chefs as they are enticing to the diners: the window counter cannot lack their beauty, nor can the palates refuse their luscious embrace. Just this once I actually let go of the wicked craving for chocolate and chose the fruity mousse, every morsel of which I adored. Indeed, nothing can beat the citric acid’s touch of delight.
Was it the drowsy sunbeams that made this cafe more removed from its neighboring reality and closer to some distant realm one can only find in books and old movies? Two ladies in their late 60s and wide brim hats softly sipped the afternoon away at a nearby table. Their presence furnished the luncheonette with a whiff of Chez la Père Lathuille – minus Manet’s humorous romantic air, of course, and plus a few walls.
La Bohème Café & Pâtisserie
1425 Burlingame Avenue
Burlingame, CA 94101
Lunch (and dessert) for Four: $81.94