Nicolas Borzee has worked in the kitchen since age 15, first at a traditional restaurant in his native Alsace, and then at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Next, he worked for a year and a half with Michel Troigros, and then he spent four years in the kitchen of Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco. After a move to San Francisco, he worked at Spruce, and then at Daniel Patterson's Coi, where he spent three and a half years. At Bouche, which opened last December, Borzee is the executive chef. He's 28 years old.
Bouche, a few steps from the walkway over the Stockton Street Tunnel, is not the hushed temple that Coi is. The kitchen is just a narrow space behind the bar, packed with three cooks in frenzied activity. The room buzzes and glasses clink as patrons share plates at the bar or on stools around the windows. The upstairs dining room feels like a bistro housed in the attic of a barn; and though the plates are carefully arranged and scattered with micro-sage, the French-accented waiters and host are flirtatious, not formal.
"The cooking here is personal," says Borzee. "We don't go eat somewhere else to get inspired, we don't open books to get ideas." We asked Borzee to tell us about his personal favorites—five dishes you should order at Bouche.
His picks included a composed potato salad with tangy sauce gribiche, and a summer corn soup topped with roasted corn ice cream. Other essentials at Bouche? The fresh sardines, marinated in grapefruit and served with fennel and spicy garam masala croutons. And the polenta, made thick and rich with cream, 18-month Comté cheese, and creme fraiche, and dabbed with a peppery nettle purée.