Sardines with Grapefruit and Marinated Vegetables ($9)
"When I go to a restaurant, I love to have a sardine dish you can eat with toasted bread," said Borzee, so that was the starting point for this playful plate. "It's pretty much an escabeche, but that is normally marinated with vinegar and white wine. We use a Cryovac machine, and seal the vegetables in a fresh grapefruit marinade with just a little rice vinegar." The sardines are lightly seasoned in a grapefruit vinaigrette, served with the marinated fennel, carrots, and celery, chocolate mint, and grapefruit supremes. The plate is topped with fennel fronds and celery leaves, crunchy fried capers, and spicy garam masala croutons.
"This dish looks simple, but requires a lot of attention. I've never had a polenta at a restaurant that was as good as my mother's polenta," said Borzee. "It's often too dry, or not seasoned. I want people to say this is the best." He cooks the polenta with milk, cream, and chicken stock—"It's a lot of fat. A lot of fat," he repeats—then adds Comté cheese "18-month, very good quality," and then creme fraiche. For a peppery element, he seasons the bowl with a dollop of nettle purée.
Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables ($18)
Each item in this vegetarian option is cooked separately—there's chard and fennel, broccoli, chanterelles and parsnips, sliced Castelvetrano olives, plus roasted figs and apples. There's a piece of Musquee De Provence squash on each plate, too. ("We love this squash," gushes Borzee.) He sears artichokes with a bit of lemon and then cooks them in their own jus. Then all the different elements are warmed in a burnt-onion stock and glazed with a purée of raw grapes that was blended with a little lemon juice and strained in a Chemex coffee brewer.
Chef Nicolas Borzee adding the final touches to a plate.
There's not a lot of kitchen space at Bouche.
Potato Salad ($11)
"We were thinking of a simple dish, a potato salad like in France, but we decided to work it all separately," says Borzee. Baby marble potatoes are roasted in the oven with garlic and thyme, then served over a sauce gribiche made with eggs, tarragon, parsley, capers, and cornichons. On top, there are slices of apples and radish, mustard greens, and micro sage. Rather than putting shallots in the sauce, they're served pickled, on top. "We wanted some crunch for the texture," says Borzee, so they added freshly fried potato chips. "It's a very simple dish, but balanced, and the crunch of the chips is surprising," he says.
Chilled White Corn Soup ($7)
This favorite warm-weather dish has been replaced with a fall-appropriate chestnut soup, but Borzee will eagerly put it back on the menu come the next sweet corn season. The soup begins with corn roasted until the sugars caramelize on the pot "so it's really kind of candied," says Borzee, and butter that has infused with the corn. Borzee adds a bit of miso for umami, and lime zest to balance the sweetness. It's served with tarragon foam and espelette pepper. A dollop of the same corn mixture churned into ice cream ("by hand, with salt and ice cubes") keeps everything chily and offers a contrast in texture. "The deep roasted corn flavor is brought out by the cold," says Borzee.