1961 W 4th Ave
I will be straight to the point, this post was scheduled on purpose for Good Friday… Read the why further down below!
Darina has mentioned a couple of times one of her favourite restaurants is Bistrot Bistro. With that in mind, Sherman (his posts of this visit here) had an interesting plan for it. Along with Mijune and myself, we went there with somewhat high expectations. The question was whether it would deliver – that is specially considering the last time we dine out together at La Brasserie, things went a bit sideways.
We arrived just after opening and, since there was still some sunlight, we would have been foolish not to seat next to the window! The seating arrangement is quite open so, while the next table might not necessarily bother you, don’t expect too much privacy either. We already had *one* dish in mind (I was the sacrificial lamb, no pun intended, to choose that one dish) so it was up to Darina, Mijune and Sherman to pick up the rest. Of course, I still have some say in the appetizers and sides, which started with…
I have a love hate relationship with olives. Some of them I don’t mind; however, there are times where they end up too salty or bitter. In this case, it went the absolute other way around: it needed salt. Had I been doing some blind (folded) tasting, I wouldn’t have been able to tell there was olive in the tapenade! As for the bread, I will admit it was quite good. Still warm and had a hard/crunchy exterior, while deep inside was fluffy.
Warm caramelized onion maplewood smoked bacon gruyere tart.
By itself, it was decent but I thought there was a bit of lost in translation in the end result. While the crust was quite good and the onions were sweet (hey, it was caramelized!), I can’t say I tasted much (if any) of the bacon or the cheese. Could it be I took the wrong piece? Regardless, I wasn’t particularly excited…
Escargot butter garlic.
In a way I had some high expectations of this. I mean, who doesn’t like these? Oh, wait… Don’t answer that… It has been a long while I had these… Actually, I remember more the sauce than the actual escargot; probably because the ones I had weren’t that tasty if it wasn’t because of the sauce? In this case, things went sideways in a bad way: when you ask for salt, it *really* means there is something wrong. And that is what Darina (who ordered this one) ended up doing. Sure, the butter was there, just that none of us was able to detect any snail meatiness or, if dare to say, butter in it.
At this point, I was already expecting the worst for the rest of the night. I mean, how it is possible that two of them were bland and the third one was passable? When you tell them only the bread was good what expectations you can have of the restaurant? With that in mind, our sides and entree started to arrive, starting with…
Ratatouille “not the Disney one”.
If there is a bad joke, I hope this won’t be one of them. Ever since that movie, I have started to wonder why people relate ratatouille to a rat more than to a vegetable “stew”. Regardless, I thought it was a decent job but far from perfect. While the zucchini, peppers and tomato combined themselves very well, in a way, I wished it had a bit more of herbs to give it some contrast.
Brussels sprouts bacon.
If there is bacon, it ought to be good, right? Yes, it had bacon in it, but not the long strips of (American style) bacon. Instead, they were chunks of fatty pork. For some reason, however, those pieces did not necessarily translated that well into the brussels sprouts. Instead, it was some natural glaze that gave some level of sweetness, not necessarily that smoky bacon taste I would have thought it might have. It was really soft, with a slight bitter aftertaste in the end. While the Darina, Mijune and Sherman commented they were subpar brussels sprouts, I found them OK (probably because I seldom buy and prepare brussels sprouts myself?).
Pommes alumettes & mayo.
While the fries were quite thin, they were crisp (no pun intended) and still had some starchiness inside. Due to personal preference, I wished they were somewhat thicker. But, the mayo really did it. I had that creamy mayo texture and a hint of garlic in it. It would have been a winner had it had some more lemon but, otherwise, it did not fight with the fries texture but complemented it.
Squash pearl onion raisin braised.
I am not sure what would be the best way to comment about this. Probably because I am more of a savoury person, I didn’t like it that much. There wasn’t anything technically wrong, it was tender and easy to eat. However, it was the fact it was a bit too sweet for my liking for a side dish – this is even taking into consideration I like sweet potatoes or yam.
Now, moving to the mains…
1lb mussels marinières – Shallots parsley white wine.
Due to Darina’s recent dietary issues, she decided to go “easy” and ordered mussels. I had a couple of pieces and, while the mussels themselves where plum and juicy, we all agreed there was some bitterness in it that threw the dish sideways. Darina’s thoughts were on the lines of the white wine not completely “cooked off” which resulted in that taste. If it wasn’t because of that, I would say it is quite good.
Duck confit macaroni & cheese.
Mijune’s dish. Probably due to some level of expectations, some of us thought there were going to be pieces of duck confit cooked *in* the mac and cheese, rather than a piece of duck confit on top of the cast iron skillet. I thought the components themselves were quite good: The mac and cheese was more on the lines of creamy rather than cheese-y, something that Mijune would have preferred (not to mention it wasn’t baked on the top to create that “crust” on top). For me, I like it this way (after all, I wrote a post about it – check it here!), as I am not sure if too much “cheesiness” might overpower the other component of the dish, the duck. And now that I mention it, I found it was quite good: crispy skin, really soft, almost melt in your mouth duck meat.
Lamb shank spiced apricots tomato white wine.
While a Greek or northern African this place is not, at least this one was quite interesting. There was some hint of sweetness from the apricot and, unlike the mussels, there wasn’t a bitter taste. In fact, you couldn’t taste the gaminess of that lamb that much. One thing that could have been improved was the tenderness of the meat: we thought it still had a bit too much texture in it.
Finally our last dish. Now, before we go into it, we did NOT order boeuf bourguignon, despite it being the stereotypical French dish. Instead, because it was Easter, somebody (*cough*Sherman*cough*) thought we should eat the Easter rabbit….(Insert macabre laughter here!) So, rabbit it was!
Rabbit two mustards white wine cream.
I haven’t had rabbit in a long time and this one did not disappointed us. The meat was tender, with texture similar to that of chicken dark meat. But, unlike chicken, it was flavourful by itself. And the white wine cream sauce heightened the experience by providing a creamy texture to it. In fact, that sauce was so good that Mijune thought it could go really well with the mac and cheese (and she was right!). For good or for bad (most probably for good), the mustard wasn’t that prominent in the dish, as otherwise it might have overpowered the rabbit. Overall, we all thought this was the winner of the night.
After that, we spent some time chatting and, by then, it started to get busy. One thing I did notice that, unlike places across the street like Refuel or Maenam, most of the other customers were of a specific age group: aside from our table and one other table, most of the customers could easily be 50+ years old. Now, I do not want to generate an age bias for Bistrot Bistro, instead, we were wondering if there is a generation trend here. In our current “generation”, whereas younger people (<40 years old) might like trendier places, those who are 50+ years old, might prefer something more “classic”. Of course, those in between that age range falls in a transition gap. Then again all this can be crazy thinking in my head. Anyway, we were pondering if we wanted dessert by, given that Mijune was at the table, it was almost pointless to ask if we *really* wanted dessert…
To start off, “my” selection. (Actually, it was more on the lines of “Mijune, if you were not to order your dessert, what else would you order”). Somehow that ended up being this big plate of chocolate mousse. Now, when this was “served”, it wasn’t served “as is” as seen in the picture above. Instead, they brought that plate empty and then came back with a big mixing bowl with the mouse and scooped it in the bowl. (More about this in a moment). I will have to say I actually liked this as, despite it has some sweetness, it still had some bitterness in it. But, at the same time, it was quite rich which I thought detracted it a little bit.
Darina’s dessert, Lemon Tart. I only had a small piece of it and I will admit it was quite good. The crust was crispy, while, of course, the centre had some lemony tanginess goodness in it. Given such a simple dessert, I thought it was well executed.
If there was an epic fail in the dessert category (and, with the caveat I am not really a dessert person), it would have been this one, vanilla bean crème brulee. While the burned top was really hard (Sherman had to hit it a couple of times to break it), the interior had a really thin consistency. Almost that of a soft pudding. Futhermore, while it had a vanilla hint, we couldn’t notice that much of the vanilla bean specks until we hit the very bottom of the ramekin. Then again, me not being a desserts person…
And guess who ordered the “best” dessert? Yes, it had to be Mijune… Here, Profiteroles ice cream chocolate. The chocolate might not be necessarily noticeable in this shot; it is in that small cup in the background. It was drizzled on top of the choux pastry, which kept is “puffy” texture. And, hey, did I say chocolate on top? Now, it wasn’t perfect because the ice cream could have been creamier, not to mention it had some ice crystals in it. I guess this was because the ice cream used in this case wasn’t made in house but bought. Oh, well, I will give them some slack here as, otherwise, the rest of the dessert combined itself quite well.
Above, I mentioned a “note” when the chocolate mousse was served. Given that we have been seated for almost two and a half hours already, talking aloud about different restaurants and, of course, taking pictures of food, it would have been naive to say they didn’t notice us. Yes, indeed, they asked if we were (food) bloggers. In a way, there was no escape and we all reluctantly said we were (no specific on which blogs, until we paid our bill, which, by then, we provided our cards). Regardless, I don’t think that would have affected what we thought about the food as, by the time we started taking pictures, the appetizers were already on the table and two of the entrees we ordered couldn’t have been cooked in such short period of time. As for desserts, well, I guess they could have given a bit more effort but, regardless, I think we pretty much had a good idea of their offerings by then.
So, in the end, I will have to say I actually liked Bistrot Bistro – this is in contrast of La Brasserie (where I have been bashed in the last couple of days). While the execution of some dishes were subpar (most appetizers), they managed to recuperate themselves with the entrees and, again, that is despite the sides went sideways. Now, this is not a place I will go by myself, because the size of the sides (which, as Darina warned us originally) is not for a single person. But, if you do go, they have prixe fixe menu which looks like a really good deal.