Some would say that it’s unfair to review a restaurant in its first week of operation, much less its first day of operation – much, much less as its very first table served. So, for the sake of fairness, let’s call this more an “observation” rather than a “review”.
Bistrot Bistro is located across the street from Gastropod and Fuel on West 4th, an area that is quickly becoming the place to go to sample some of Vancouver’s rising culinary stars. Husband and wife owners Laurent and Valerie are clearly enthusiastic about their food and their new digs, and this enthusiasm is reflected in everything from the restaurant’s bold, bright décor to the menu’s rustic French offerings.
We started by sharing the salmon rillettes. The salmon was chopped, seasoned with herbs, and slow-cooked in duck fat before being cooled and served with white wine croustini. I made the mistake of taking a break to snap pics of the neighboring tables. By the time I had set my camera aside, Fondy had already polished off the dish. For her premiere assiette, Fondy had the cognac chicken liver terrine. The accompanying baby gherkins offered a slightly sour counter to the smooth, sweet and seductively rich creation. I went with the house pissaladiere, their version of the French-style pizza topped with smoked duck, caramelized onions, and black olive paste, a superb composition of textures and flavors: sweet, smoky, salty, soft and pleasantly crispy. Co-owner Valerie stopped by on occasion to chat about the neighborhood, enlighten us on her decision to go with rows of flickering wall-mounted candles over artwork, and explain the menu. She informed us that the entrees listed came “sans” veggies, but that we could order our accompaniments from the list of sides. Following her recommendation, we went with the braised brussel sprouts lardons which she assured us could convert even the most die-hard of anti-sproutists. Although Fondy had already met the meal’s starch quota by ordering the mashed potatoes, I couldn’t resist the sardalaise potatoes in duck fat.
For my deuxieme assiette, I had the ling cod vegetable papillote, the fish and strips of veggies oven-baked in parchment paper. It was moist, tender, and subtle in flavor. Perhaps a little too subtle in comparison to Fondy’s deuxieme assiette, the pork loin sage apple brie. Served, still simmering, in a cast-iron skillet, the rustic heartiness of this dish made me forget all about my cod. Thankfully, Fondy was there to remind me. I’m not a big fan of mashed potatoes but Fondy is, and she loved Bistrot Bistro‘s version. For my part, I was more than happy with the sardalaise potatoes. Thinly sliced and fried in duck fat, they were a little taste of coronary-inducing heaven. The brussel sprouts were also very good – diced bacon is the secret ingredient here – but I found them a tad heavy on the vinegar for my taste.
For dessert, Fondy had the apple tart. While she liked the apple portion, she found the crust too thick. I ordered the chocolate mousse which, to our surprise, came to our table in an enormous bowl that could have served twenty (or five of me)! I helped myself to a couple of servings before the bowl was whisked away. I imagine that, in the future, they’d do well to do the serving themselves. The mousse was very light and airy and, try as I might, the best description I could get of the chocolate used was: milk chocolate. I found it too sweet (which is something you rarely hear me say) and couldn’t help but think it would have benefited from going with a good quality dark chocolate.
If I were to draw a comparison, I’d say this place is more La Regalade than Bistro Pastis, offering a lively and relaxed atmosphere, friendly but accomplished service, and unabashedly uncomplicated but very satisfying French fare. The desserts need a little work, but I have no doubt they‘ll work it out in the weeks to come. Until then, I look forward to tracking their progress.
Let’s field some questions –
Anonymous #1 writes: “Joe, we all know Vala wasn’t featured in every single episode, but she was featured a LOT more than any other character. Plus, just about every episode had character development moments for Vala that we didn’t see for any other characters.”
Farscapefan was kind enough to respond: “Season 10 is the FIRST and unfortunately THE LAST full season for Vala’s character and it was very logical to develop her the most.”
NowIWillDestroy Abydos writes: “1) In your opinion, How does Unending compare to the other Potential SG-1 series finales, “Revelations,” “Full Circle,” “Lost City,” and “Moebius?” […] 2) What was the most Expensive Single episode of SG-1 & SGA (I expect an answer from each series)? And what was the most expensive episode of SG-1 & SGA (again an answer from each series), visual effects-wise?”
Answer: 1) Like the many other almost-series finales that came before it, Unending is a wonderfully bitter-sweet episode that will no doubt make it on to many a fan’s top ten list. 2) The most expensive SGA episode is the season three finale: First Strike. The most expensive SG-1 episode was the season nine finale: Camelot. In both cases, most of the costs went to visual effects.
NowIWillDestroyAbydos also writes: “Joe, your the man, your listed as one of my Heroes on the MySpace page.”
Answer: I more comfortable with the role of villain but, okay, hero would be cool too. Do I get a cape?
UberAmandaFan writes: “Do you have anymore names of episodes to leak to the fans?”
Answer: Sure. Tabula Rasa.
GrapesofWraith writes: “Where can I get one of those sarcastic 8 balls?”
Answer: Mine was gifted to me from an ancient monk after making the journey to his mountaintop temple and completing the Eight Tasks of the Future Path. Alternately, you can check your local novelty shop.
Anonymous #2 writes: “If the first movie will be succesful at August, is there any chance that you make a third movie around October-November in 2007?”
Answer: October-November is definitely too soon as the first movie probably won’t be released until late 2007.
SGEureka writes: “Those pace cards look too funny. I love them. Are you the only show on the lot that has them in such silly designs, and if yes, for how long now? Also, who decided how they should look?”
Answer: I don’t know about any other productions on the lot but, in our case, we just forward our pic of choice to Lawren and simply let him work his magic.
Anonymous #3 writes: “You’ve mentioned that the cast and prodcution team are doing read through’s of the script, and that this is something you’ve not done previously. I was wondering who’s idea was it to do that, and what is the idea behind doing it?”
Answer: It’s something the cast requested that we were more than happy to arrange. It ensures everyone reads the script so that if there are any notes, they can be addressed early (before we start shooting) rather than on set.
Paula writes: “Do you guys ever get to play parts during the read-throughs? Or is that just the far-off dream of a writer?”
Answer: Actually, it’s the reality of most producers. For instance, today we had the read-through for Lifeline and, since Joe wasn’t able to attend, Martin Gero read the part of John Sheppard. Sad to say but he had such chemistry with David Hewlett that we decided to re-cast him in the role.
Paula also writes: “Who would you deliberately take to a health department violation restaurant so you could get the chance to grab their part?”
Answer: You mean besides the Wraith Queen? Hard to say.
Redtwin writes: “Check out “curse of the Chalion” by Lois McMaster Bujold”
Answer: A couple of her books are on my to-read list. Not familiar with this one but will pick it up and get around to it, eventually.
Kelly J. Compeau writes: “Some of those folks have sauntered over to my blog, since they know you drop by to read and post from time to time, and I’ve been getting some of your…I guess “hate mail” would be the correct term.”
Answer: Oooh. Send the really juicy ones my way. And sorry about that.
Pilgrim writes: “I’m a big Michael Marshall Smith fan and am hopelessly in love with his novel One of Us make sure you put that on your reading list too.”
Answer: I fully intend to.
Pilgrim also writes: “Do you go into writing the season with a clear idea of where you want to be come the season finale? Or is it a more organic process allowing the stories to develop and seeing where they take you?”
Answer: Definitely the latter although, usually, by the time we hit episode 15, we pretty much know where we’re headed. And, of course, the show’s ratings will impact the type of story we’ll tell.