During my 9+ years here in Vancouver, I’ve seen many a comfort food restaurant come and go. For whatever reason, these places have failed to elicit much interest. It could be because, given the vast variety of offerings presented by the Vancouver restaurant scene, many diners aren’t all that interested in going out for food they can just as easily make at home. Or it could be a result of an evolution in the ever-refining palates of local gourmands. Or, more than likely, you can chalk it up to the fact that none of these restaurants were particularly good. Seriously. It’s really tough to fuck up macaroni and cheese and yet, time and again, these places managed to do it. Which, in my opinion, is why their former premises are now occupied by plants shops and stores selling knick-knacks.
Fortunately, it’s still possible to find good comfort food in the city. The trick is not to go to a “comfort food restaurant”. Instead, set your sights on one of the many local eateries that serve up these homey, rib-sticking dishes as part of their regular menu. Like Bistrot Bistro.
Four of us went last night: Marty G., his gal Stephanie, Ivon Bartok, and myself. As I stepped inside, I was immediately greeted by the lovely Valerie (who co-owns the restaurant with husband and head chef Laurent) who commended me on my timing. Apparently, it was exactly one year to the day that Bistrot Bistro opened its doors – and I had been their very first customer (and given them their very first review way back in: http://josephmallozzi.com/2007/03/09/march-9-207/). It was nice to see that, one year later, the place was hopping and clearly enjoying some well-deserved success.
Since Martin paid the last time we’d gone out (our last visit to Fuel), I informed him that it was my turn. And, since it was my turn, that meant “dishes for the table”! I tend to do this when: a) I’m paying and b) am torn between several interesting looking plates. I’ll order something for me, and then order “something for the table” which becomes a communal dish that everyone can enjoy. That said, the fact that my fellow diner’s plates are technically “non-communal” has never stopped me from helping myself.
We started with the Bistrot made charcuterie accompanied by a warm, crusty baguette. The platter included prosiutto, hearty pork rilette, a mouth-melting chicken liver port fondant (my personal fave), and an exquisite house pate made with pork, veal, pistachios, and what may have been fig to lend it a subtle sweetness. Oh, and we also enjoyed a warm gruyere tart. And a surprisingly nice (surprisingly insofar as I wouldn’t have thought it would be something I’d enjoy) endive spiced walnuts stilton balsamic poached pears. And a phenomenal melted brie bacon basil oil puff pastry (!!!). It would have been quite a satisfying meal if we’d stopped there. But, of course those were only the appetizers.
For his main course, Ivon chose the sole petrale meuniere, a dish that never fails to transcend its simplicity. Butter, flour, salt and pepper to taste, a touch of parsley and voila! Heaven! Apparently, this was the first dish Julia Child had when she was in France. It proved to be the culinary equivalent to a spiritual awakening for her. While the sole didn’t inspire Ivon to drop everything and enroll in chef school, it did impress.
I wrestled with indecision, trying to choose between the filet mignon with the blue cheese herb crust or the filet mignon with the scallion butter. I ended up going with the latter and it was perfection – the meat, served medium-rare, as buttery rich as the half-melted pad that topped it.
Martin and Stephanie each had the halibut with watercress emulsion. Martin enjoyed his but, Stephanie found her’s overcooked. Upon hearing this, Valerie apologized and whisked the halibut away, striking the charge from our bill.
Fortunately for Stephanie, there was plenty more to choose from (including my steak which she ate half of, proclaiming it the “best dish of the night”).
I also ordered a little something for the table, Bistrot Bistro’s version of mac and cheese which includes duck confit and gruyere cheese. Talk about comfort food. I thought Marty G. was going to break into tears.
Our sides included mashed potatoes with butter and cream, pommes alumettes and mayo, gratin dauphinois, and those bacon braised brussel sprouts that I raved about on my very first visit that Ivon couldn’t stop talking about on this visit.
For dessert, Martin and I had the dark chocolate mousse (scooped onto our plates from an enormous serving bowl), Stephanie loved her lemon tart, and I also ordered up the malted Belgian waffle topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream (for 2) for the table.
It was quite a meal that left me, yes, incredibly comforted – if not altogether stuffed.
To those asking, the following line in the teaser poem was the reference to Kindred II: “The experiment’s minions the team will combat.”
By the way, finished Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim and loved it. All I’ve got to say is that Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End must be quite a book to have beaten it out for the 2007 Best Novel Hugo Award.
A couple of reminders. Discussion begins on Children of the Night by Dan Simmons, our final selection in this month’s BOTM club. This gives everyone well over a month to read either one, two, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, all three titles for the next BOTM club discussions –
In the scifi category, it’ll be Timescape by Gregory Benford. Discussion will begin April 7th.
In the horror category, F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep gets the nod. Discussion on this book will begin April 14th.
In the fantasy category, it’ll be Jeffrey Ford’s Empire of Ice Cream. Discussion on this book will begin April 21st.
Finally, just wanted to offer up some links of interest.
Director Ken Girotti (who is in town to do the honors on episode 3, Broken Ties) has a blog over here: http://bootinthepants.blogspot.com/
Writer Denis McGrath offers up some ever-informative, always entertaining insights into the Canadian film and television industry over here: http://heywriterboy.blogspot.com/
And, of course, if you’d like to check out all of Cookie Monster and Baron Destructo’s correspondence with the various email scammers who have contacted them over the past year, head on over to: http://spambait.wordpress.com/
Oh, and to all those asking – the dogs are fine. I have plenty of pics to post, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
Today’s pics: Marty G. and Ivon, filet mignon with scallion butter, Sole Petrale Meuniere, Bistrot Bistro’s mac and cheese with duck confit, Stephanie and I partying hard on the “fun side” of the table (x2), we do a pretty good job of cleaning up, and even thought Martin and Ivon are feeling stuffed, and the same can be said for Stephanie and I – we still manage to catch our second wind with dessert, which Marty G. enjoys with a glass of Chateau la Rame, whereas I enjoy mine with a glass off 2% 2008, a bowl of chocolate mousse, and the malted Belgian waffle for 2.