Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dine Out Vancouver - Bistro Pastis

Bistro Pastis on Urbanspoon

Stepped out tonight for my first Dine Out Vancouver 2010 dinner. Bit of a dud, it turned out, but maybe that's just my palate not used to French food.
Anyway, it was Bistro Pastis (on West 4th, near Comic Land, which is participating in Free Comic Book Day on May 1st) tonight, with a dear foodie friend and very fine dining companion.

On their Dine Out Vancouver page, Bistro Pastis offers a $28 menu, but once you get there you'll discover they are also offering a $38 menu. (My guess is the Dine Out website's too rigid to accomodate a second menu.)
Same desserts on the $38 menu. Boo.

You can also order additional sides for ~$5, selecting from what's typically available off their regular menu, with the addition of "famous" macaroni and cheese. We were intrigued by this and did end up asking for the macaroni and cheese. I could have sworn it was $5 on the menu but came out $6 on the bill. But with the bill ~$70 for both of us (including two mint teas at $2.80 each; no wine), we didn't bother quibbling about it.

For the appetizers, we asked for the Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Fennel Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette; and the Calamare à la Provençale with Ratatouille, Salad Frisee, and Citrus Beurre Blanc.
At first glance, the two plates looked the same, because both had the same greens in the salad. I found my squid hiding underneath, and my dining companion and I both agreed they were very tender. The most flavourful part was the probably 2 tablespoons of ratatouille, with vegetables quite finely diced.
Her salad had the vinaigrette "on the side", in a pink ring.
Overall, salad is salad. Next.

Our mains were Coq au Vin, with Mushrooms and Bacon, Fettuccini, Red Wine Sauce; and Cod Normande with Shrimp, Mussels and Clams, Riz Pilaf.
Here's where I struggled with French food. The coq au vin was bland. The cod, which came as fillets tightly rolled, was a tad try, and also bland. I'm sure it was all properly done and all, just that French cooking is French cooking. :sigh:
On my coq au vin, the savoury yummy part was the mixture of mushrooms and bacon and I think small leeks.
Overall, I'd say if you're used to your mains being savory, give both these entrees a miss and either go for the flank steak or try the alternate $38 menu.

Mac and cheese was mac and cheese. We agreed that wasn't anything worthy of being titled "famous". There was the possibility of some blue cheese used in the preparation, but overall, for $6 (even for $5 as listed on the menu), I'd say give it a miss. If you're worried about the mains not being filling, instead ask for a bit more bread (I think we were given a total of six slices, if I remember correctly, plus an extraordinary amount of butter which, unfortunately, wasn't quite warmed enough yet to spread smoothly).

Our desserts were Tarte aux Pommes with Vanilla Ice Cream; and Crêpes Suzette au Grand Marnier, with Orange Sorbet.
No tableside service with the Crêpes Suzette, unfortunately, but tableside anything is rare nowadays, and in any case impractical for the tight table arrangement in Bistro Pastis. I was also disappointed that they didn't at least light the liqueur at the table for the usual caramalized finish, but my dining companion pointed out the possibility of regulations disallowing it as a fire hazard. Oh well.
In any case, the whole thing was so sweet that it left a slight burning in my throat, and I would recommend having some hot tea nearby to wash it down if you do order this.

The apple pie wasn't the usual North American affair with chunks of apple in it, but rather looked like this one, quite flat and with apple slices arranged on top for baking (no, I don't take pictures because it just draws too much attention). Tasty, but nothing exceptional. As they had the same desserts on both menus, I suspect that the desserts were token, to fulfill the appy-entree-dessert formula for Dine Out Vancouver.

Service was attentive, despite the busy restaurant, and our meals seemed to come out quite quickly.
Reservations recommended! We had a 5.30pm seating, and by 6pm (possibly because of a rather sizable party that arrived shortly after us) the restaurant was full and remained that way (with some diners at the bar, in fact).
The most interesting part of our experience was probably the dessert spoons. It had a notch on one side, and our server explained that it was meant to be a sort of combo spoon-knife. We played around with it, and in the end, the notch came in handy when my companion was working on the crust ring of her pie: If you were to use a regular spoon, it might slide about when you apply pressure to cut it. The notch on the special spoon helps to hold in place whatever you are cutting (especially if it were rounded) and you can then more confidently apply downward pressure without fear of it slipping away.

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