Sunday, December 9, 2012

What happens when you sneeze at Bishop's Restaurant

Bishop's on Urbanspoon Something ticked my nose at Bishop's Restaurant when I went this past Saturday, and I sneezed. Oops. But lo! A server brought a small plate, on which was a round napkin, and on top of that, a fresh packet of Kleenex, with the first tissue partially pulled out for my convenience. I am not kidding. Where else can you find such care, consideration, and the extra special touch of a napkin-on-a-platter? Bishop's is an extraordinary restaurant that's a safe bet if you want superb service.

My dining companion for the evening had for the longest time (20 years!) meant to go to Bishop's, but just never got around to it. Well, this past Saturday, she finally went, and I along with her. I'd been there a few times but never really paid much attention to the special note at the bottom of the menu, which states that vegetarian and vegan options are available. Some of the regular menu is vegetarian, like some soups, but if you want a no-meat-meal at Bishop's, you'll have to ask for it.

It's not a separate menu, nor can your server definitely state what you will get. Instead, the kitchen whips it up on the spot, taking into account whatever restrictions (such as allergies) you stipulate. Obviously the more picky you are, the harder things will be. My small-appetited friend opted for the vegetarian option, entree only. I went with a three course vegan appetizer-entree-dessert. I specifically asked for a not-soup-not-salad sharing appetizer, and a sharing-possible entree. For my vegan dessert, the server warned that it might have to be sorbet, so I asked that if that were the only thing available to please check back first.

Brought to our table shortly after the order was bread and a tiny amuse bouche of greens, thinly sliced radish, and tiny wedges of orange (?) in a sharp dressing. Cool, refreshing, and appetite whetting. A khaki coloured bread followed next. Lacklustre, but probably meant to be so to highlight the olive oil and black vinegar that accompanied it in a neat little jar that had the vinegar in an inner compartment shaped like a bunch of grapes.

For the appetizer, a salad-like mix of veggies and root vegetables that was dreadfully plain looking, but with a tantalizing dressing that really woke us up. Served cool but not cold, it was a refreshing start. Later I would think back to my stipulation of not-a-salad, but there was a mix of roots in there, so I suppose it was an alright compromise.

For my companion's entrée, she got a bit of spätzle in a delicious creamy sauce, and a mix of leafy veggies and roots, plus one interestingly delicious onion, roasted to a soft creaminess and with just enough browning for a touch of that that nice seared flavour. It certainly didn't look very special on the plate, but my friend insisted I try it, and I was glad I did. This is something I've noticed about Bishop's: It may not sound or look interesting, but eat everything on your plate, as there are surprises like this.

The vegan no-animal-products restriction is a tough one, and for my entrée the restaurant basically put together a mix of grains, leaves, and root vegetables. They tried to spruce up the plating my standing some of the root veggies straight up like columns for a more three-dimensional construction, but in the end, even with a tasty dressing on the grains, I really felt like my friend's vegetarian plate was way more delicious.
That said, I'm not actually vegan, so if you are, you may find they do very nicely. Because I'm omnivorous, my perspective on vegan fare is skewed by missing what dairy products can do (for example). Plus, we put the Bishop's kitchen on the spot that night by asking for a vegan meal, so although I do feel Acorn and Heirloom can plate a more interesting meal, Bishop's did admirably for a restaurant that doesn't specialize in such fare.

The vegan dessert was probably the toughest to put together on such short notice, and they turned out a presumably vegan chocolate cake (about the size of a cupcake), topped with a thick chocolate sauce. I found the cake to be a bit on the firm and dry side, unfortunately, and no comparison to other vegan cakes I've had at places such as Heirloom or The Wallflower Modern Diner.
Accompanying the cake was a delicious poached pear, as well as an intensely flavoured pear sorbet on thin slices of pear. I found the pear and sorbet to be much more interesting than the cake, and even my "I'm not a dessert person" companion had more than a few bites of sorbet and pear.

Dinner was priced at $14 for appetizer, $30 for each entree, $14 for dessert. My friend's glass of Sauvignon Blanc was $10.

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