Le Parisien Puts the “Nasty Bits” on Their Fall Menu
Posted by Degan on November 2nd, 2012
There are a couple of requirements I have for a French bistro; it needs to be reasonably priced, it needs to serve excellent fare in a hearty and interesting style and it needs to be friendly and warm and neighbourhoodly. In a way that’s not fair, because plenty of the bistros we visited in Paris didn’t fill those requirements but no matter – back in Vancouver Le Parisien does. When we visited in April we had cassoulet, boudin noir and even a roast chicken which were all delights but now that they’ve been open six months they’re moving into heartier fare with French comfort food like Choucroute Garnie. En plus they are doing a series of “Nasty Bits” offal specials in November that include braised pig’s trotters, duck heart tourtiere, tripes a la Provençal, smoked beef tongue and others. The service is so neighbourhoodly it hardly even feels like service and I am just generally delighted by the whole experience.
We started with the petit plats part of the menu, little snacks to start the meal and get a taste of what’s to come, priced at only $3.50 each. The first was a dish of smoked herring and warm potato salad and thinly shaved red onions. Matt recoiled a bit when he saw it, as he’s not a big fan of fish, particularly the fishy tasting ones. I passed him the bread basket, but this herring is beautifully smoked and delicate with the red onions providing a nice tang. The beef tongue pastrami with gribiche sauce was heartier but no less satisfying. The pastrami has a silky feel to it that the sauce matches in texture and richness and a slice each of bread and lettuce underneath balance it out. Other options in this part of the menu include pork rillettes, Oyster Rockefeller and crispy calamari with saffron mayonnaise.
The endive gratin with smoked ham and mornay sauce (made from owner John Blakely’s mother’s recipe) could easily be a petit plat as well (or even as an hors d’oeuvre at my next cocktail party – watch for it) but it’s positioned as a side dish along with Brussel sprouts leaves in hazelnut brown butter and the ubiquitous French bistro pomme frites. In any case, it’s delicious and I could easily see accompanying some of the rustic dishes with a couple bites of cheese, ham and creamy sauce.
More than half the menu is now taken up by petits plats, salads, hors d’oeuvres and sides, but that is in keeping with the feedback that they’ve been getting from the neighbourhood. For those looking for a meal, some heavy-hitter entrées have been added like boeuf Bourgignon and choucroute garni. French for “dressed sauerkraut”, the choucroute is an Alsatian dish that comprises a house-smoked pork chop, sausage, bacon potatoes, and wine-braised sauerkraut. Chef Tobias Grignon makes everything in house and the result is satisfying on multiple levels.
For a bit of a lighter dish the sole farcie – stuffed local sole – is made a filet filled with crab meat and cooked in a tarragon cream sauce with mushrooms. Somehow the fish doesn’t lose its flavour and manages to hang in the balance between the crab and the butter. The oven-roasted tomato is exactly the right choice for both colour and acid.
The crispy braised pig’s trotter was what reminded me most of France though, while somehow managing to be better than most of the trotters I’ve had there. It is braised past the point of even resembling a foot or any of the potentially gristly bits that somehow stick around. Accompanied with lentils, frisée salad and ginger vinaigrette, it was one of my favourite dishes from the evening. I’m looking forward to it having it again soon, but what I’m really excited to try are some of their new limited-time offal specials:
Vol 1 – November 1st – 14th
Petit Plats ($3.50)
Crispy pig’s ear, honey, smoked salt
Lamb’s tongue vinaigrette, saffron mayonnaise
Duck heart tourtière, mushroom marmalade $9
Smoked beef tongue, romaine hearts, mustard vinaigrette, soft poached egg $9
Tripes a la Provençal, tomato, capers, saffron, ricotta gnocchi $18
Braised pig’s trotter, pomme purée, port wine jus $19
Vol 2 – November 15th – 30th
Petit Plats ($3.50)
Popcorn chicken livers, curried apple chutney
Fromage de tête, cornichons, crostini
Pan-fried calf’s brain, cauliflower purée, parsley, caper butter $9
Slow-braised pigs’ tails, balsamic, oregano, grilled baguette $9
House-made andouillette sausage, pomme frites, mustard $17
Beef heart ragout en croûte, wild mushrooms, celeriac, winter salad $17
Forget Paris in the spring, Le Parisien in the fall is where it’s at.
Le Parisien is at 751 Denman Street in Vancouver.