Posted by Degan on May 3rd, 2012
Springtime in Paris is a lovely thing. Last year we were in Paris for our honeymoon so it was a treat to attend the Le Parisien bistro opening in the West End recently and sample some old and new favourite dishes. The space has housed a French restaurant for ages; it was formerly the Bistro de Paris and before that the Café de Paris – and this is where the story comes full circle because proprietor John Blakely (also the proprietor of Bistro Pastis) once worked here when he first came to Canada.
But never mind the details. The room is gorgeous – big picture windows that allow passersby to peak in on red banquettes, chalkboards, copious amounts of wine and beautiful bistro food. And as for the food, Chef Tobias Grignon (also of Bistro Pastis) has created a beautiful French bistro menu to please the palates.
We had a tarte flambée to start; crispy dough rolled thin and topped with arugula, bacon, fromage frais and caramelized onions. Some of the best crispy veal sweetbreads I’ve had followed. They were fried with honey and endive and a bit of bacon and the balance of savoury and sweet, crunch and oil, were just perfect.
The “French onion fondue” is another bit of brilliance; like French onion soup but without the pesky broth this is caramelized onions and sherry cooked down in a gratin bowl and generously coated in Gruyère, so that you are able to dig in with the point of a baguette. It’s heavenly, while still being over-the-top rich. I could eat this all night if summer wasn’t coming up and I wanted to eat some other dishes. Hrm.
The dinner menu has all the French faves; escargot, cassoulet, boudin noir, roasted bone marrow, never mind the côte de boeuf (I’m eying Matt on this one at this very moment – hellooo0000oooo0000ooo date night!). At the opening we tried the braised lamb gnocchi with mint, fromage blanc and peas as well as the roast chicken for two, carved tableside and in no need of gravy whatsoever, it was so moist. I don’t know how this would normally be served in the dining room, but they are keen about their commitment to tableside carving, so presumably you could order sides to accompany.
But it was the boudin noir that won my heart – house made blood sausage with spices served cut up on creamy mashed potatoes with bacon (not enough in my opinion), and roasted apple slices. I LOVE boudin noir and this treatment won me over. I would order it over and over again. Also the Cassoulet de Castelnaudary. Cassoulet is a traditional French dish that I try to order as often as possible (one of these days I’m going to make it). Cassoulet is basically a peasant dish - slow cooked white beans with a confit duck leg and other assorted meats and sausages – and the cassoulet de Castelnaudary is a delicious concoction of pork, sausage and duck confit. In this dish, pork is the main ingredient, but the flavours cook into each other for so long that the meaty goodness that comes to the table really is imbued with all kinds of flavours from the ingredients. It’s not a light meal, but I would certainly order it again.
Desert is never really my thing, but I’ve been trying! I’ve been telling people I’m in dessert “training” and so far it seems to be working. Small portions of not very sweet items are still my preference though. We had the opportunity to sample the calamansi cream parfait and the chocolate something or other but – holla! – the tarte tatin with Armanac ice cream is basically fruit and flaky bread. That kind of dessert, I can do. In this case the tarte was cooked too a bit too long and the sugars were ultra-caramelized to the point of tasting like candy. Too bad because I loved the flavours, especially in the brandied ice cream.
Additionally, something that will be a boon for the neighbourhood is that fact that light (Parisian style) breakfast will be served at the bar each morning. Stop in and have a croissant and coffee before a meander around the seawall.