French food is wonderful.
Liberal usage of fats, willingness to eat anything and a proud culinary history combine to make French cooking one of the “Three Grand Cuisines”.
Well, not really.
The official reasons are:
- Presence of a royal kitchen – To produce a variety of complex dishes to please royalty
- Long dynastic reign – Ensures the coherence and improvement of recipes over time
- Availability of a variety of foodstuffs – Self explanatory
For the record, the other two are Chinese and Turkish (who would’ve guessed?).
Anyhow, point is, I love French (and Turkish and Chinese) food, and I actively seek out traditional French restaurants, which brings us to this review.
First off, the restaurant itself is very, very nice. Located on the ground floor of some forgettable grey office building, Avec Bistro makes wonderful use of its space.
Windows make up half of the walls, and the remaining surfaces are made of glassy black stone, towering curtains and vertical slats of wood. The restaurant is brightly lit, while still maintaining a cozy and intimate atmosphere.
The place is pretty.
To add to the atmosphere, the restaurant was..
We were there between 5:40 and 7:30 on a Wednesday night and had the honor of being the only customers in the restaurant.
Maybe the food will give us a clue.
The charcuterie was up first and didn’t make any lasting impressions. Not that there was anything glaringly wrong, it just didn’t amaze. The home-cured summer sausage was a bit too gamey for my taste, and the tiny little turd-shaped squirts of pâté didn’t really do it for me either.
Honestly though, a board full of pre-prepared meats, pickles and bread isn’t a good indicator of culinary skill, so let’s talk about the mains.
I ordered the duck breast roulade with leeks, onions, cherry compote,and some black quinoa-like grain (it’s been like 2 months, I forgot…). The duck was cooked perfectly, and was tender, delicately savoury and came out of the pan with perfectly crisp and caramelized skin. However, by the time it got to the table, it was just a little bit soggy. The rest of the dish was well executed and mostly made sense. The tart cherry sauce paired perfectly with the duck, while the leeks and grains tasted like..leeks and grains.
My dessert, however, was perfection. The crème brûlée was technically sound, with a light vanilla custard and a crunchy, slightly burnt caramel disc. Topping it off was a delicious sugar cookie and some sort of edible flower. While not the most challenging dessert in terms of technical skill, this was executed perfectly and would give any Parisian bistro a run for its money.
At the end of the day, the food wasn’t bad at all, the service was friendly and charming and the restaurant was beautifully decorated.
If I wasn’t driving that day, I’m sure I would agree with the wine selection as well.
So what went wrong?
Well I’m not entirely sure.
If I were to take a guess, it’d be a sad case of trying to fit a classy, French peg into an uncultured, Calgarian hole.
Unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be a niche for traditional French food because everyone’s bandwagoning over tiny share plates of gluten free organic Asian-Canadian fusion.
The next time you’re looking for a relaxing evening or a quiet, atmospheric date, try Avec Bistro. Sometimes it’s nice eating food you can recognize in a restaurant that doesn’t look like a shitty modern art installation.