Friday, 26 October 2012

Bijou Restaurant

105 Erie Street
Stratford, ON


In her opinion:
We managed to get tickets for 42nd Street penultimate Sunday matinee shows of the season! So I was pretty excited about that, but then Edgar thought it would be a great idea if we actually grabbed a great meal in Stratford before the performance. Now I was doubly excited! This of course was breaking with tradition as we always grab a burger before the show, but I was open to the idea! So 45 minutes before leaving for the show, Edgar called Bijou Restaurant and made a reservation for that Sunday at 12:30 pm. We were very lucky as this was the final Sunday that they were serving lunch for the season!

We got there about 15 minutes ahead of our reservation. We would have been there sooner but this little gem (excuse the pun) is not that easy to find if you don't know what  you are looking for. Erie Street is easy enough to maneuver but Bijou doesn't sit exactly on Erie Street. It is in the alley way behind the parking lot on Erie Street. Regardless, we found it. It is a nice room divide into the front and back. We sat in the front with the open kitchen along with other theatre going patrons. The hostess placed us in a lovely corner banquette. She mentioned how they are a blackboard menu restaurant and that we should have a look before sitting down. We did.

We both ordered wine to start. I got a lovely Cave Springs Riesling (I know predictable but I like to drink what I like!). We weren't sure about how much time the kitchen would take with our meals so we skipped ordering appetizers and went start through to main courses.  However, the kitchen sent out an amuse bouche of  "Butternut Squash Soup" with Monforte cheese and duck fat crouton with paprika oil.  This was so delicious.  The soup was sweet and creamy. The cheese added the right amount of sharpness and the duck fact crouton was crispy and flavourful.  This was truly delectable.

For my main,  I ordered the "Pork Schnitzel". It was served with confit fingering potatoes, sweet corn and a grainy mustard jus.

This was so delicious. The pork schnitzel was perfection!  It was crispy and juicy. The flavours were excellent.  I enjoyed the potatoes and corn...two of my favourite comfort foods but these were beyond ordinary. The grainy mustard jus was the perfect accompaniment...reminiscent of when I have schnitzel on a bun with mustard only refined and elegant.  

We had enough time for dessert...thank goodness! I opted for the "Banana Bread Pudding". This was served with sour cream ice cream and creme anglaise.

This desserts was so so wonderful. The banana flavour was just right in this creamy bread pudding.  Again one of my absolute favourite comfort foods. The sour cream ice cream added a bit of tartness that countered the sweetness of the pudding perfectly. The creme Anglais balanced everything out. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Bijou Restaurant. We vowed that we would return for dinner soon. This is a lovely French restaurant in Stratford and a real gem.

In his opinion:
To say that I'm a sucker for French bistros would be a bit of an exaggeration but I do fancy French food and contrary to popular belief, the best French food is found in small bistros and not really at high end French restaurants (Auberge du Pommiers excluded of course)!

On a day of contradictions that has me going to watch a "musical" in Stratford (musicals not usually my cup of tea), I decided to continue the contradiction and try to squeeze a meal in the very little time we had before the show.

Bijou has been on my scope for a while and because it's often regarded as the hardest place to get a reservation in Stratford, I sincerely thought that my chances were very slim. I called and low and behold I got a reservation. This contradiction day is off to a good start.

Somewhat hard to find, tucked in an alley way parallel to Erie Street, this place is truly a hidden gem. As you walk in the main door, you realize that this place is an understated diamond in the rough. The hostess/waitress ensures you are warmly welcomed and points out that the menu is written on a chalk board and you may want to check it before seating down.

The menu was quite extensive for a bistro depicting great dishes ranging from Japanese eggplant, to yellow perch to pork schnitzel with potato confit. The menu changes daily but some items reappear often on the board. For dinner you have the option of a fixed price Menu at 2 courses for $48 and 3 courses for $55.

I decided to order the "cheek to cheek" dish as it really stood out for me on the menu. Right after I put in my order, the chef sent us an amuse bouche that consisted of the "puree of butternut squash, served in a espresso cup with delicious local Monforte cheese and a duck fat crouton". The soup was creamy, full of flavour and the cheese was the perfect companion to this mini dish. Interesting and refreshing way to serve the mini-soup, I really liked the presentation.

My entree arrived and looked and smelled wonderful. This dish consists of "braised pork and veal cheeks, served with pearl onions, celery root in a goulash broth". The dish was very well balanced, the pork was very flavourful, juicy and tender, as was the veal. The onions and the celery root worked well on their own, but were elevated by the broth. Overall, a great dish and a perfect pairing for my Tawse Cabernet Franc.

For dessert, I was very traditional and predictable in my choices and opted for the lemon infused creme brulee, served with a caramelized sugar leaf and shortbread cookie. The lemon aspect of the custard made a great contrast to the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the custard itself. It was a larger portion than it appears in the picture. It was a perfect dessert to go along with my short espresso which by the way wasn't all that bad, and you may know how fussy I'm about my espressos.

The Good: Great atmosphere, knowledgeable and attentive staff and a chef that clearly likes to take risks and fosters innovation and clearly understands the simple approach to French inspired cuisine.
The Bad: Hard to find the front door and only open seasonally on Sundays for lunch.
The Verdict: Amazing gem, literally hidden from sight and one of my favourite meals in Stratford, ever! 
Would love to go back and try their fixed priced menu for dinner and experience this place again.

I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating.

Bijou Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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