For six months, Isobel Drummond and her husband sojourned across France with their two teenage daughters, seeking out the country’s best cafés. The couple lingered over coffee and macarons in Paris, Bordeaux, St. Tropez, Marseille, and Nice. Now, at Simply French Cafe, they strive to capture the welcoming ambiance and gourmet foods they enjoyed in their favourite French eateries.
Simply French’s crystal chandeliers and Toulouse-Lautrec posters pop against dark wooden floors and exposed ceiling beams. Customers linger over paninis, tiramisu, and French-style pastries served on delicate pastel china. And in the evenings, a hands-on macaron-making class lets students create their own confections without the difficulty of growing meringues from seed.
Even though the menu is influenced by eateries in the Old World, almost every other element of Tapenade Bistro is supremely local. Chef Colin Uyeda, who grew up in Steveston, got his first job in a kitchen at age 15 according to the Richmond Review. The reporter sampled locally caught seafood, going so far as to name the local fisherman behind octopus that's "succulently braised and served with in-house merguez sausage, harissa paste, a combination of pickled and fresh vegetables, and a citrus emulsion."
That's not the end of the regional influences though; there are Salt Spring Island mussels, cuts of Fraser Valley pork, and more, all of it made in compliance with Ocean Wise's guidelines for sustainability. Small producers from the region are well represented on the wine list, as well, and a special dinner series walks patrons through those offerings.
Eating at Starry Night Restaurant provides a hip alternative to dining out under the night sky. Purple panels overhead are speckled with glowing dots and recessed lights, which surround a chandelier bristling with refractive glass. Beneath the cool hues, waiters carry plates of deep-fried spring rolls and chargrilled ribeye over to purple booths that curve along the walls. Seated in the downstairs lounge, diners can nibble on pan-seared halibut or an appetizing lighting fixture as they listen to live music on select nights.
Weaving a tapestry of authentic subcontinental dishes, the chefs at Maurya Indian Cuisine incorporated ingredients from across India’s varied regions. The country’s street food vendors are represented by the toasted potato and pea-cake appetizers; Goa is represented by spicy chicken, lamb, or beef vindaloo; and the tastes of South India make an appearance in the coconut- and poppy seed–flavoured chettinad paste. The restaurant’s base sauce—a mix of five sauces— flavours hearty, shareable portions of lamb, chicken, fish, and goat. The bistro also keeps vegetarians sated with eats that include black lentils slow-cooked overnight and several styles of naan, including one that is equipped with WiFi.
Food arrives with a choice of ambiance. One is the well-lit dining room decked out with long drapes suspended from a high ceiling. The other is served on the eatery’s patio, complete with its own chef who tends to the outdoor tandoor oven. Whether indoors or out, the staff maintains a high standard of professionalism, earning an array of positive press mentions, including Dine Out Vancouver's Best Bite award for service in 2010.
On his CTV News feature, La Belle Patate founder Mathieu Lott revealed he disdains the word "chef" and rather prefers his chosen title: Grease King. The name belies his and founder, as well as native Montrealer, Pascal Cormier's devotion to down-home cooking, a style that embraces the humble simmer of the deep-fryer over the fuss of candlelight, linens, and diamond-encrusted toothpicks. His poutine dishes inject three diner locations with classic Quebec flavour, layering hand-cut, double-cooked french fries with cheese curds and a ladle of vegetarian brown sauce.
At his original venue in Victoria, Mathieu and his staff put on a sensory show for guests at all stages of their poutine prep. Once the potatoes have tumbled in an antique peeler, they are sliced in view of the tables, then cooked twice in bubbling oil. Each of the three locations attests that its never-frozen cheese curds squeak when chewed, a noise that indicates their quality and desire to be heard. The poutine menu covers creative takes on the traditional curds-and-sauce staple, including an egg-laden breakfast poutine and a Meat Lover poutine with beef, bacon, and pepperoni. The kitchen also crafts handmade burgers, Montreal smoked-meat sandwiches, and steamed hot dogs to accompany the potato mainstay.
Adding inventive twists to the classic crepes of France, the chefs at Doux Crepes wrap thin pancakes around sweet and savoury fillings to serve diners seated at the cozy tables of their casual eatery. Each morning, the staff emerges from under their giant pancake bedspreads to update a colourful blackboard menu with the day's offerings of classic French-style crepes and international fusions such as hawaiian crepes with cheese, ham, bacon, and pineapples. The culinary team crafts other gourmet eats including paninis and pizzas, and they fill glasses with freshly brewed coffee, espresso, and tea. They can also whip up mini crepes to help customers cater office gatherings or anniversary parties celebrating their first trip to Paris, Texas.