One of my (outrageously numerous) New Year resolutions is to actively break my habits, good and bad. Thus far, I have only successfully applied this resolution to food and drink: having Mocha instead of Chai, eating mushrooms instead of arbitrarily not eating mushrooms, trying to enjoy beer even though the carbonation kills me, and ordering new and different dishes at my favourite eateries. Additionally, further exploration of Montreal’s vivid food scene is also on the menu – and upon my return to the city after the holidays, one of my first stops was Bistro Bienville.
This tiny restaurant located on the corner of Bienville and Mentana in the Plateau’s north-east quadrant was a truly delicious discovery. Perfect for a date or an intimate dinner with good friends, Bistro Bienville is comprised of one room in which the kitchen and dining area both reside, giving visitors the option of two vastly different dining experiences: dinner with your date/friends at a table, or dinner with your date/friends – and the entire cooking staff – at the bar. Personally, my dinner guest and I opted for the latter, which overlooks the food preparation counters, stoves, dish washing facilities and chefs. Having never really experienced the inside of a restaurant kitchen (apart from whatever Gordon Ramsay has taught us), we eagerly seated ourselves, hungry and keen, in front of three gentlemen who comprise Bistro Bienville’s entire staff.
We were cheerfully greeted by the two principal cooks and a host-type character who explained, in detail, the extensive wine list and short menu, while serving us chilled water and baguette slices. The menu is very simple, consisting of about five to six appetizers and four large meals meant to be shared by two (and sometimes three) people. Appetizers are between $14 and $18 roughly, and large meals run from $45 to $70 – remember, however, to divide these costs in half as most dishes are really meant to be shared! Commonly, as the cooks explained, guests choose to purchase two or three appetizers to share, or one appetizer and a principal plate.
Naturally, the real test comes with successfully selecting something off the menu, which indecisive types, like me, are just terrible at. In the end, my friend and I selected the scallop and blood sausage appetizer – yes, those two things evidently do come together on one plate in the real world; it was simply exquisite. Further, we opted for the salmon main dish served various vegetable sides, though lamb, Angus beef and venison were the other very worthy options. After licking our plates (not really, but close), we ordered a generous slice of dense, not-too-sweet apple pie topped with cream. We then took turns rolling each other home.
Whatever your New Year resolutions may be, add one more to the list: a visit to Bistro Bienville!
~ Tyler Yank