Even back in the bad old days when all you could find to eat in Vancouver was either steak or planked salmon, there was at least one French Bistro in town: Café de Paris. The legendary, de rigueur wood and brass-trimmed West End room has operated under several owners over the last 35 years, some more successful than others. However, the once uncontested home of Vancouver's best frites and the best strip-loin for the money had slipped more than a soupçon over the last decade.
Last week, the briefly shuttered space (most recently known as Bistro de Paris) reemerged as Le Parisien, now firmly in the hands of new owner John Blakeley, whose promise to return it to its former glory is well underway. In fact, it's already hopping.
It's fair to say the old bistro was looking shop worn- all the more reason to celebrate the vibrant, more open space that's emerged, resplendent in mustard cream walls, rejuvenated parquet floor and lipstick red leather banquettes.
Blakeley, who'll continue to run Pastis on West Fourth, says he always wanted to undertake something less formal. So, when the hallowed spot became available, he jumped at the chance. Above all, though, it was at Café de Paris where he got his start as a server with its original owner, the late Maurice Richez. "He was an amazing mentor to me," says Blakeley, adding it's "sentimental beyond belief" to be back.
Those who have mourned the demise of the original room will find plenty to cheer about on Tobias Grignon's faithfully French, and wallet-friendly menu.
Standouts from an initial sampling ranged from smoked chicken liver and foie gras parfait with pear compote ($14), a faithful Castelnaudary-styled cassoulet with cannellini beans and crispy duck confit ($20/$36 for two), a diet-destroying French onion fondue with lashings of Gruyere ($9), oysters Rockefeller and beignet (or raw on the half shell), Albacore tuna tartare with tapenade ($12/$19), house-made boudin noir ($17) and the list goes on.
There's no shortage of traditional tastes to tempt. But we like the idea that you can drop in alone for a taste at the bar and a glass (from a smart, well-chosen list) or settle in for a shared roasted chicken with all the trimmings ($38).
Good news for commuters-Le Parisien is open for "civilized" espresso and croissants from 8 to 11: 30 a.m., not to mention full-on serious breakfast (including boudin, cassoulet and crepes) on weekends. Also not to be overlooked: an express lunch of a half sandwich with cup of soup and salad or fries for $12. Oh, and did we mention the fries? They're as good as ever, if not better.
751 Denman St., 6046871418. Closed Mondays.
Looking for a good lunch that also makes a difference? Bites on Bikes (a project of HAVE Café) delivers fresh gourmet sandwiches with a homemade cookie and San Pellegrino Limonata by electric cargo bike across downtown. Order (minimum $40) online at bitesonbikes.com or by phone at 604-696-9026 prior to 3 p.m. the day before.