*Restaurant is now closed*
With the closures of Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe, Lumiere and DB Bistro (among others), it has become crystal clear that fine dining has taken a hit. Blame it on the economy, HST, the new liquor laws, inflation or anything else you can think of. Hence, the more affordable near fine dining establishments such as Les Faux Bourgeois, Pied-a-Terre, Twisted Fork and Salade de Fruits continue to thrive. A few years ago, we saw an explosion of these types of restaurants and it has slowed down somewhat until now. We saw the opening of Cafeteria last year and Campagnolo Roma just a few months ago. Almost seemingly at the same time, Café Régalade opened in Kits. The "Mini-me" of the larger La Régalade in West Van, it attempts to offer French food at sub $20.00 prices.
Originally, it was my intention on suggesting it to my softball team after a Monday night game; but ah zut! The place is closed on Mondays! Well, there goes that idea. And most certainly I'm not going to visit the place all-by-myself! I can only eat so much... Since we missed the past Monday game due to game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I thought it would be a great idea to "make-up" that canceled dinner. Actually, I was only able to round up one current member on my softball team being Milhouse. Emilicious, who plays on another team and TS, who used to play on my team, joined us as well. We milled around the idea of what to order when Emilicious piped up we should all share. Well, she had me at "share". After consultation with the every so fashionably late TS, we started with the Vitello Tonnato “en fleur” or roast veal slices and cauliflower salad. Now, I've never actually had this dish before; but upon further research, the one here deviates from the classic version a bit. Usually, the mayonnaise dressing includes tuna; but the one here resembles more of a potato salad except with cauliflower. I found this appetizer to be quite good. The thin slices of veal were still slightly rare and well-seasoned. Yet, it wasn't seasoned to the point where it hid the natural meat flavour.
Next we had the Caquelon of Snails, in Garlic Butter. Honestly, the snails were really an afterthought since the garlic butter with parsley, basil and lemon went really well with the baguette. The snails were only there as texture; but since they weren't really that big, it was easily lost in the bread dipping. At first, I didn't find it too salty; but as I put more of it on the baguette, it was powerful stuff. From a flavour explosion to something much more subtle was the Quinoa Salad with Mango and Basil. There was not much in the way of seasoning in this, rather the flavour relied on the sweet mango combined with the fresh basil and toasted pine nuts. The quinoa added another layer of texture. I didn't mind this salad; but it didn't have much impact and I got bored of it after awhile.
For our entrees, we started with the special of the day which was Le Cassoulet de La Regalade. This particular version not only had the requisite duck leg, it added lamb, sausage and ham. Boy, this was a massive amount of food. Granted, most of it consisted of beans; yet it would be a challenge for anyone to actually finish it. We really liked the crispy top finished off with bacon. Crispy and smoky, very good. We found the duck to be dry in parts while the sausage had a nice bounce texture. The lamb was really tender while not falling apart. It still had some meatiness to it. In terms of flavour, we found it was seasoned just enough. From one heavy dish to an even heavier one was the Braised Short Ribs in Pepper Sauce. The portion size was nothing to be scared of; rather it was the richness that made it a "eat only a little bit" dish. The boneless short rib was melt-in-our-mouths tender. There was barely any need for chewing. The pepper sauce was super creamy and sinful. It was not that peppery. Instead, it was smooth and relatively mild. Incredibly, served on the side was Gratin Dauphinois (scalloped potatoes). Boy, was this ever rich with heavy cream. Sinfully good; but too heavy for one person to finish.
Finally, at our 3rd entree, it was all about the flavours rather than size or heaviness. The Duck Breast a L'Orange was modest in size; yet not in flavour. The orange sauce was very well-balanced between being sweet, tart and a bit savoury. It was strong enough to flavour the duck while not overwhelming it. Now the duck had a nice seared taste; but I found it to be on the chewier side. It was by no means hard to eat; I just wished it was more moist. Finishing the plate was sauteed leeks which existed; yet were hardly memorable. Our final dish was the Steak Frites. I was actually disappointed with this dish. First, the frites were just like the ones from La Régalade - not crispy and kinda soggy. There must be some people who like it this way. I'm just not one of them. As for the steak itself, it was very thin - reminiscent of a minute steak. Moreover, it was a bit on the chewier side too. I realize that for $16.00, I shouldn't expect too much; but I've had better for the same price (specifically the hanger steak at Les Faux Bourgeois). They did offer it to be served with a red wine or peppercorn sauce; however, we already had a pepper sauce from the short ribs.
Even though Mijune wasn't present, somehow we ended up with dessert even though we were stuffed. And just like last time at La Régalade, we had the Lemon Tart. Wait, lemme rephrase that - I had the lemon tart again because none of them were with me last time! Unlike the one at La Régalade, the one here was a slice of a much larger tart. I actually like this version more since I'm not a huge fan of crust. I'd much rather have more filling. And the filling was really good here. It was silky, tart and not too sweet. Very well-balanced and I appreciated how the filling didn't run all over the plate (like some others I've had in the past). Of course a visit to either Café Régalade or La Régalade is not complete without the Floating Island or île Flottante. It consists of a large meringue with caramel and almonds atop crème anglais. Despite its size, the dessert is actually quite light. For some odd reason, this time around, I could only do a few spoonfuls. After that, I was not wanting anymore. Don't get me wrong, I like the dessert. Maybe it get a bit monotonous after awhile?
Lastly we had one of the daily desserts being the Monaco Torte. I'm not exactly sure what was in it since my note-taking kind of faded around the end of the entrees. I remember some crumbly chocolate on the inside with a layer of cream. It was actually quite sweet if one was to take a large chunk of it. Somewhat in sync with La Régalade; yet with smaller portions, Café Régalade serves up classic French food in a small little bistro in Kits. With nothing over $20.00, it is affordable near fine-dining. No pretentiousness here. Now, for me at least, I still think Les Faux Bourgeois leads the pack when it comes to French bistros; but considering the location, Café Régalade offers up decent French fare at reasonable prices.
- Nice location
- Generally good food
- As with most bistros, the seating is tight
- Some dishes are much more impressive than others (normal for most restaurants though)