It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down at the keyboard to write up restaurant reviews, even though I’ve been carrying a couple to share. It’s time though -- since we're no longer working backstage, and our wedding was a week ago – my “too busy” excuse card has run out.
Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Friday this year, found Pierre and I working a dress rehearsal at the Ottawa Little Theatre, rather than out for our annual dinner celebration. We rarely allow an excuse for an evening out to pass us by, so we bumped it up, and had a romantic date night on the 16th instead. Consulting our custom “Best of Westboro” list, we picked the highly-rated Petit Bill’s Bistro, and oh my… what an excellent choice!
If there’s one thing I love about restaurants, it’s the warm, welcoming feeling that often comes in a family-owned and operated place. Led to our table by the smiling Newfie owner, I felt as though he was sincerely pleased by our arrival and truly appreciated that we chose his establishment over all of the others. [Pierre has said on more than one occasion that there are no nicer people than Newfoundlanders, and this gentleman was a fine example.] Our waitress, too, was wonderfully friendly and helpful, but neither to the point of intruding on our privacy. Excellent restaurant skills, I’ve decided, are their own form of art, and these people’s sincerity created an ideal, relaxed environment.
And the menu… wrapped in an embossed soft cork cover, we were presented with a myriad of options, from a full page of lighter, lower-priced Bistro fare to the Mains and Dinner plates, all of which looked blissfully gastronomically delicious! And then, score! On the daily special page, we found this delight: Table d’Hote for Two – choice of daily soups of the day (Five-Spice Boc Choy), Caesars, or House salads; entrees, and desserts, plus a bottle of Chenin Blanc or Douro wine for $100/couple / $75 sans alcohol. Being the value-conscious and experimental folk that we are, we closed the main menu, toasted with our water glasses and got down to the difficult secondary-decision-making process.
Five-Spice has never been my top blend, so that was an easy "no," and Pierre’s not a big bok choy guy, so salad it was. Garlic sets Pierre’s stomach (and nose) on edge, so we both decided on the house salads, which were heavenly! Generous portions of uber-fresh baby greens were topped with carrot and beet ribbons and the most yummy in-house maplewood smoked vegetable vinaigrette. A smokey salad dressing? Oh yeah… Arriving just before the salads was a lovely basket of soft, light bread and a perfectly piped dish of not-too-garlicy pesto butter. What a fine combination.
Given a choice, we will always opt for big, chewy red wines, and the 2011 Porca de Murca from the Douro region of Portugal was a delicious medium-bodied one, leaving a slight spice on the tip of the tongue.
Choosing entrees was a bit more challenging, but we both made grand selections. In honour of our bunny-rescuing friends, we both declined the braised lapin. I went with the Duck Duo Newfit – a breast (which was a touch overcooked for me, but perfect for Pierre), and a leg/thigh which really couldn’t have been better. Barely spiced, the meat was served on a bed of lightly wilted spinach, with a hint of ginger, and bordered by perfectly crisp-fried-outside / fluffy-inside halved baby potatoes.
Pierre chose the Steelhead Trout, which was also a tad overdone, but was topped with a mild but tasty salsa. The sides included mixed roasted vegetables (deemed “ok”), and P’s first ever bread pudding (savory and ginger-laced,) which we both loved.
|Steelhead and duck. mmm!|
Desserts aren’t something we normally eat – neither of us are big sugar consumers – but when included with the meal, we make the sacrifice. ;) My choice was the Chili Chocolate Flourless Cake. Nearly as dense as dark chocolate fudge, and a tad grainy with a surprisingly barely-discernible chili bite, I was able to eat only a small portion, but wrapped the remainder of its deliciousness to-go. Pierre’s dessert was the clear winner: a Newfoundland Pound Cake, drizzled with screech, a rich, warming traditional rum, that went perfectly with the fresh whipped cream and ripe strawberries beside it.
|Well... if we must... :)|
Although a few aspects of our meals were less-than-perfect, so many parts exceeded our expectations that we were left with an overall feeling of pure satisfaction. For the fabulous atmosphere alone, I’d go back. Adding fresh, local, beautifully-presented ‘fine French cuisine with a Newfie accent’ guarantees a return trip.