Up in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Bienville sur Chabanel offers quality food in a striking setting
Chabanel – the street and environs – used to be renowned for serious shopping, with its factories, outlets and importers. The recessions have hit the area, but there’s still a dizzying array of buying opportunities in the heavy-set high-rises. Too dizzying, perhaps. So when the stress of hunting for the perfect cocktail dress or thigh-high leather boots overwhelms, take the advice uttered in Babar’s Fair (recently read to my kids): "Let’s all go to the restaurant to calm our nerves." That kind of advice is never instilled too young.
And this is a restorative restaurant. The Plateau Bistro Bienville opened up an outpost, Bienville sur Chabanel, as long and lofty as the original is cozy. The industrial chic space is just right for the ‘hood. I liked the glossy, varnished concrete floor and huge globe jars over the hanging light bulbs. Even the bathrooms are striking, with neck-craning tall white walls elongated further by oval mirrors on dark wood.
The menu is seafood heavy, with some bistro staples. Veal bavette with fries and salad; a Julie salad with coriander and feta; mackerel rillettes and smoked salmon on toast.
My pal and I started with a soup, a sizable bowl of hearty broccoli, thick with the green veg. An olive oil drizzle and croutons topped the jade pond.
Our mains arrived, the presentation fit for a magazine. His gleaming fillet of smoked mackerel lay thickly over a barley salad colourfully studded with apple, onion and spinach. The menu had boasted figs, we’d hoped for fresh, but found the rehydrated dry ones were a nice, if understated, grace note to the oily fish.
My perfectly cooked tilapia fillets lay over a thick carrot purée with chunks of fried mushroom and a mushroom purée smear beside. Fuchsia slices of pickled onion added contrast.
I’d forgotten that tilapia can taste muddy. Fortunately, the strong woodsy flavours of the purées masked that, but next time I’d rather a different fish. As my pal said, "It’s not off-putting, just something you don’t dream about."
A slice of cake, more cocoa-y then chocolaty, came with a tangy yogurt sauce and thick-cut peach preserves that spoke of summer’s last days.
For the quality, the bill was beyond reasonable, even with a glass of decent Costières de Nîmes. I’m not the type to return for shopping, but I would nip back for a meal.
Bienville sur Chabanel
235 Chabanel; 514-507-1235
Lunch for two: $24-$40