I had been wanting to visit Au Comptoir for quite some time. The French bistro in Kitslano is often raved by my French friends, with one of them being Yann, an associate professor of marketing at UBC, who was once in a feature on CBC News about comparing portion control in French and North American cuisine. The TV host started with a question, while most French dishes seem heavier with using a lot of butter and heavy cream in cooking, why do most French people still look thinner? The TV interview was taken place at Au Comptoir, where the question was presented to both Yann and Daniel McGee, the Chef de Cuisine of the French bistro. The fact which both men agreed with is that French chefs focus on the pleasurable eating experience, by satisfying their customers’ senses, instead of indulging them with large portion. And the sensory pleasure could come from a lot of things, the menu, the server, the quality of the ingredients, and the food presentation, which all matter in the whole dining experience.
And here we were, sitting at the table right under the skylight, anxiously looking forwards to the sensory pleasure from our Saturday brunch. It was already quite the bliss for us, a group of food bloggers getting together and sharing the passion for food. Although Foodgressing was MIA, I was happy to hang out with Nosh and Nibbles (Nosh), and Food Wench of Drunken Noms (Food Wench).
While Nosh started his morning with a beautifully cut Cafe Creme (Latte) ($4), our charming French waiter brought Food Wench and I both the famous Caesar à Paris ($7), and we were getting quite the kick from the heavily spiced and seasoned cocktail.
A Pleasurable Appetizer
Sharing the Manchons de Canards Frits ($10), or the Fried Duck Wings, was a pleasurable start of our journey. The dish came with 6 pieces of duck wings, perfectly seasoned and fried. The colour, the smell, and and the crunchiness, all seemed impeccable from the perfect execution. And the creamy dijon mustard was a great touch to the wings, and became even more special when Food Wench started telling the story of her travelling to Dijon in France and the whole experience at a local mustard factory tour.
We were off to a great start for food!
The Sensory Pleasure Continues…
Our main dishes arrived, and they were visually stunning.
My Riz de Veau aux Champignons Sauvages ($19) featured veal sweetbreads, lightly breaded and fried, and served with morel mushrooms, asparagus, leek puree, and 2 poached eggs. It was minimalist cuisine at its best. The sweetbreads were tender and flavourful, and a notch above the ones I had at Les faux Bourgeois. The vegetable components contributed refreshing flavours and great texture to the dish. The dish was complete when I cut open a poached egg and let the bright orange yolk ooze out, a final touch that was binding everything to a pleasurable love affair on the plate.
Sitting beside me, Food Wench was definitely having a moment with her Burger Maison Frites ($16) on her own. Although she kindly declined the option of adding a piece of Froie Gras ($6) despite the enthusiastic recommendation by our charming waiter, it was the sexy burger that she was desiring. Made from high quality beef ground in house, the burger patty was succulent and juicy, with a touch of pink in the centre, and it was served with delicious house-cut fries and a frisee salad. It was only small bite on the burger that I stole from her, but it was enough to have me wow’d.
Nosh’s Fletan sur Brioche ($16), consisted of lightly smoked halibut, poached eggs with dill hollandaise, briothe buns, and a frisee salad, was another visually pleasing dish with vibrant colours from the greens and the hollandaise sauce. The dill in the hollandaise worked extremely well with the smoked halibut, and the fish seemed much more delicate than crab or salmon that more often used in seafood benny.
A Sweet and Sexy Finish
It was always not easy for Nosh to say no to dessert menu, and it made it even harder when there was this impressive dessert stand filled with pastries of vivid colours at Au Comptoir. I was captivated by his pick, the Tarte Citron ($7), or the Lemon Meringue Tart, and felt lucky to be offered for a taste of it. The aesthetic plating of vibrant components, the subtle fruity fragrance, the refreshing citrusy flavour, and the soft texture of the lush lemon curd, although it was only one bite, it was one heck of a bite to please all my senses.
The Final Words
Our brunch at Au Comptoir was a pleasurable one. Although it was a casual bistro style meal, the quality of the dishes and the service was terrific, and just as impressive as what I experienced in Paris a few years ago. It was the little details that they put in every single dish, even for the most seemingly simple ones, that truly shows the effort of giving a satisfying dining experience. I highly recommend the Fried Duck Wings, the Sweetbreads with Poached Eggs, and the Lemon Tart, which would hit all the right spots if you are looking for a treat of sensory pleasure on a Saturday morning.