We have a 4 pm service at St. Philip’s, and every second week we alternate between following it with a meal, or coffee and a snack. Yesterday was a coffee and snack day, and afterward a group of us went down for a meal at Blackbrid Brasserie. This was my first visit to the restaurant since I reviewed, although I do pick up their sandwiches from the Canteen which is the coffee shop attached to the restaurant.
Given that the restaurant’s menu is primarily French in it’s composition I ordered a bowl of French Onion Soup and the Escargot. the soup was good and cheesy and the snails and sauce were well cooked and satisfying. I topped my meal off with a Black Sparrow Bitter.
I didn’t get many comments on the meals of the others, but one person who had ordered one of the burgers, did say she appreciated how rich and buttery the brioche bun was. Visually all the other meals looked terrific.
It was only a couple of years ago, that Bouchée Boucher opened up on the corner of Taché and Marion, and only a few months since everything fell apart. After sitting empty for a few months, the location has reopened with a different ownership group and a new style menu. The new restaurant is called Blackbird Brasserie. The new owners are the same people who own The Grove on Stafford, and Cornerstone on the corner of Osborne and River. I’ve reviewed both of those places and found them to be quite good,
The restaurant is just down the street from St. Philip’s, my parish home, so I walk by quite regularly. I stopped two or three times to check out the menu that was posted on the windows. I noticed that most of the items on the menu were classic French dishes. If you’ve been following Dining with Donald over the last few months, particularly my monthly reading roundups, you’ll know that I’ve been reading a lot about French cuisine. With that reading as a background I was looking forward to the opening of Blackbird Brasserie.
I’m going to go into the details below, but to sum up my experience at Blackbird Brasserie, I would say that I have had five good dishes, a couple that even reach real good, but I have yet to try one dish that I would go back time and again for. Still, they are only recently opened, so there is time for them to continue to look for those dishes that are senstational.
the service I have received on every visit has been very good, and if they put the same efforts into the menu that they put into service, I’m sure that Blackbird Brasserie will only continue to get better.
On my first visit I figured I would try a couple of French classics. The first was the French Onion soup and the second was a Salade Lyonnaise. The soup that came had a rich onion broth, and the bread, some sort of multi grain, had its own distinct flavour that built on the flavour of the broth. The one thing that I found disappointing in the soup was that the amount of cheese used in the dish was on the scant side, meaning that the spoonfuls were hit and miss as to cheesiness, and there was no fun in breaking through the surface of the soup.
The secret to the Salade Lyonnaise is the ability to break the yolk of the soft-cooked egg and mix it in with the lardons of bacon, croutons, and frisée that has been dressed with a dijon mustard vinaigrette. Much like the French Onion soup, the salad makes it most of the way there. the poached egg was perfectly runny when I broke into it, and mixed very well with the rest of the ingredients. However, I think the salad would be better if the bacon had a little bit more crispness to it, to make the first bite more noteworthy.
On my second visit I decided to again go with the soup and entree combination. The soup of the day was a Tomato Bisque. The entrée I chose was the Pickerel à la Meuniere. If you know the mythology of Julia Childs, it was here eating of this dish with sole as the fish that made her fall in love with France and French cuisine and in the process ended up revolutionizing the American palate.
The Tomato Bisque, pictured at the top of this post, goes down as the highlight dish of my three visits to the restaurant. It was thick and creamy and their was a rich and peppery undercurrent to the tomato flavour. One that helped take away the acidic quality that sometimes overwhelms tomato dishes.
Again, with this dish, the fish itself was excellent. The flesh was good and firm. It was seasoned in such a way as to let the fish’s flavour shine through, and it had a nice, light brown crust on it, that gave a little bit of crunch to add to the texture of the dish. I suppose Israeli Couscous may have some sort of gourmet cachet about it, but I found that it reminded me of a poor cousin of barley. I didn’t find the texture particularly enjoyable, although that may just be me.
I mentioned above that the service quality is very high. This is one time when that showed through. I asked one of the staff what beer he would reccommend to go with the pickerel, and he suggested one of the house beers that are made for them by Sleemans. It was the perfect choice. Light and pleasant with a finish that didn’t contradict the delicacy of the fish.
Le Burger Week at Blackbird Brasserie
Le Burger Week is an annual showcase that features restaurants all across Canada, and in Haiti, creating special burgers for the menus. In Winnipeg this year there were over 120 restaurants involved. It’s become a celebration of excess and by and large I don’t participate. However, if a restaurant I’m visiting during that week has a burger on it’s menu I’ll generally give it a try.
Given that Blackbird Brasserie was going for a simple approach to their entry for Le Burger Week I decided that I would give it a try. This burger was called the Black Bird burger and the ingedients are listed below:
Pressed patty, fancy sauce, caramelized onion, cornichon, Swiss cheese, au jus
This was a pretty basic burger, and it came out quite well. the patty was good and beefy, it covered the bun quite nicely and the toppings did blot out the burgers flavour. It came with a good portion of crisy fries. The one lthing that would have improved it was if the dish that held the jus was a little smaller so that it was easier to dip. On the whole, though this was a really good burger.
As I mentioned earlier I think Blackbird Brasserie has some work to do to elevate their menu, but I think they will get it done and become an institution on the corner of Tache and Marion.