Beaurivage Bistro & Cafe
Regular hours 8am – 2pm Monday to Saturday. Open evenings by pre-arrangement(see bottom of review).
Writing a blog, I often wonder if I’m connecting with my readers. Sure, view counts say something, but I’m not always sure if people are actually reading. Of course, the longer I write the more little indications I get that people are in fact paying attention.
One of the ways this happens is that friends and colleagues start recommending places that I should visit. A few weeks back I was at a dinner put on by Emmanuel Sudanese Mission, one of the two Sudanese parishes in our diocese. The parish was established ten years ago, and the Sudanese community there wanted to show their appreciation by putting on a dinner.
While there, one of my colleagues, Rev Dr. Jane Barter, told me about Beaurivage, a restaurant she had recently visited with her partner Glen. She was enthusiastic about here experience and so I made a note to check it out when I had a chance. Having visited, I can say Jane’s enthusiasm is more than warranted.
Beaurivage Bistro Lunch
My first time visiting Beaurivage was on a Monday. This is generally my day off, so I’m able to fit in visits a bit easier. In this case I arrived just after 11. Beaurivage occupies the space that was for many years home to Purple Hibicus, a restaurant that was closed any time I went by.
Walking in to the building I had the feeling that this might not be the most auspicious of days. The Saint B Hotel is an older building and as you walk in you catch an old musty smell. The kind of smell that I associate with 1970’s high rise apartments. Looking in at the empty tables in the Bistro, I wasn’t particularly reassured.
However, that feeling was quickly dispelled when the owner came over to greet me. George Chamaa is the owner of Beaurivage, he came to Canada from Lebanon about 40 years ago, and has owned this restaurant for two years. He started out as the first Pita Bread baker in Winnipeg, but as he said, he was about 10 years ahead of his time. Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when Pita Bread was considered exotic.
This also isn’t his first foray into the the restaurant business. For many years he owned Phoenicia which was located in what is now Affinity Vegetarian Garden on Edmonton Street.
I took a look at the menu, and decided I would order the lentil soup, and one entree. However, when I went to place my order, I was told the Lentil soup wasn’t available right at the moment, Chamaa was waiting for the weather to cool down to start serving it again.
This was only mildly disappointing. I decided to change tack and order the Lebanese Lunch. This is the most expensive item on the menu, but it comes with two appetizers, one entree, salad, and pita for $19.95. The items included are chosen by the owner, but having talked with him for a few minutes, I was quite confident that I wouldn’t be steered wrong.
I also ordered a Lebanese Coffee. Again Chamaa suggested that I wait until after the meal to drink it, and I once again took his adivice.
Lebanese food is slow food. It always has been, long before the term took on political meaning. Chamaa’s concession to the lunch hour rush is that he brings dishes to the table two at a time, rather than one at a time. The restaurant does offer burgers and fries if you are in a bit of a rush.
My first plate came with my appetizers. Rosettes, which are roasted cauliflower served with a bit of salad covered in Tahini. The Tahini is nice and light in texture and flavour, while the caramelized cauliflower gives a sweet taste and slightly crunchy texture. The Baba Ghanouj, a roasted eggplant dip, is superb. The dip is light and airy, and Chamaa adds smoked paprika (Hungarian). This smoky touch works really well with the garlic and citrus to produce a dip that one could eat by the bowlful without getting sick of it or feeling overly full.
After the first plate was finished, I received my second plate.
The entree was a deconstructed Chicken Shawarma. Instead of being in a wrap it was served over a bed of rice. The chicken itself was moist and tender. There was a good mix of spice, with the allspice in particular standing out a little. The salad had a good mixture of vegetables and a light vinaigrette dressing to it. The Kafta’s were a bit of a revelation. Looking like little hamburgers, the meat was very moist, and tender with the beef flavour shining through.
Surprisingly, after eating all of this I wasn’t feeling full and heavy. That’s a testament to the food itself and Chamaa’s skill as a chef. Since I wasn’t feeling all that full, I ended up adding a half-order of Baklava to go with my Lebanese Coffee.
Chamaa was indeed right about the coffee. While being strong, it is lighter and brighter than an espresso. It started with a little crema being poured into the bottom of cup, to which the coffee was added. It cleared the palate quite nicely. The Baklava caught me off guard, as there was really know syrup. Turns out that’s a characteristic of Lebanese Baklava. I’ve just been used to the Greek. Unfortunately, I was so busy enjoying the Baklava and coffee that I didn’t take any pictures.
Chamaa is proud of his Lebanese heritage and culinary tradition. As he told me more than once during the lunch, “Lebanese Food is the best food in the world, but the hardest to make.” This is evident in the Baba Ghanouj. It takes three days from start to finish of each batch.
Back for Breakfast
Having tried the Lebanese Lunch, I had gotten a good sampling of the Lebanese food on the menu. So, on my next trip I stopped in for breakfast. Beaurivage serves a good diner style breakfast.
I order the King Special. This comes with eggs, hash browns, four strips of bacon and toast. There were also three slices of tomato. One of the nice touches of Beaurivage is that coffee is $2.00 a cup, but $1.50 if you are ordering a meal. That’s for a bottomless cup. The has browns are available with onions if you want (sadly, there are some people who wouldn’t want).
Once again the owner is warm and friendly. Again I managed to hit a time when there wasn’t a lot of traffic in the Bistro. The Beaurivage offers a good breakfast value, but really you need to go for lunch and try the Lebanese food.
You can also go for dinner. Beaurivage offer a variety of Prix-Fixe dinners in the evening, but you need to give the owner two or sometimes three days notice. Also, be prepared to spend two to three hours for your meal. Otherwise, try the lunch, you’ll be glad you did.