When I travel, I’m always on the look out for quaint little French bistros. Charming, unpretentious atmosphere; simple, thoughtfully prepared food; reasonably priced. Those are the top qualities I seek in such a bistro. Le Pichet in Seattle is a perfect example. It recently dawned on me that I don’t do the same in Vancouver. So clearly, that had to change. Enter Les Faux Bourgeois. It’s tucked away in a nondescript location in the Mount Pleasant/Main Street neighbourhood. It’s gotten rave reviews to the point of being somewhat trendy. And it’s got a solid menu of French bistro classics.
I wish I could say I loved it, or that I can’t wait to return. But although the appetizer and dessert were enjoyable, the main was a miss, which is enough to keep me from coming back.
The room itself is rather small, but was completely packed, with a line-up forming outside as the night went on. It was a little too dark in there for my liking. The host was very nice and great at what he does. My friend and I sat at the bar, and the bartender was nice also. Service was adequate, although I wasn’t wowed. Perhaps I was hoping for a little more bistro charm. The timing of the food was great, especially considering how busy they were.
I had the sweetbreads (ris de veau: seared sweetbreads with remoulade, watercress and pickles). These were the highlight of my evening. I can’t quite describe how perfectly done these sweetbreads were. The texture was fantastic. And the salad was not an afterthought to accompany the main attraction – I would’ve happily ordered that salad on its own. The pickled veggies were delicious. The flavors contrasted nicely. It worked incredibly well.
My friend had the tart, and also loved it, saying it tasted like French onion soup, without the soup – in a good way (les tartes flambees: alsacienne: caramelized onion puff pastry tart, lardons, crème fraiche and ricotta).
Sadly, the scrumptious appetizers only heightened the expectations for what would be a disappointing main course. I had the roasted lamb loin with caramelized cauliflower, garbanzos (yes, not paleo-compliant), and minted pea crème fraiche (longue d’agneau). It all sounded so good… The garbanzos were what they were, meh. The cauliflower and little bit crème fraiche were tasty. But the lamb? It was tough. Which was strange since it was very much red. But then when I inspected a few of the pieces, the top was brown and dry (more so than a sear), and way overcooked. I don’t know how such a huge contrast in doneness was achieved – were they left on some sort of a hotplate or something? The result, although nicely presented, was pretty unappetizing.
My friend’s seafood (fruits de mer a la Provençale: Scallops, prawns, clams and mussels in a tomato, olive and caper sauce with braised endive) was just okay – good but not outstanding. It just tasted like all the individual components, and nothing really special – something that you could quite easily whip up yourself.
The crème brulee was quite good. It wasn’t quite as custardy as I’m used to, but that’s not a point against it, it was just different. The vanilla flavor was lovely, and the sugar on top was rock solid (perhaps a bit too much so – it was tough to crack). I really liked the dish it was served in.
Although I adored the appetizers and enjoyed the dessert, I was quite disappointed with the mains. Since there are quite a few other French bistros in town to try, I don’t plan on returning.