Chez Leon (Les Halles) – Paris

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I was back in Paris again! This was sort of a last minute decision since my mom and aunt decided to come visit me and travel Europe. Tickets were extremely cheap with Ryanair, and I believe I got them for under 20 euros one way. They were flying in directly to Paris, so I would meet them at our hotel. It was sort of weird traveling alone, but luckily I had become more familiar with Paris after the previous visit. After showing them around Paris in the day, we settled at Chez Leon for dinner. C had told me that the one in Paris was really good and having previously tried it in Brussels, I was excited to go again! I did some Googling and realized that they had 5 different chains in Paris! We started walking towards the Les Halles/ Chatelat location, but soon realized it’s actually pretty far from where the shops are at Champs Elysees. We ended up taking a metro to Les Halles, and it was right outside the station. The restaurant was very quiet and empty on a weekend night. Service was also really lacking. There were basically no other diners, yet they took forever to come take our order.

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Shrimp Spring Roll Salad

They had a set menu going on for an appetizer and an entree for a discounted price. For the appetizer, we chose the Shrimp Spring Roll Salad. It ended up being two pieces of shrimp being battered and deep fried. The shrimp were pretty big and it actually tasted pretty good despite it looking very simple. It came with a simple green salad.

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Fresh Salmon Filet, pan fried

For the entree, we got the Fresh Salmon Filet. It was pan fried and came with rice and green beans. Everything was lightly seasoned with salt, which we liked so it wasn’t too overwhelming. The salmon was cooked perfectly with the top lightly crispy and the fish flaking inside.

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Seafood Mussels in a Plancha

And of course we got some mussels! My mom isn’t huge on creamy sauces, so we ended up choosing something different from the usual. We got the Seafood Mussels in a Plancha, which was basically a pan filled with seafood and sauteed with olive oil, tomato garlic and mixed herbs. Other than mussels, other seafood included wild king prawns and calamari rings. Although the mussels were small, they were again very fresh. The sautee style was a bit different yet quite flavourful, but I still preferred the ones steamed in white wine or a broth. Our mussels also came with fries and bread, so it was more than enough for the three of us.

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And that was our meal at Chez Leon! However, I heard that the chain at the Les Halles location is not as good as the rest. I’m not sure since I haven’t been to to the other ones, but I would agree that service was lacking. It wasn’t rude or anything, but weren’t really looked after. Next time, I will be visiting the other locations! Never a disappointment for moules et frites at Chez Leon!

Chez Leon – Brussels

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After a disastrous night at Le Saint-Laurent, we were determined to have some real good Belgian mussels. C did some searching and we settled for Chez Leon. She’s been here when she was in Paris before and said it was really good. Although the mussels are a little pricier, they are definitely worth it, and I would suggest everyone visiting Brussels, to check this place out! Don’t cheap out like we did, and have a terrible meal. I believe this is their first restaurant in Brussels, and now they have expanded to Paris and also the UK soon. The funny thing is that Chez Leon is also on Rue des Bouchers, which I call the tourist trap. I guess they are the only exception, although you find a bunch of tourists here too. But a good sign is seeing plenty of locals as well!

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You can tell that the restaurant has years of history. The restaurant is actually huge with two levels, but everything still looks very traditional. Almost diner like. Wooden furniture and neon signs and all.

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We went for the Mussels Set, which included a portion of Special Mussels, French Fries, and a Maes Beer. This whole meal cost 14, 60 euros. A little more expensive, but worth it! First, we got some complimentary bread. Very soft and fresh! And it was great for dipping in the soup.

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Maes Beer

The set menu came with a Maes Beer, which is a Belgian pilsner brewed by Alken-Maes. I liked this as it was rather light. It’s supposed to be quite a popular pilsner in Belgium.

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Moules et Frites

And here were the Mussels and Fries! I absolutely loved this! We didn’t get to choose the sauce since it was part of the set menu, so it came with a basic celery broth, like most Belgian moules et frites. I would’ve preferred a white win sauce since I don’t really like celery, but I found this pretty good. The mussels were medium size and plump. Extremely fresh! The fries were also great as they weren’t too oily. They didn’t seem like frozen store bought fries.

If you want a variety of different flavours for the moules et frites, you won’t be disappointed at Chez Leon since they have a huge menu. They also have a bunch of other seafood and non-seafood dishes, so there’s something for everyone! Prices are average, and I would say they are quite reasonable for the quality of food you get. The restaurant was quite busy, so it was a bit difficult to get the attention of our server, but it still wasn’t a major problem. Satisfied!

Le Saint-Laurent Restaurant – Brussels

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Before I start going into details, I’d just like to warn everyone to stay away from Le Saint-Laurent Restaurant in Brussels because it’s absolutely the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to. If you read my posts, you see that I don’t normally criticize restaurants to the point where I think the food is nasty, but the food here was just that. Anyways, C and I were wandering the streets of Brussels and went into this street filled with restaurants. It was only around 5:30pm, so most of them were empty. I believe this street is called Rue de Bouchers, and I would advise anyone looking for food to avoid this street. It’s a tourist trap and we fell right in! Basically while we were walking down the street, these guys would stand by the door trying to sell you their menu. Almost every restaurant had something called a tourist menu for around 12 euros. In Barcelona, this is very common and the food is actually good too, so we didn’t think much about it. It was very early for dinner, so we said we would come back and the guy would give us a business card. By the time we finished the street, C had a pile of business cards in her hand..Like seriously, is that how they advertise now? Anyways, at around 6:30, we went back to the street since we thought they had the most choices of food. True, but also the worst. We ended up going to Le Saint-Laurent because the guy had seemed to be quite friendly… That’s what we thought. Anyways, he lured us again and said we would get a complimentary drink on him as well. We entered, and found maybe two other tables with diners, that clearly looked like tourists. The interior is really fancy looking and has a fireplace and all. It’s got the looks for sure. Our server wasn’t extremely friendly and when we told him we would just have two of the set menus, with nothing else, he seemed pissed off. For our complimentary drink, we got a Rose-like bubbly. Not sure exactly what it was, but it was decent. Maybe the best part of our meal…

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Then, we got some bread. At least this was complimentary for us… I read online afterwards that many diners had terrible experiences with their bill becoming a ridiculous amount with hidden fees. The bread was of course not fresh, but whatever, it was bread. At least it tasted better than the rest.

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Grilled Prawns

For our appetizer, we both chose the Grilled Prawns. I forgot what the other choices were, but this sounded the most appealing. Ya, these were kind of gross…? We had imagined prawns without their shells and curled up after grilling in a nice garlic sauce. I believe it said it would be in a garlic butter sauce. Definitely not a garlic butter sauce because it was just butter and olive oil. Like LOTS of oil. Around 5 prawns still in their shells drenched in olive oil. The oil wasn’t even seasoned…Okay, fine, we can excuse the “dressing”, but then came the actual prawns. They were mushy and had no bouncy texture like normal prawns. I mean, it was worse than eating frozen prawns. I can’t think of the antonym for “fresh”, but this was definitely NOT fresh. Rotten? I don’t know, but you get my point. In Canada, I would’ve sent this straight back to the kitchen, but in Europe, I was afraid since I had no idea what my dish would have gone through after…

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Mussels in Celery Soup

Okay, so in Brussels, Moules et Frites, or Mussels and Fries, are a very common dish because it’s pretty much the national dish of Belgium. They get most of their mussels from the North Sea, so mussels are always plentiful and attract tourists. So of course, for our entree, we went for the Moules et Frites. When we saw it, it looked pretty good and we were praying that this would be better. WRONG. I’ve seriously never had such bad mussels in my life… Normally in Vancouver, the mussels my mom buys are frozen from Australia, since we don’t have access to as many fresh mussels, but I’ve never had such terrible mussels. I don’t even know what to say. Were the mussels dead and rotten or something? They were mushy… I’ve had mussels that melt in my mouth, which are amazing, but not like this. They were clearly old and dead mussels. I couldn’t stop complaining during the whole dinner. I almost felt sorry for myself, having to eat this and rather have gone to grab fast food. If you gave me this for free, I still probably wouldn’t have ate it. Perhaps the only better thing was the broth, which was a vegetable stock with a bit of celery and onions. It was really just water and celery and onions though I think. But at least, I was okay dipping my bread in this.

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Fries

And then there was the side of Fries. At least these were crispy. This was what I completely finished. But honestly, how hard is it to make edible fries? They were probably store bought anyways…

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Ice Cream

Then came dessert. When the guy had lured us in, we had told him we didn’t like the desserts that were on their set menu. He was so sly and said Oh, then what do you want? Anything you want, we can give you. Yea right. Why did we even believe him. Anyways, I think we said we wanted Belgian waffles since many other restaurants on the street offered that on their set menu. He said yea, we can get you that, and that basically made us settle for the restaurant. However, when we asked our server, he just said No. He said they didn’t have any and was like no you just need to choose from the menu. Like WHAT? Such lies. We looked pissed off and later he came back and he said, “Okay, how about ice cream?” Since the other items were unappealing, we went for it. Wow this ice cream was pretty gross. It was like chocolate mousse getting sprayed out of a can or something? Then with two more sprays of whipped cream on the side. Kind of gross, but whatever, we weren’t even hungry after such a gross meal.

So to conclude, all I can say is STAY AWAY from Le Saint-Laurent. Basically this whole street actually. We found that barely anyone was eating in these restaurants other than tourists who were desperately looking for food. But seriously, this meal disappointed us so much. I think I can say it’s the worst meal I’ve ever had in my life out at a restaurant. Luckily, C and I had another night in Brussels, and we would finally have some good mussels! Stay tuned!

Brulerie Caumartin Cafe – Paris

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The beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral! Anyways, after a day of exploring, we ended up at the shopping area on Blvd Haussmann. It was time to eat dinner, and we decided we should treat ourselves to a decent meal. We wandered into a street next to Le Printemps, which is a huge department store. The street had a few cafes, but Brulerie Caumartin Cafe caught our eyes as they featured a neon sign saying Moules et Frites for 11 euros. I’m a sucker for mussels or clams, so off we went!

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Moules et Frites

I think the cafe is quite tourist friendly, as the table next to us were an American couple. The waiters also speak English quite fluently, and are extremely friendly. They joke around and such, making the experience much better. The cafe itself is quite small, but we luckily found a seat. Of course, I ordered the Moules et Frites. This dish is supposed to be popular in Paris, so definitely try it out when you’re here. I still remember having one of the best Moules et Frites in Paris back when my teacher told us where to eat. I wish I remembered where that was now… Anyways, this was the biggest bowl of mussels I’ve ever had. The picture makes it look like there isn’t much, but trust me, the size was ridiculous. I had only finished half of it, and was already getting full… Even my sister questioned if there were any empty shells, because there was so much! Nope..not one empty shell in the pile. I wouldn’t say the sauce was the best I’ve had. It was quite watery, mostly of a celery and onion white sauce. It wasn’t bad though. A white wine sauce would’ve been perfect, but I couldn’t complain with so many mussels at only 11 euros. The mussels were slightly smaller, but they were extremely fresh. Fries were also not bad as they weren’t too oily. I was very pleased overall!

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Smoked Salmon Crepe

My sister said she had to have a crepe while in Paris! I mean, crepes originated from France right? It was dinner time, so she chose a Smoked Salmon Crepe. Savory crepes are always a good alternative to sweet ones if you’re not into sweets. The amount of Smoked Salmon was a little less than expected. She said it was only decent and had better before. Oh, and a funny note is that “iced tea” means “sprite” in Paris… We ordered an Iced Tea and ended up with a Sprite, and the American couple next to us laughed and said they wouldn’t have thought about that as well… Ah..love it when words have so many different meanings in different cultures!

Alta Galicia – Barcelona

When U and her dad arrived, I joined them for meals quite often as I I didn’t know my way around the city much. One night, we wandered near our neighbourhood to look for dinner. Past the park near Clot, there is a street full of restaurants and cafes. Around dinner time, the waiters try to lure you into eating at their restaurant. Many also have outdoor seatings since the weather is perfect for eating out.

After walking for a while, trying to figure out where to eat, we ended up at Alta Galicia. We pretty much got lured into it by the guy saying they had the best seafood and paella, but honestly, every single restaurant says the same thing. It actually gets sort of annoying since they don’t leave you alone.

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Pa amb tomàquet

After placing our order, they brought over some baguettes with brushed tomato on top. It’s a famous tapa called Pa amb tomàquet that the Spanish eat and are often provided for free. I’m not a big fan of tomatoes, but these have just a light taste of tomatoes along with the seeds so it’s not too strong.

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Steamed Mussels

For my entree, I chose Steamed Mussels and they were just okay. The ones I had in Paris years ago were so much better and I still crave them today. I found that the mussels were not cleaned properly hence it still had that tough part on the side. It also had a bit of sand in it, so it was sort of gross. I would’ve also expected a type of sauce but it was literally just steamed mussels seasoned with salt. It also did not come with fries, which is often common.

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U got the Mussels in Marina Sauce which was much more flavoured, and her dad got a Tomato Soup.

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Calamari

We also got a plate of Calamari to share. They were tender and the batter wasn’t too thick. It would’ve been nice to have some sort of dip like an aioli sauce, but they didn’t. Just a slice of lemon.

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At the end of our dinner, they offered us shots. I didn’t know what to get so I left it to U’s dad to choose. He got a lemon drop for himself, and for us girls, we had a shot that I forgot the name of. It had Bailey’s in it and some sort of chocolate flavouring. It wasn’t too strong and was much more creamy.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with the food at Alta Galicia. It seems to be a tourist trap in this street full of restaurants, although it’s not even an extremely popular street. One thing to remember is that they charge an extra 1.50 euros per dish if you sit outside. Pretty ridiculous and they don’t tell you that before you sit down. We had no idea until we opened the menu and saw the two price differences. This is often the case in Europe, so be careful. Also, it literally took 20 minutes for them to give us our bill. In Canada, I would’ve probably walked out already if it takes so long. I mean, isn’t collecting our money the most important thing for a restaurant?! Our restaurants usually try to rush you to pay the bill since they want you out so they can serve more customers! This slow efficiency is really getting to me, and it’s one I definitely cannot get used to. Another tip is that water costs money in most European countries, so I often end up drinking alcoholic drinks, since it costs around the same.

Rodney’s Oyster House (Yaletown)

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For my birthday, N treated me for lunch and she suggested we go to Rodney’s Oyster House. I remember her raving about this place years ago, but I still hadn’t tried it! They now have another location in Gastown, but we headed to the original Yaletown location. N told me they also have other locations in Toronto!

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They have two levels, and we chose to sit upstairs. We were seated near the edge so we could look down and see the oyster shuckers doing their thing. We went on a weekday lunch hour, so the place wasn’t very full. I hear that there are much better deals during their Low Tide Happy Hour, and it’s actually difficult to get seats.

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This is the other side of the seating area for upstairs. The place is decorated with wooden furniture, and it sorta makes you feel like you are on a boat with all the decorations.

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Complementary Sourdough Bread

After placing our orders, we were given some Complementary Sourdough Bread. It also came with some butter in a ketchup container… The place is definitely very chill, so don’t expect any amazing plating. I ordered a glass of white wine, and it came in a highball glass, but he definitely filled it up to the very top. The place has more of a bar vibe to it, but you get to eat all the yummy seafood instead of burgers and fries.

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Since we ordered some oysters, we were also given a tray of sauces! Our server explained that they went from the least spicy to the most. I tried all of them, and even the spiciest one wasn’t too spicy. It had an after spice to it, but was still acceptable for my tastebuds! I think my favourite was the Seawitch Sauce, as it wasn’t too spicy and reminded me of salsa! They also had a variety of vinaigrettes, and Tabasco sauce.

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1/2 dozen Raw Oysters

We got a half dozen of Raw Oysters. I think they are normally $3 each, and during Happy Hour it’s $1.50, so definitely a way better deal since they are priced quite high. They were extremely fresh and sweet though. Some were a little smaller than others, but they were still all very plump. I honestly hadn’t had raw oysters in a long time, and I didn’t exactly remember if I liked them. However, these were so fresh and sweet, that I immediately fell in love with them! They also had some grated cheese on the side, so I decided to try what it would taste like, but I actually didn’t really like the texture of the cheese on it. Since the oysters were cold, the cheese just sat on top of the oyster and gave it a really rough texture to it. I think the cheese with oysters only works when it’s baked oysters with the cheese melted on it!

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Pan Fried Oysters

Since we’re at an oyster house, why not continue with more oysters! We got the Pan Fried Oysters, which were lightly battered and came with a tartar sauce. It was extremely good with the lemon squeezed on top. Again, the oysters were plump and fresh. Really good!

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Steamed Mussels

Lastly, we had the the Steamed Mussels. I love steamed mussels, mostly because the broth is usually really delicious and complements the mussels really well. I found the mussels at Rodney’s a little smaller, but they were still extremely sweet and tender. I think the sauce was a butter base, and it was extremely delicious. At the end of our meal, our server advised us to dip our leftover sourdough bread into the broth, and it was extremely delicious! I could eat that all day.

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And this was a snapshot of our lunch. Plenty of food for two to get us full. The food can be quite expensive during lunch or normal hours, so definitely take advantage of their Low Tide Happy Hour. Service was pretty good, and our server was pretty nice and friendly. And did I add, that most of the servers are pretty good looking ; ) Apparently, they are also the winner of the Hottest Male Servers, so I guess that says it all! Will definitely return!

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Gramercy Grill

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For K’s birthday, I took her to Gramercy Grill for dinner. Unlike these few days, the week before was full of sunshine and it was still sunny in the evening! We were asked to choose to dine indoors or outdoors, and we opted indoors since we were afraid it would get chilly later in the evening.

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Each day, they have different specials. We went on a Tuesday, and there was an oyster deal. We aren’t huge fans of oysters though, so we didn’t end up ordering any. Their menu also seems to be a little different from the one on their website and some prices have been changed as well. I wish I knew that they had a happy hour deal as well! We were only 3o minutes late for that!

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The interior is quite classic with carpet flooring and wooden furniture. The crowd is a bit older, and it seems like there are some regulars. They also have a bar where many people came to watch the hockey game. Service was alright, but they essentially only have three people working the floor. There was one man, who was extremely friendly.

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Calamari

Since not many of the main entrees really appealed to us, we ended up ordering three appetizers to share and an entree of mussels. We started with the Calamari, which we had imagined to be fried. Perhaps I didn’t read the description clearly, because it ended up being calamari served in a saucy broth. It ended up to be decent, but not what I was craving for. The calamari were cooked to tender and the sun-ripe tomatoes and olives gave the broth some flavour. I guess this was much more healthy!

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Beef Carpaccio – truffle puree aioli, fried capers, shaved parmesan & crostini

Next up, I wanted the Beef Carpaccio. The beef was sliced extremely thing and topped with lots of parmesan, truffle puree aioli and fried capers. In the center, there were a few slices of crostini to accompany the carpaccio. I thought that there was a little too much parmesan, and wished they gave me a few more crostinis because the pairing worked so well together. The capers brought some flavour, but overall, I thought it was just okay. I’ve had better beef carpaccio elsewhere.

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Gramercy Meatballs – Italian parsley, grana padano & house made tomato sauce

K had been to Gramercy Grill before, and she told me the Gramercy Meatballs were one of her favourites. Three large meatballs came sitting in a dish of tomato sauce. These were indeed quite delicious! The seasoning was just perfect and I started to crave some spaghetti to accompany these meatballs…

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Local Mussels & Pommes Frites

Lastly, I wanted the Local Mussels & Pommes Frites. Unfortunately, we didn’t come on a Wednesday, because on Wednesdays, they have a deal for $10! Anyways, the portion was decent and each shell was filled with a plump mussel. The sauce reminded me of some curry/ indian inspired flavour actually. I don’t quite remeber what our server told us the sauce was comprised of, but on their website it says tomato sauce and merguez sausage. I didn’t find any sausages inside, however. So perhaps, it was a different broth. I only remember it having frozen corn in it. The fries on the other hand, were extremely crispy. I believe they are hand cut, as they taste homemade. They were extremely good!

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Chocolate Torte

To end off our dinner, we decided to share the Chocolate Torte. They don’t have a dessert menu on their website, but they do have a selection of desserts to choose from. This had to be the best part of the meal. At first, I saw the melting ice cream and thought that this was presented so unpleasantly, but you will understand why once you bite into that torte. It’s almost like a brownie/ lava cake and the chocolate is so warm that it just melts in your mouth. Along with the ice cream that brings a hint of coolness, it is just amazing! There’s two pieces of the chocolate torte, and comes with a scoop of ice cream and whip cream, so it’s plenty to share between two. It takes some time to get served though, probably because they need to heat it up. A must try though.

Dinner at Gramercy Grill was alright. I didn’t find it to be spectacular, but it’s a nice place to spend your evening. The restaurant definitely caters to the older crowd as most of the items are quite classic. Prices are also on the higher range for the portions you get. However,  that chocolate torte makes me want to come back!

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Twisted Fork Bistro

Snails – Tender garlic snails cooked with shallots, mushrooms, herbs and white wine served with tomato basil sauce, arrugula and crushed croutons


Scallops and Bacon – Pan seared scallops marinated in thyme and chipotle oil served with caramelized onion, potato puree, Vancouver Island’s double smoked bacon and house corn relish

Stuffed Portobello MushroomFilled with arrugula, and pesto vinaigrette, topped with a cashew dill crust served with lentils, baby carrots and tomato basil sauce

Fresh Mussels – One pound, with cream, herbs and fresh tomatoes, served with frites


Confit DuckCrispy Confit duck served with bacon braised cabbage, duck jus and finished with fruit ketchup

Lavender Creme Brulee

Chocolate TerrineFrozen dark chocolate mousse layered with raspberry sorbet, with biscotti crumbs and raspberry coulis

Twisted Fork Bistro has been on my go to list for quite a while now. I was so excited to try it finally since there’s always huge line ups for it. Waited a little more than 15 minutes and finally got a seat. The place is really small, so it usually gets packed quite fast. It’s got a warm, homey feeling to it which I love. They serve cozy French cuisine, and are known for their great desserts.

First off, we got the Escargots, which I didn’t find particularly special or anything. There were a lot of escargots, but the flavour was nothing special. The Scallops and Bacon had a sauce that basically tasted like salsa with corn, and I found it a little too sour for my liking. The Stuffed Portabello Mushroom was just alright again. Nothing too special. As for the Fresh Mussels, I found that there were not enough flavour. It was a little bland for me, and I usually don’t eat very feisty flavoured things too. My favourite dish had to be the Confit Duck. The duck was cooked really tender and the sauce complemented the duck breast very well. And finally, we ordered desserts! Tha Lavender Creme Brulee was really delicious! It was infused with a lavender flavour, which I found very special since not many restaurants serve creme brulee with lavender. The lavender actually worked very well with the creme brulee. Lastly, we also ordered a Chocolate Terrine, which had raspberry sauce, and was extremely rich and creamy.

Overall, the main dishes were just alright, but I really enjoyed the desserts, and would probably come back again for that. Always so packed though, so I’ve got to come here earlier!

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