The Bellevue is doing something different. This inconspicuous diner at the corner of Bellevue and Nassau in Kensington Market is now open and serving breakfast, lunch and brunch fare that is inspired, creative and delicious.
In the former space of Heart on Your Sleeve, The Bellevue is now open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Mondays. By the end of the summer, co-owners Chris Dardarian, Joseph Senisi and Ryan Thompson hope to have their liquor license and a full dinner menu. I am assured that live music will also be added to the bill.
It's their hope to be as sustainable as they can be in their operations. From paying money to Bullfrog Power, to the herb garden and tomato plants that line the perimeter of the restaurant, they are on their way. They are also hoping to set-up a system to collect rainwater to tend their garden. Moreover, they are taking steps to utilize the available partnerships and resources in Kensington Market, and sourcing locally from farm to fork.
It's a beautiful Sunday morning when my brunch date du jour and I hit The Bellevue. Delirious from the heat, we go overboard and quickly order two iced waters, an iced Americano ($2.50), a freshly squeezed orange juice (which Ryan tells me he's going to go squeeze with his hands) ($4), and an avocado-honeydew-banana smoothie ($4).
The smoothie is delicious - a delightful shade of green, it's thick from the avocado and sweet from the melon. With some encouragement, we order the El Especial ($12) and Steak & Eggs ($15), fitting for our appetites and my date, T.A. (The Albertan).
The Steak & Eggs is what I can only describe as a platter: a piece of seared flank steak; two perfect sunny-side-up eggs, and a beautiful potato dauphinoise, a buttery biscuit and cinnamon-spiced sauteed apples. T.A. waits patiently as I get a hundred shots of the plate before he can dig in.
The El Especial is The Bellevue's most popular brunch dish. The beautiful plate contains a heap of scrambled eggs; a pool tomatillo salsa; three pork sausages; a bowl of black beans and two tortillas for dipping and sopping up. I happily drizzle hot sauce onto the black beans and slather the mixture onto a tortilla.
The items on the plate aren't out of the ordinary, yet there is something special about each element laid out before me. Each have been crafted with care and attention that make it stand well on its own - the scrambled eggs are cheesy and sprinkled with scallions, the tomatillo salsa is mild and cool, the tortillas are piping hot and crispy from an open flame. After I've taken some time with each section of my plate, I try different combinations to my heart's content - black beans on the scram, salty sausage dipped into the salsa, a wedge of tomato wrapped with tortilla and egg.
The good thing about reviewing restaurants on my weekends is that I don't need an excuse to ask T.A. to trade plates, and he happily obliges halfway through. The portion is generous. Once again, the value of the dish is in each element of the plate. The potato dauphinoise sings - paper-thin layers of potato and squash softened in rich cream with a bubbly, crispy top. It goes down nicely with a thin slice of well-season steak. I fork a piece of sweet and tender apple on top of the buttery biscuit and sop it in runny egg for good measure. T.A. and I can hardly finish the end of the dish and throw in our forks when we're informed that there's fresh cherry pie waiting in the wings.
The thing about cherry pie is that if you can get it with fresh cherries, eat as much as you can - in fact, see about getting a whole pie to go. Fresh cherry pie is nothing like the cherry pie made from canned cherries. The fruit is soft and tart as cherries ought to be, and The Bellevue delivers. No gooey gelatinous mixture here - just bright fruit with a delicious lattice pie top ($4 per slice).
I applaud The Bellevue for its precise lineup of summer fare for the choosing. Items of interest on the lunch menu include a seared filet Rainbow Trout on top of a salad of dandelion greens and avocado; parpadelle with tomatoes, kidney beans, Parmesan, fresh herbs and dark beer; and sandwiches like "The Squirrel", containing peanut butter, sardines, hot chili sauce, cucumber, sprouts and cheddar on dark rye bread. I'm not a huge fan of sardines, but hey, they've certainly got my attention.
In a sea of blase restaurants and too-safe eaters that prefer sticking to the main road, The Bellevue isn't for eaters who don't like their peas touching their meat. It's for eaters who are crying out for something original. The Bellevue is run by a gang who are passionate about their product, their art. I'm happy to see the Bellevue added to the Kensington lineup, leading the way with thoughtful, creative fare that is faithful to high-quality ingredients and attention.
The Bellevue is at the north east corner of Nassau and Bellevue, and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Come August, they will be licensed indoors.