Gare de l'Est
Gare de l’Est is an upscale cafe during the day and restaurant and bar at night situated directly within Crowsnest theatre. From the same people behind Ascari and the food at the Broadview Hotel, this place sticks fairly strictly to the French bistro model using local ingredients from sources like Hooked and 100km Foods.
Serving staples and seasonal dishes in the tradition of a classic French brasserie, everything is made on site except the Blackbird bread that begins your meal and the base of the bread pudding on the dessert menu.
The rich space was built from a totally blank canvas, with white tablecloths and wooden chairs offsetting the base of concrete. An open kitchen can be spied through a narrow gap at the pass from the window-filled dining room.
Gravlax de saumone ($16) has been cured in house for three days, served with a crisp fennel cucumber salad, lemon and fried capers that add a ton of crunch and saltiness to this slick, light dish that’s perfect for salmon lovers.
A pate de campagne ($12) is a classically prepared pork terrine topped with popping pickled mustard seeds and studded throughout with chopped and whole pistachios, which give the dense, fatty pate a light nuttiness.
Soupe a l’oignon gratinee ($15) is a warm, gooey dream come true and substantial enough to make a light meal.
Tendrils of soft sweet onion swim in luxuriously rich beef broth topped with stretchy emmental and gruyere and sopping croutons.
Steak hache is actually a fair deal at $19 for a thick puck of house ground brisket cooked to medium rare served on a round of toasted baguette with a three day veal jus made with buckets of red wine and lots of herbs that really sets this dish apart.
To top it all off, there's a perfectly cooked fried egg and a white anchovy that both add extra indulgence but, in the case of the latter, also cuts richness with saltiness and a little acidity.
Moules frites ($19) are plump and juicy, made simply with white wine, garlic and herbs.
Frites are nicely crunchy and golden.
Bread pudding ($12) is actually made from the Tempered Room pastries leftovers from slower mornings, and the effect is supernatural. It's served with a sumptuous spiced creme anglaise, teeny sour wild blueberries and a rhubarb compote.
A Tres Vieux ($16) or “Very Old Fashioned” is made with armagnac, benedictine, Cointreau, angostura bitters and served with a thick peel of orange zest and a huge ice cube.
The menu is peppered with little phrases like “je decrocherais la lune pour toi” and “tu as ce petit je-ne-sais quoi qui me plait” (roughly, “I’d give you the moon” and “There’s a little something about you I like”) that lend a poetic playfulness to the atmosphere.