“Hey Phatman have you eaten at Bouillon Bilk yet?” “Hey Phatman, why haven’t you been to Bouillon Bilk yet?” “Hey Phatman, y0u gotta try Bouillon Bilk!” And so on and so forth. In the last month alone at least 5 people have commanded me to try this place out. Ever one to enjoy being commanded I had it at the top of my list of places to eat at in Montreal. So when my globetrotting friend Peter (not to be confused with Pete-so henceforth I’ll call him Globetrotter to avoid confusion) was in town for a bit from his crazy job in Jakarta he insisted we eat somewhere we hadn’t been to yet. So I says to Globetrotter I says well I hear repeatedly that Bouillon Bilk is good stuff. “Make it so” he says to me. He is authoritative that way.
Monday was the only night that would work for us since he was heading back to work, a mere 29 hour commute, on Wednesday. So no pressure to make his last night out in the city a good one. Luckily for us these guys are open on a Monday although this is a night of the week I am always concerned about dining out. Places that are open 7 days a week will tend to have the head chef and top, most experienced staff off on what is usually the slowest night of the week so who knows how this could go. So myself, Globetrotter, the ever bearded wonder; Shawn, and my friend with the perpetually broken foot; Hopalong saché head to the restaurant for our 19h30 booking.
You could easily walk right by this place, as I did, since it’s tucked betwixt two electronic shops and has a low key exterior. Walking in we’re promptly greeted by the greeter man and as we’re shown to our table our coats are whisked away quickly. I like that little touch. If the exterior was low key the inside of this place is minimalist like a fox. No art adorns the white walls and the lighting is dim which makes me 27% prettier right away. There is a nice slick bar where you can sit at all 4 sides near the center of the place. Globetrotter’s not messing around today. As we sit down BAM! he’s ordered a nice, dry crisp bottle of white wine. He also wants to start with a plate of oysters to share as we go over the menu. I would be a jerk if I argued with him. We get a nice mix of some from PEI (as it should be), BC, and Maine. They’re accompanied by the standard but necessary mignonette, a green mango relish/mignonette, and shaved horseradish. The oysters are all amazing, especially with that mango concoction. I’m not one to brag but I think my mignonette might be better than this one, not that it’s bad but I have to admit mine is sexy as hell. Yes, hell is sexy-it’s full of sin after all.
Executive chef Francois Nadon has certainly put together a mouth-watering menu. From what I understand the menu changes quite frequently to follow what is in season, as is the trend. We fell on some real gems tonight. Globetrotter starts with a smoked salmon plate served with rutabaga, Asian pears, mustard and wild rice. It’s cut more like a gravlax style fish so I’m not sure if it was technically smoked or cured but in any case there was not much time to debate it cause that thing was gone and fast. Hopalong got a roasted bone marrow dish served with cubed pears which was like eating a nice warm, meaty pudding. Bone marrow is by far my favorite type of marrow for sure. Shawn got a linguini dish with garlic scapes (the green stem part), rabbit, escargot, lemon confit and mushrooms. It was cruel to not have this as a giant main dish. I could have eaten a mountain of this stuff. And me? I got duck tartare with coffee, capers, millet (a seed much like quinoa), beets, apple, and hazelnuts. I know what you’re thinking. I can read your mind. I can actually see you right now, staring at your computer screen…but anyway, you are thinking that the tartare has too many whacked out ingredients to make it work. You are wrong. It was pretty damn delicious.
One thing is quickly clear. They know how to present food. I haven’t seen such slick plates since eating at The Musket Room in NYC. Nadon and Lambert (the chef at Musket Room) seem to also have similar pallets cause they use the same dynamic flavor profiles with heavy use of fruits. Nadon pushes the limit of what we think works together but doesn’t overdo it. And as a side note other restaurants should take note: serve more rabbit damn it. It is a sustainable meat, really healthy, and bunnies are just so damn cute. More proof that my theory that the cuter the animal is the better it tastes. Prove me wrong.
Well, any fear I had of eating out on a Monday night have quickly gone by the wayside and I am now exceedingly eager to shove my face into my main dish. In between dishes Globetrotter wonders out loud if we should get more wine. The sommelier comes over and brings 3 bottles for us to take a look at. I should note here that the wine list is impressive. We settle on a white from Meursault which just happens to be some of my favorite wine in the world. As we dig into the second bottle I can tell that I am getting more prettier and perhaps even more charming too. But no time to talk about that now, the mains are coming.
I am still in awe of the sexy looks of the plates. So much so that I almost don’t want to eat them. Don’t worry though, for you I will force myself to destroy these plates. Shawn and Globetrotter both get a bass dish served with carrots, pistachios, brussel sprouts, cumin and oyster mushrooms. The cumin has a nice undertone in this plate that makes it feel almost like an Indian dish. Good stuff. Hopalong gets venison with sunchokes, quinoa, walnuts, matsutake mushrooms, and a coffee-chocolate dusting on the meat. The venison is perfectly seared on the outside and just warm inside. Beautifully pink interior with no trace of any cooking further than rare. It melts in the mouth. I went with cornish hen with pan seared foie gras, salsify, peanuts, maitake mushrooms (or hen of the wood if you prefer), and cherries. It is rare I get to have a mouthful of cornish hen so I jumped at the chance to order this. And we all know that cornish hen in your mouth is so much better than a hornish Ken. Am I right? Ok, terrible joke aside, I love having a red fruit, be it berries or cherry, with fowl. The fruit works well with foie gras too but what the hell doesn’t work with foie gras? You could serve me pan seared foie gras stuffed with terrine of foie gras with a foie gras sauce on top and I would just stick my face right in it.
I don’t often get dessert when I go out but amazingness aside, the first two dishes had not filled me up. As a bigger eater it is one of the beefs I run into (beef haha-genius) when dining out. I think the main plates could have been bigger and my cohorts agreed. So I got me some cheesecake with apples, pecans and dates. I’m not usually much of a fan of dates or pecans but together with the velvety cheesecake. With the cheesecake shoved down my throat I was satiated. I could tell by a certain gleam in both Hopalong and Shawn’s eyes that they still could have had one more plate of food. Make no mistake, this is no knock on the quality of the food by any stretch. These were some of the most inventive, creative and tasty dishes I’ve had in the city. It’s just we are growing boys and we can pack it away so portion size was a bit of an issue.
My lovely and talented lady friend would dig this place. Of that I have no doubt. I’ll be back for sure, likely to bring her. It feels more like a nice, quiet date place than a crazy, heathenous place for a bunch of barbarous dudes. The lunch menu differs wildly from what is served at night, with very reasonable prices to boot, so a day trip here could be in order soon too. Does anybody got a problem with that?