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Pastis still shines after 10 vintage years

It was a quiet week with no openings on the horizon and the rain wasgetting me down. I needed comfort on a grand scale, and French food hadbecome an idée fixe for my buds.

Bistro Pastis
2153 West 4 Ave.
Vancouver
604-731-5020

bistropastis.com

Open for Lunch: Tuesday to Friday; 11:30am to 2pm
Open for Brunch: Saturday & Sunday; 11am to 2pm
Open for Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday; 5:30pm to 10:30pm

Signature Drink: Pastis or Wine—take your pick
Signature Dish: Le Canard et Les Cerises

Rating: ****1/2
Dinner & drinks for two: $140

It was a quiet week with no openings on the horizon and the rain was getting me down. I needed comfort on a grand scale, and French food had become an idée fixe for my buds. Bistro Pastis was celebrating their tenth year last month, and I haven’t been back in about, oh…a decade, so the timing seemed apropos.

What struck me first was how little had changed, especially in the price department. Yes, their prices were marked down a little during May in honour of the anniversary, but the regular $26 for New York steak frites is still a great deal. Getting it for $22 was just gravy.

The biggest change was on the wine list, which has grown exponentially, especially in its New World offerings — although Europe, notably France, still dominates. As for cocktails, the various types of Pastis available, including the oh-so-notorious Absinthe, make Kir Royale look like the stuff I used to put in my daughter’s sippy cup.

Owner John Blakely insisted that nothing but a glass of Beaujolais Villages George Duboeuf ($9) could accompany my starter of steak tartare ($12). How right he was. The spiciness of the wine was a perfect complement to the almost creamy freshness of the steak and the saltiness of the frites.

Soup of the day ($8.50) was green pea with a hint of cream -- a fresh, cool smoothie in a bowl. Roasted duck breast ($25) with rösti potato galette, shitakes and sour cherry sauce was enormous and enormously good. Portions are definitely bistro-size, so take care if going the full three-course route. The duck, by-the-bye, was fork-tender, and happily lacked the usual saccharine sweetness that puts my teeth on edge. Meg’s New York steak had a reached a slightly higher level of doneness than she had anticipated, although the frites almost made up for it. Stacked like a Jenga tower, these salty sticks could give McDonald’s a run for their billions if Blakely ever decides to mass-produce.

Dessert started with strawberry shortcake ($8.50), which was cakey, creamy, fruity and large…your typical child’s tea party fantasy. Crêpes Suzette ($8) was the favourite—an intoxicating medley of Grand Marnier and lime ice cream—sweet, sour and tangy all at once.

It’s a menu that’s long on flavour, big on portions and polished in presentation. Apart from the one oven fluke, what’s not to like?

Rosé Gets Bubbly Down Under

Patio and picnic season is upon us, and there’s nothing like a hint of pink to make you feel festive. Throw in bubbles and you’ve practically got Carnaval. From Yellow Tail comes a blend of Semillon, Traminer, Shiraz and Frontignac. The Bubbles Rosé is a soft, fruity quaff, with aromas of fresh strawberries and hints of spice and tropical fruit. BCLS $13.99.

Top Shelf

Fraser Valley Winery Association will be holding their Second Annual Wine & Culinary Extravaganza on June 27 at Highpoint Equestrian Estate. Enjoy a spectacular afternoon of food from top restaurants, wine and live entertainment. $50. www.fvwa.ca

Dining Out

Bargains at the Bins

Bin 941/942 are both offering monthly pinxos menus. Pinxos (pronounced pinch-os) are smaller versions of tapas that are just $5 per plate. Enjoy arancini (fried rice balls) with goat cheese cauliflower puree, smoked salmon croquettes, Manila clams with chorizo, and more. Call Bin 941 at 604-683-1246 or Bin 942 at 604-734-9421.

June is Steak Month

Hamilton Street Grill (1009 Hamilton St) is celebrating 12 years of success with $12 Certified Angus™ sirloin steak dinners, which includes 8 oz of steak, garlic mashed potatoes and market vegetables. Available for the month of June, including Father’s Day. Call 604-331-1511 or visit www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com.

Food in Brief

After 20 years of fabulous corn bread and rhubarb pies, Café S’il Vous Plait on Robson Street has been forced to close its doors by rising rents. Oh, how I will miss the shepherd’s pie…

Joy Metcalfe, one of Vancouver’s most enduring (and endearing) food and social media personalities, has been awarded the C.H.I.L.D Foundation Inspiration Award for her tireless advocacy on children’s issues.

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