claudia kwan/for metro vancouver


Co-owner Stephan Gagnon and hostess Emilie Percheron at Gastown’s Jules Bistro.


Jules Bistro

216 Abbott (and Water)

Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner


Lunch for one, including tax and tip: $31.50

Dinner for two, including tax, tip, and drinks: $67

**** 1/2 (out of 5)

Although it may only be turning three months old this weekend, Jules Bistro already has a loyal following, and you’re gambling if you plan to get in without a reservation. The savvy owners are still fine-tuning — some items have been nudged up a dollar or two from opening day prices — but, even so, there’s tremendous value — how about three fixed courses for $21? Sumptuous flavour is evident in bite after bite of the hearty French bistro fare, and having room for dessert requires serious pre-planning.

At lunch, customers run the gamut from business folks talking big development deals to a mother cradling a toddler on her lap, and dining solo doesn’t feel uncomfortable at all. French onion soup is almost a meal in itself, with the mild onion broth demanding a thorough mop-up with fresh crusty baguette. The quiche of the day comes as a hefty pie-shaped wedge with custard-like eggs on a thin crust that’s soaked through with juice on the bottom, but perfect on the outer edge. Crispy golden fries halt my designs on the creme brulee, but I order a salade Nicoise to go. It’s bursting with different textures and tastes for only $8.

You’ll hear many another diners’ conversation in the cheek-by-jowl seating at dinner, but the bustling servers have nary a moment to spare for chit-chat as they manoeuvre around the tight confines of the chic black and white space. Sparkling chandeliers are a conscious contrast against a red brick wall, and the best seats are in front of the bar where charming co-owner Stephan Gagnon holds court.

The country-style pate is as coarsely ground as promised, and hot mustard and red wine onion compote add some much-needed zing. The rib-eye steak is juicy and tender and comes with more of those amazing fries. I do my darndest, but simply can’t finish a cassoulet fully loaded with duck breast, back bacon, chunks of ham, and faintly sweet Toulouse sausage, and dessert desires are foiled once again.

It just means I’ll have to keep heading back, provided they can squeeze me in. If I keep eating this well, it might be an issue.