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La Buca is a small Italian restaurant on MacDonald Street. On a Friday evening, I paid a visit to this restaurant with a group of family friends.

Breadsticks

Since we were a group of twelve people, the restaurant recommended the family dinner which the chef uses the freshest ingredients of the day to prepare a ten-courses dinner for people to share.

Mozzarella Salad

Soon after the water was served, the first appetizer arrived – Mozzarella Salad with Cherry Tomatoes. Two plates were served for the table of twelve people. It was a light and refreshing appetizer. The fresh mozzarella went well with the basil leaves.

Smoked Sardine Salad

Then, the second appetizer came. It is the Smoked Sardine Salad. Unlike most sardine dishes I’ve tried, the smoked sardine in this dish is fresh and soft. The savory sardine came with organic greens and carrot puree.

Steamed Clam

The first warm dish, White Wine Steamed Clam, came shortly after the cold appetizers. The steamed clams were tender and fresh. The dish came with some crispy garlic bread.

Beef Bologne with Tagliatelle

Soon, the pasta arrived. The first pasta dish was Tagliatelle with Beef Bologne. The tagliatelle was freshly homemade. Everyone enjoyed this simple yet delicious dish.

Veal and Tomato Pasted Spaghetti

The second pasta dish was Veal and Tomato Pasted Spaghetti. This dish was less popular than the tagliatelle, but it was a well-prepared dish. The tomato and olive paste made the spaghetti a lighter and more flavorful dish.

Home-made Ravioli Filled with Wild Sockeyed Salmon

The last pasta dish was Home-made Ravioli Filled with Wild Sockeyed Salmon. The salmon was tender and it went well with the radish and sweet corn. The raviolio was sprinkled with dried basil and chives as well.

Grilled Duck Breast and Apricot

The Grilled Duck Breast and Apricot came as the first entre. The apricots were quite sour but the flavor went well with the tender duck meat. The barbecue sauce made the dish savory and special.

Ling Cod with Grilled Cherry Tomato

Then, we had the seafood dish – Ling Cod with Grilled Cherry Tomato. The lingcod skin was crispy and the meat was tender but a little dry. The fresh cherry tomatoes brought a unique aroma to the fish. The ladies at the table enjoyed this dish very much.

Porchetta

As the last entrée, the Porchetta was definitely a pleasant surprise. Porchetta is a savoury and moist boneless pork roast of Italian culinary tradition. The body of the pig was gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of meat, fat, and skin. The homemade porchetta sauce at La Buca was highlight of the dish.

Grilled Assorted Vegetable

We had some grilled assorted vegetables after the entire meal. The yellow carrots were delicious and the baby potatoes were nicely grilled. This was an absolute necessity after such a heavy dinner!

Home-made Doughnuts with Vanilla Whipping Cream

Finally, there was the Home-made Doughnuts with Vanilla Whipping Cream. The dessert also came with chocolate lava cake and honeycomb cookies. The doughnuts were crispy on the outside and extremely soft inside. They were coated with sugar but they were not too sweet especially with the fresh vanilla whipping cream.

Overall, the entire party was impressed with the quality of the food at La Buca. The freshness and authenticity of the dishes made the dinner definitely worthwhile.  However, the price of such a family dinner was quite high, with an average of eighty to a hundred dollars for one person without alcoholic drinks.

La Buca on Urbanspoon

ImageRed Star Seafood Restaurant is a popular Chinese food restaurant on Granville Street. During lunch, the restaurant serves dim sum instead of large seafood dishes. Dim sum came from the older tradition of yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest.

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Even though we arrived quite early for lunch on Saturday, the restaurant was almost full. It was loud and busy at eleven thirty.

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We sipped chrysanthemum tea and looked at the dim sum menu. There is a large variety of dishes to select from, however, most of dishes are small. We ordered some steamed BBQ pork buns and steamed shrimp dumplings first.

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Soon, the deep-fried brown bean chicken joints came onto the table. The chicken joints are crispy and savory. It is a typical Taiwanese dish. The portion is decent but the dish is quite oily.

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Then, the deep-fried prawn meatballs and roast pigeon came. The prawn meatball is covered by sliced almond. It’s light and crispy. The roast pigeon is a signature dish at Red Star. The pigeon is not oily and the flavor is tasteful.

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The stir-fried vegetable and the zhaliang came next. The lettuce is stir-fired with garlic and chives. Zhaliang is an interesting Cantonese dish. It is made by tightly wrapping rice noodle roll around fried dough. It is a popular dish in Hong Kong. The Zhaliang of Red Star is sprinkled with green chives, dried shrimp and sesame seeds and it comes with soy sauce.

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Next, the supreme dumpling in soup arrived at the table. It came with red vinegar. It’s a large dumpling in fish broth. It is a specialty dish at Red Star. It is very popular, too. There are chopped vegetables, fish and prawn in the dumpling.

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Lastly, we had the backed egg custards. Egg tarts were introduced into Hong Kong in the 1940s, which was derived from the original “pastel de nata” in Portuguese. They have outer pastry crusts that are filled with sweet egg and milk custards. The ones at Red Star are light and not too sweet.

Overall, Red Star is a great restaurant to enjoy dim sum for lunch. The service is decent and the dishes come to the table quickly. However, it becomes very busy during weekends so it is best to make a reservation in advance.

Red Star Seafood 鴻星海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Zagat is one of my favorite website for restaurant references. I found the restaurants recommendations in US were much more accurate than the ones in Canada. Anyway, I decided to pay a lunch visit to a popular Thai restaurant Maenam, on 4th Avenue, right opposite to Bistro Bistro. The restaurant was completely empty when we were seated. The decorations were simply and modern, and the lighting was bright for photography.

We decided on a lunch set menu (for more than 2 people only), which included an appetizer, a salad, a stir-fry and a curry dish. For soup, we had the North East Style hot and sour soup of pork. The soup came with a large quantity of assorted mushrooms and parsley. The taste of the soup is quite authentic with a strong taste of fresh red chili and limejuice. The soup is hot and came a fairly big quantity for two people.

The Banana Blossom Salad, the Pad Thai and the Green Curry Beef came to the table at the same time, which surprised me. There was a big gap of time between the soup was finished and all the other dishes were brought up. I wonder why they didn’t serve the salad first so that the table wouldn’t be so crowed and the waiting time wouldn’t be too long. Anyway, the Banana Blossom Salad is a healthy vegetarian salad (called Yum Hua Plee). The cilantros and the dried shrimps went well however, the banana blossoms are deep fried in Maenam, so it is not so healthy anymore.

The green curry beef was authentic in the flavor but the ingredients used in the dish were not very authentic. Bell peppers and lots of gingers were used in the green curry beef in Maenam. In Thailand, eggplants, lime leaves, and hot chili would be used in this dish. After all, the taste was fine with the steamed rice even though the green curry sauce is a little to thick.

Finally we moved on to the Pad Thai. This was the most satisfying dish of the this entire lunch. The rice noodles were chewy and fresh, there were many prawns, tofu and egg in the pad Thai. Both the ingredients and the flavor were authentic. With a splash of lime juice and some (extremely) hot chili pepper, the Pad Thai on its own would be a wonderful lunch.

I ordered the cucumber relish as a side dish. The cucumber was finely chopped and nicely pickled. The only disappointment is that the relish is not spicy at all. I was hoping a hint of spice other than the refreshing taste!

Overall, the restaurant was lower than my expectation. Considering that the lunch should be quick and delicious, it took us eighty minutes to finish the lunch and quality could only be considered as half authentic.

Maenam on Urbanspoon

Before we left for Vancouver again the next day (after our small vacation in Whistler), I decided to have lunch at the highly rated Italian restaurant, Il Caminetto, in Whistler Village.

The restaurant was big and empty for lunch. The wine cellar was elegantly laid with many bottles of fine wine. Some plates and pictures were displaced on the wall casually. There were two long tables and many small tables in the room we seated.

While sipping the refreshing Blueberry Frizzante, we looked through the menu thoroughly. The lunch menu is simply but decent. We ordered Zucchini Carpaccio, and Tuscan Minestrone for appetizer to share. For pasta we had Linguine alla Vongole and for main we had Certified Angus NY Steak.

The Zucchini Carpaccio was simply sliced zucchini with vinaigrette dressing and cherry tomatoes. Considering there’s more to come and the portion of the other dishes are big, I wouldn’t complain about the price. If only looking at the Carpaccio on its own, then the price is not worth the dish.

Quickly after the Zucchini is finished, the Tuscan Minestrone soup came to the table. The portion was decent with virgin olive oil dripped casually on the soup. The soup was hot and delicious with different vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, mushroom, fresh parsley and potato. We enjoyed the combination of the cold Carpaccio and the hot Minestrone.

The linguine came right after the soup was taken away. I agree that the photograph doesn’t look so appealing the quality of the dish was impressive. There was a large quantity of clams, wild salmons, surf clams, and prawns on the linguine. The pasta was cooked with a garlic broth. The seafood was fresh and nicely cooked and the linguine is clear without the common creamy taste. The only disappointment was the fact that the pasta was not house-made which surprised me because most high-end Italian restaurants such as Q4 would always make their pasta fresh daily.

The Angus Steak finally came with some potato and vegetables. I ordered the steak as medium and it was just about right. The potato was crispy on the outside and soft inside. I like the sauce of the steak and it went wonderful with the potato.

After lunch, we had time for a short walk in the Whistler village. The stone-covered streets were clean with not many visitors. There were many store in the village and we walked past several other great restaurants besides Il Caminetto that were on our to-eat list for next time.

While walking in the village, we discovered a small gelato shop called “Bocca Gelato”. I decided to have a gelato as dessert since I didn’t order any at the restaurant.

All the flavors seemed ordinary but one top of each kind of gelato; there were the real version of the flavors on them. There were Oreos on the cookie and cream gelato, strawberry on the strawberry gelato, coffee beans on the coffee gelato and even marshmallow on the dream rocky gelato.

I chose the low-fat strawberry gelato on a cone. The waffle cone was crispy and freshly made and the gelato was refreshing, too. The quantity and quality of the gelato were worth the price so I would recommend this gelato shop in Whistler.

Both the lunch and the dessert were fairly satisfying for both the price and the driving all the way to Whistler. Summer is a good time to explore Whistler and enjoy all the great food in this quiet summer reserve for foodies!

Il Caminetto on Urbanspoon

A trip to Whistler is the perfect opportunity to explore delicious food there. I did a thorough research on the Internet and decided to start with RimRock Café, a highly profiled restaurant in different websites. It is located right beside the sea-to-sky highway, we almost missed the exit.

The house of the restaurant was uniquely laid out, as the first floor had no tables. There was a huge wine cellar with a big window displaying all the fancy wines. Many pictures of celebrities and awards were hung on the wall.

After seated in the corner of the restaurant, we ordered fresh pressed orange juice and studied the menu slowly. We decided to have sautéed wild mushroom salad and four oysters on the half shell for appetizer, duck “two ways” and half Atlantic lobster as the main courses to share.

I admit that the mushroom salad doesn’t look like the most appealing dish of all time but the taste was absolutely wonderful. The fresh wild mushrooms were sautéed lightly, placed on a bed of greens and topped with shoestring potatoes. The sesame vinaigrette mixed well with the special flavor of the vegetables.

If you enjoy raw oyster by any chance, RimRock’s raw oysters should definitely be your first choice in Whistler. The mini oyster with vodka, crème fraiche & cavier (on the left) tasted rich in taste and tender in texture. The other one with champagne vinegar & shallots (on the right) was refreshing. The two baked oysters were not as delicious and tender, so I wouldn’t recommend them.

The Duck “Two Ways” was composed of a duck confit with crispy duck skin on top and grilled duck breast with special barbeque sauce. The duck confit was well cooked with a hint of wood and coal. The duck breast was tender but not as flavorful as the duck confit.

The half lobster at RimRock is a real lobster tail. Period. Compare to the frozen lobster from Black + Blue, this seems to be a decent compensation for the disappointment last week. The asparagus risotto under the lobster is quite original, the creamy taste of the rice went well with the freshly grilled lobster meat.

As for dessert, we decided to try a Rimrock Dessert Medley which had a miniature version of all the good dessert at the restaurant. There were (from closest to furthest) sticky toffee pudding, vanilla ice cream with house-made biscotti, chocolate ganache cake, hand-made chocolate truffle, white chocolate raspberry crème brulée, and hazelnut dark chocolate. The assortment of dessert was quite an intense work after all the duck and lobster but I still managed to choose my favorite one. The toffee pudding is extremely sweet, but warm and sticky, probably the most ideal treat after a long day of skiing in the winter at Whistler.

This is one of the most satisfying dinner I’ve had in a while in terms of the food. The service is not as good as the restaurants in Vancouver but the server was still friendly. This restaurant would be my first choice among all the restaurants in Whistler.

Rimrock Cafe and Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Many restaurants in Vancouver don’t open for lunch, which causes most of my restaurant exploration to happen for dinner. However, if you are in Richmond by any chance during lunch, you can pay a visit to Jang Mo Jib.

Jang Mo Jib is popular chain Korean restaurant in Richmond; you can find the same restaurant in Burnaby and Downtown. The restaurant was empty during lunch and we were seated quickly. I flipped through the menu and decided to order Gam Ja Tahng (Pork Bone Hot Pot), Tohng Gahl Bee (BBQ Beef Rib), Hae Mool Pah Jun (Seafood Pancake), and Dol Sot Bee Bim Bahb (Hot Stone Rice).

The appetizer came quickly after we ordered. There were pickled white turnip, sauté potato, sauté soybean sprout and kimchi.

After awhile of chatting and sipping tea, the Gam Ja Tahng came onto the table. Gamjatang originated in the southern Korea in the province of Jeolla, a hot pot dish that was often served for big celebration. Since cows were much more valuable than hogs in that specific region, pork was used as the meat in the dish. Jang Mo Jib makes an excellent Gam Ja Tahng with lots of spice, spring onion and chili. The highlight of the dish was definitely the spicy soup, topped with some wild sesame seeds made it an exquisite dish.

The Tohng Gahl Bee followed soon after the pork bone hot pot. Since we chose the AAA+ beef rib, the meat was extremely tender. The scent of burnt wood was added to the flavorful beef. The cabbage and turnip salad with vinaigrette dressing went well with the beef.

Hae Mool Pah Jun was served with a small bowl of soy sauce. The seafood pancake contained simple ingredients at Jang Mo Jib. There were fake crabmeat, squid, and spring onion. The pancake was crispy on the outside and thoroughly cooked. 

Lastly, we had the Dol Sot Bee Bim Bahb which literally means “mixed meal” or “mixed rice”. It was served with a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (there are zucchini, white turnip, spinach, carrot and bean sprout) and gochujang (which is the spicy chili paste). A fried egg and ground beef were added to the rice too.

All the dishes of this lunch were delicious and my favorite dish is definitely Gam Ja Tahng. The service is decent but a little slow. However, the overall experience is great and I would probably come back here again for lunch another time.

Jang Mo Jib (Alexandra Rd) on Urbanspoon

I realized that Black + Blue is a widely debated restaurant on Urbanspoon as the rating of the restaurant is outstandingly low. Last Friday, I paid a visit to explore the restaurant and find the reason of its controversy.

Before I comment on the quality of the food, the interior design of Black + Blue is truly impressive. I wonder if the main focus of the restaurant is the design or if the food would be equally good.

The collection of steak seems complete so we ordered a lobster tail to come with an 8oz PEI Blue Ribbon. For appetizer we decided to have a simple organic salad and the mashed potato is ordered as a side dish.

The organic looked ordinary and I was surprised that all the dishes are served at the same time. Since the table was small, I don’t understand why the salad, side dish, steak and the sauce were brought to the table at the same time.

The steak came with the extra lobster tail. The steak was well done as medium and the texture of the meat is juicy and tender. The big disappointment was on the lobster. Since the meat of the lobster tail was soggy, I assume it’s been frozen before cooked and served. The lobster was practically tasteless and it was small for a $22 lobster tail.

The mash potato was normal and tasteless. I wouldn’t order it again just as a matter of fact. The three sauces were nice to try on the steak. However, the barbeque sauce was quite ordinary so overall the meal was not too impressive.

Finally, we decided to have a berry crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I am not sure if saying the dessert is good is a compliment or if it is an indication that the main courses are not satisfying. Anyway, the berry crumble is decent but not impressive.

I would say that the rating on Urbanspoon is too low for this restaurant but I wouldn’t rate this restaurant over sixty either. The service was not amicable at all and our server seemed impatient when introducing the dishes so I wouldn’t came back anymore.

Black + Blue on Urbanspoon

Last Sunday, I decided to pay a visit to Zest, a quiet restaurant on 16th avenue. The restaurant opened in 2005, led by the Executive Chef Yoshiaki Maniwa. In 2012, Zest was rated as the Best Upscale Japanese Restaurant in Vancouver.

We were the first table to be seated and the chefs were just getting ready for the evening. I ordered some genmai-cha and looked through the menu. Recommended by our server, we decided to share one Zest Tasting Course and one Zest Dinner Course. The portion was about right for two people. Since there would be sashimi (mostly fish) in many courses and the nirigi would have fish too, we chose the Bavette Steak instead of the sable fish as main course.

The Sashimi salad came right after we ordered, together with a small bowl of spinach gomaae. There were slices of salmon, tuna and surf clam on the seaweed and organic greens. The soy sauce dressing mixed extremely well with the oceanic flavor of the sashimi.

The seafood sunomono had some sliced octopus and more surf clam in it. I am a surf clam lover personally as the flavor of this clam is sweet and the texture is chewy. The vinaigrette jelly and cucumber were refreshing.

Hassun means “small appertizers” in Japanese. The hassun at Zest were original and delicious. The crab meat salad (on the left) is rich and flavorful. The deep fried salmon (on the left) with vinaigrette is original. The tuna carpaccio is fresh but not worth having again but the green beans with sesame sauce is quite special.

The fluffy chilly prawn was spicy and savory but the prawns were a little over-cooked and the shell of the prawn was not crispy at all. This is probably another dish that I wouldn’t try again at Zest.

The tempura was average considering that it was nicely laid out but, again, the prawns were over-fried and the yam was not sweet at all.

The sautée chicken had the best sauce I’ve tasted so far in this meal. The honey garlic sauce blended well with the natural flavor of the chicken thigh. The chicken was juicy and savory as the portion was small but considering there are more to come, it was alright.

The Bavette steak with apple slices and bean sprout on top was our last main course. The beef was a little tough but the miso flavor was quite delicious. The sauté mushrooms underneath the steak were soft and flavorful. However, I would recommend the sable fish as the main course in the Dinner Tasting Course rather than the steak.

Finally, the nirigi was brought to the table. We had a variety of sashimi on the nirigi, such as yellowtail, salmon, octopus, albercore tuna, etc. The nirigi came from the chef’s daily selection of the freshest seafood, tasted light and natural. The nirigi’s quality was impressive and delicious.

We had the green tea tiramisu and sake & raisin ice cream. The tiramisu was mediocre but the sake & raisin ice cream was amazing. The flavor of the sake was not too strong but just enough to lighten the usual creamy flavor of ice cream. The combination of the raisin has the flavor of western red wine mixing with the eastern flavor of the sake.

Despite several dishes that were not as impressive, both the Tasting Course and the Dinner Course were carefully laid out and definitely picked the freshest ingredients. The price was on the expensive side since the portions of the dishes were small and a dinner like ours without alcohol was about $110 for two people. The service was decent and the ice cream was excellent!

Zest on Urbanspoon

Another Sunday afternoon, I decided to visit a newly moved restaurant on Broadway – Q4. Quattro on Fourth got its name as the original restaurant was opened on 4th Avenue, but now moved to 2563 West Broadway.

As I made the reservation for six o’clock, there were only a few tables occupied. The interior design is classy and tasteful with many bottles of fine wine the cellar. Q4 also has a semi-private room for big parties where we sat next to.

We took a look at the menu and decided to try the antipasto platter, which has an assortment of antipasto in small portions. For pasta, we chose the house-made potato gnocchi with classic Bolognese and for secondi we chose the striploin steak and frites.

The antipasto platter is beautifully arranged and full of traditional Italian delicacies. I developed two favorites among all the antipasto: bruschetta and radicchio bocconcini. As both of them are traditional Italian appetizers, bruschetta has its origin dated to at least the 15th century. The bruschetta at Q4 has crispy baguette toast topped with basil, fresh tomato, onion and a hint of garlic, making it refreshing and tasteful. The fresh marinated mozzarella with prosciutto was wrapped with radicchio leaves then grilled to make the radicchio bocconcini.

Soon after the antipasto was done, the house-made potato gnocchi was brought to the table. Gnocchi is a common type of soft dumplings that is made out of flour, potato, egg and sometimes cheese. The potato gnocchi at Q4 was extremely soft with a hint of spice from the Bolognese sauce.

Last but not least, we had the main course – striploin steak with French fries and green salad. I asked the striploin to be medium as the meat was cooked but not tough at all. An assortment of different mushrooms was under the striploin, a great combination with the black peppercorn sauce. Striploin and frites is a typical French course, but with an Italian twist of the sauce and mushroom, the main course became one of the most popular dish at Q4. Of course, the French fries are worth mentioning too, crispy and flavorful with Q4′s homemade ketchup.

The chef of Q4 – Alexandre Jolin greeted us after the main course and presented us two lovely desserts. He introduced the Ciliege Filate, which is candied phyllo pastry layered with mascarpone cheese and cherry red wine sauce.

The hospitable chef also made a special dessert for us from his daily inspiration – lightly fried doughnut ball, topped with cranberry sauce. The doughnut balls were puffy and not so oily as the mint leaves also created a slight freshness to the dessert.

The service was courteous and pleasant. The dishes use the freshest ingredients and all the pasta are handmade daily works. The dining experience at Q4 can be considered truly as a fine bottle of Conti Costanti – smooth and elegant.

Q4 on Urbanspoon

 

The Sunday streets of Vancouver were tranquil and clean as always. I paid a casual visit to a familiar restaurant on 4th avenue, Bistro Bistro.

Opened since 2007, Bistro Bistro has established a subtle reputation in Vancouver as the cozy kitchenette in Kitslano. The restaurant was particularly quiet in the late afternoon of last Sunday.

Greeted warmly by the manager of the restaurant, we sat at a table beside the window. I examined the menu carefully and a glass bottle of water was brought to the table. Most of the dishes on Bistro Bistro’s menu don’t change. The bold lettered dishes are the most popular ones. I decided to order the warm onion tart as appetizer, a Beouf Bourguignon and a Duck Confit with macaroni and cheese to share as main dishes.

While we waited for our dishes, warm baguette with olive dip and salted buttered were served. Traditionally, the baguette must be backed in a brick oven to keep its most original flavor. The baguette of Bistro Bistro is crispy and crunchy on the outside, but a little too tough inside. This might not tbe the most ideal baguette for elder people or traditional baguette lover, however, the olive dip is worth trying.

The warm caramelized onion tart came fairly quickly. It is my favorite dish among all the dishes that I’ve tried at Bistro Bistro. The tart shell is crispy and buttery and the baked stuffing is rich and delicious. If you are interested in trying to cook this dish at home, the recipe is open to you too.

The boeuf bourguignon is cooked slowly in a big casserole. Traditionally, boeuf bourguignon is cooked with red Burgundy wine in a stew and added pearl onion and mushroom before served. The boeuf bourguignon is extremely tender, as I had to use a spoon to scoop the savory beef onto my plate.

The duck confit was placed on a bed of creamy macaroni and cheese that was baked in a shallow casserole. Macaroni and cheese is first mentioned in an old English cookbook, but later became popular throughout North America. Macaroni and cheese is evidently not a traditional French pasta, but having the crispy duck confit with soft, gooey macaroni is a wise combination by the chef.

Finally, after overloaded amount of carbohydrate, we decided to order the chocolate mousse for dessert. It was not the wisest choice after equally overloaded amount of oil but the mousse is a popular dessert because it is freshly made in the restaurant.

Overall, the dinning experience is quite pleasant considering the portion of the dishes are on the small side but the quality is decent. The price is a acceptable for a French bistro and the service is excellent.

Bistrot Bistro on Urbanspoon

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