Posts Tagged ‘Portus Calle’

Bouillon Bilk Beguiles with the Bold and the Beautiful

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Bouillon Bilk
1595 Saint-Laurent Boulevard (near de Maisonneuve Boulevard)
Montreal, Quebec H2X 2S9
(514) 845-1595

Hours: Mon-Fri: 11:30 – 2:30 p.m., Mon-Sun: 5:30 – 11:00 p.m.
Vegetarian-friendly: not especially
Average for meal/person, excluding wine, taxes, and tip: $35-$55
Wine by glass: $8-$22
Major cards and Interac
Rating: ◊◊◊◊½ (excellent)


Bouillon Bilk menu

The food culture here and abroad is still flourishing in full swing and continues to intrigue, invigorate, and inspire us. As food aficionados delve deeper into the world of gastronomy and discover different types of foods, master chefs perpetually explore and find creative ways to exhilarate, entrance, and excite the senses and provoke the minds and palates of discerning gourmets as they become increasingly hungry for fine food experiences. And Montreal possesses its share of unique, innovative chefs who drive and shape the culinary trends in the ever-evolving culinary landscape and feed epicurean consumers with an appreciation for fashionable plates.

Creative, compelling, charismatic. These are some of the words which describe the culinary delights during my spontaneous wining and dining excursion at Bouillon Bilk, a gastronomical gem with a whimsical sounding name sandwiched between two old run-down electronic stores on a grungy strip of the Main in the Quartier des spectacles. Located a stone’s throw away from various arts and entertainment establishments, including Place des arts, Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, the unpretentious premises embrace the urban art ambiance of the city’s cultural district. I quickly discovered upon our arrival that the dining destination was not like the traditional, spacious Parisian bouillons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As my dining companion and I walked past the front, white-painted wrought-iron gate doors and stepped into the hip and haute hideout, we were immediately greeted with a modern minimalist milieu. Framed in neutral tones of white and beige, the small, oblong space, dimly lit, was punctuated with wood accents, imbuing warmth and depth to the industrial-like environs. Sleek and chic, the stylish surroundings with its striking décor were furnished with white-clothed wooden tables accompanied with black bistro chairs. A dark brown leather banquette which lined the panelled south wall of the dining room and an exposed brick wall finished with white stucco overlay near the well-equipped bar facing the exposed kitchen in the back lent further texture and character to the clean, streamlined interior design.

Like its quirky, unassuming décor, a study of sophisticated simplicity, the menu, short yet varied, is presented in frugal fashion, listing the principal ingredients for each dish and letting the diner conjure up his or her very own image of the culinary concoctions crafted by the mastermind behind the refined bold bistro cuisine at this funky outpost. The smartly appointed chef-owner François Nadon, who has honed his culinary skills in Ottawa before landing cooking stints at venerable gastronomic institutions in Montreal, including XO Le Restaurant, Les Trois Petits Bouchons, Portus Calle, the recently closed Globe, and the now defunct Brontë, helms the kitchen at Bouillon Bilk since the restaurant opened three and half years ago. And the talented tastemaster continues to astonish, and win the hearts of, his foodie diners with his inspired creativity and deft hand. With an incessant quest for culinary originality and novel flavours, a notable emphasis on fine terroir and local ingredients, and an unwavering commitment to fresh, quality produce from the four corners of the earth, chef Nadon’s contemporary cooking resonates concordantly with the prevalent and newfangled Montreal trend of fancified French bistrot fare inflected with a Québécois edge.

After examining the tantalizing menu offerings and deliberating on what to order, we first settled on two main dishes and then decided to share a starter, one of the specials that were offered that evening. To complement our mouth-watering meal, we each selected, with the assistance and guidance of our knowledgeable waitress, a glass of wine from the extensive wine list comprising a recherché lineup of privately imported bottles. My dining companion opted for a 2012 Le Queyroux Dominique Léandre–Chevalier, an intense, unoaked red Bordeaux wine with an expressive perfume of ripe black fruits, while I chose a 2012 Corte Sant’Alda Soave Vigne di Mezzane, a sunny and straightforward Venetian white wine with a lush citrus and floral character and a classic almond finish.

As we sipped our glass of wine and nibbled and noshed on the complimentary warm slices of deliciously flavourful bread served alongside molded butter and sea salt, we were able to witness every now and then the professional, solicitous service which flowed like clockwork and periodically catch enviable glimpses of some of the eye-catching, enticing plates prepared by the brigade de cuisine—sole sashimi, lobster cavatelli, sous-vide and grilled venison, battered cod and braised tripe with lima beans… And then, the vicarious moment turned into a truly titillating and exhilarating experience when our selected victuals arrived at our table.

Nadon’s theatrical display of culinary art on the large, round, white canvas-like plates, bringing a pop of colour and contrast against the plain, neutral interior backdrop, shone in the limelight. Gorgeously presented, the polished works of art on the plate not only delighted and dazzled the eye; they also pleased and pampered the palate.


Pan-fried sweetbreads and braised veal tongue with Jerusalem artichoke purée, oyster mushroom ragout, fresh apple, and fresh arugula

The entrée du jour hit all the flavour high, middle, and low notes, setting the bar high at the outset of our evening repast. Teamed up with blobs of Jerusalem artichoke purée and dollops of oyster mushroom ragout and garnished with fresh apple matchsticks and arugula leaves, the appetizer dish featured gently dredged, pan-fried ris de veau, lightly lacquered in a honey-and-piment-d’Espelette glaze. With their crisp, ethereal exterior and creamy, yielding interior, the two golden brown sweetbread pieces were each layered with a broad, folded ribbon of brined and 24-hour braised veal tongue, one of which sported charred crosshatch marks. Subtly flavoured, the paired offals, one of which nested on top of a neat rectangular cut grilled bread, were lusciously moist and meltingly tender. The soft champignons pleurottes glistening in the ochre-hued gravy and the silky sunroot purée provided a mild earthiness, while the firm, tart pomaceous fruit and the peppery green leafy vegetable added an acidic counterpoint to the overall composition, a beautifully blended orgy of well-balanced, delicate tastes and textures. Splendidly scrumptious.

In the ensuing principal dishes, Nadon continued to prove his gastronomic prowess as he transformed more unusual combinations of ingredients into further soigné culinary creations. And the paean continued to be sung in the key of gutsy, gourmet goodness.


Sous-vide and pan-seared guinea fowl with beets, dates, mushrooms, and vadouvan mashed potatoes

My dining companion’s assiette de suprême de pintade was brilliantly conceived and expertly executed. Arranged on top of a heavy-handed smear of deep magenta beetroot purée enhanced with butter, the two generous sliced slabs of toothsome guinea fowl breast, cooked sous-vide and then pan-seared, were joined with red and golden beet quarters mixed with slivers of date, nubbles of pied-de-mouton, and juliennes of shiitake mushroom. Placed atop a beurre blanc sauce intensified with ginger, garlic, and Franco-Indian vadouvan, a bed of mashed potatoes enriched with washed-rind cheese Le 1608 from local artisan fromager Laiterie Charlevoix lay partially concealed beneath the larger chunk of lean, crispy-skinned meat. Completed with sporadic dribbles of poultry jus reduction, a scant sprinkling of finely minced fresh chives and a light scattering of fresh basil leaves, the refined étude of rustic elegance was hearty and heart-warming, and it didn’t take long for my friend to leave a completely empty plate at the table.


Unilateral pan-seared sea scallops with grilled zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, pear, arugula, and beurre noisette

Equally stunning and sumptuous was my main seafood dish. Impeccably cooked à l’unilatéral, the three fresh sea scallops, two of which were cut in half, exhibited a deep golden brown caramelized crust on one side. Elegantly assembled on top of a liberal swirl of beurre noissette sauce, the plump, opaque molluscs, mildly sweet and buttery soft, were harmoniously joined with braised caps of shiitake mushrooms and thin ribbons of grilled zucchini along with slim slices of fresh pear and a mere garnish of rocket leaves. I have not always had a strong penchant for the bland courgette. Until I experienced Nadon’s commendable cooking. The supple strips of summer squash, singed gingerly in little black stripes and folded loosely in a zigzag corrugation were seasoned so sprightly and saporously that I entered a state of euphoria. In his glorious and glamorous rendition, the imaginative interplay of the eclectic components elevated this classic seared shellfish specialty to another level of sublime succulence. Wow.

Mesmerized and riveted by the sumptuous comestibles, we could not skimp on the sweet course, and the echoes of Nadon’s inventiveness and imagination continued to resound in the darling desserts. From the perennial pain perdu to the canonical chocolate tart, the time-honoured sweet staples were reiterated with an unapologetically audacious twist.


Carrot mousse with white chocolate and carrot cream cheese, citrus fruit, meringue, and graham crumbs

My dining companion was smitten with the orange taproot treat, a deconstructed interpretation of the ubiquitous carrot cake. Anchored atop a sandy trail of brown buttered graham crumbs, an amber-hued log of carrot mousse, with its top slightly blowtorched, was set amidst tangy dollops of fromage à la crème caressed with white chocolate and carrot, ethereal fragments of crisp, crunchy white meringue, and tart bits of segmented orange and pink grapefruit. Graceful and articulate, this humble flight of fancy, accessorized with grace notes of firm, finely diced carrots and feathery snippets of frosted carrot green leaves, was otherworldly.

I was just as fearless and adventurous as my friend, and I, too, succumbed to another one of the culinarian’s exquisite signature delectables, which also revolved around the theme of savoury-meets-sweet or rather, sweet-meets-savoury. Although it was the most expensive dessert number that I have ever consumed in my life, happily, it was worth every penny. Foie gras, which was featured as the star ingredient in one of the menu starters, reappeared in my sweet selection but in a more indulgent and decadent manner. In this painterly pièce de résistance, which was animated with smears of dulcey chocolate sauce, dollops of smoked apple sauce, and splotches of silky crème fraîche lightened with tangy crème sure, a miniature upside-down banana cake cosily cushioned a half moon of pan-seared foie gras. With its crisp, browned crust on top and its warm, unctuous juices slowly forming a tiny puddle around the pillowy cake, the dainty duck delicacy, perfectly poëlléed, was velvety and voluptuous. To impart further complexity and complement the irresistibly divine centerpiece ensemble, checker-like rounds of banana, each boasting a brittle, brûléed sugar topping, were playfully juxtaposed with large, thin shards of bittersweet chocolate. Capped merely with an airy embellishment of fresh lavender petals, the luscious and luxurious dish capitalized on the bouquet of sensual flavours and textures, all working seamlessly together. Spectacularly show-stopping.


Pan-seared foie gras and banana cake with brûléed banana slices, bittersweet chocolate, dulcey chocolate sauce, smoked apple sauce, and crème fraîche

We sighed with pure pleasure as our remarkable regale came to a close. At this beguiling haven, we were blown away by the gastronomic tour de force, a well-balanced bouillon of personal vision and culinary precision, independent spirit and intuitive restraint. As we left the convivial venue, we couldn’t stop admiring Nadon’s ardour, artistry, ambition, and audacity which figured prominently in each thoughtful, nuanced dish prepared with love and attention to detail. Foodism continues to remain an integral part of our culture as food nourishes and nurtures us and often than not comforts our soul, mind, and heart. As we continue to celebrate food, art, and the love of life, we appreciate les plaisirs de la table. Bouillon Bilk will remain part of my foodscape. Serendipitous spontaneity can be such a wonderful thing.

As a side note, the reputable restaurant, having undergone a fresh makeover last spring, has modernized and expanded its interior setting. However, two weeks ago, the renovated locale sustained serious water damage due to a burst pipe from an upstairs apartment and had to close for immediate repairs. It is a relief to learn that the trendy spot has recently reopened and is operating in full swing. Indeed, a time to rejoice, especially now that the festive season is here.

And on another jubilant note, I would like to wish all my readers happy holidays and a wonderful New Year filled with love, joy, happiness, health, peace, and prosperity.

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