1595 St-Laurent Blvd. (de Maisonneuve Blvd.)
Cost: $ 164.40 (excluding tip)
Chef Hats: 4
Don’t get fooled by it’s location, Bouillon Bilk is not situated on the coolest strip of St Laurent street but it surely can compete with the ones located a little further up on the street. You must have driven past it a dozen times or more, but would have never noticed it because it doesn’t have a flashy neon sign above the door. Situated in the old “Provisions” locale, it is nestled amid grungy clothes stores, wholesalers and camera shops and may seem a little out of place but not out of the ordinary. Bouillon Bilk is a must try.
I believe everything has a good story and a reason for its madness. This area which seems to be going through a revival since 2008-2009, was known as part of the Montreal Red light district. In 2009, I worked for a Real Estate developer for a couple of months who was revamping the area with new condo developments. The Spectacles des Arts was in construction and the idea was that with its completion the neighborhood would boom with young urbanites. Relegated to the bowels of a dusty building, I needed to get out for lunch. Provisions which had just opened its doors provided great food at reasonably good prices and seemed to be doing well. Then it closed, people were not ready for it as they seemed to still prefer the upper St Laurent area above Sherbrooke.
Then I heard that in 2011 Bouillon Bilk had set up shop in the same spot. It was getting good reviews with its innovative techniques and fancy dish preparations. Bouillon Bilk was at the top of the echelon with some of the best restaurants in Montreal. Owned by Francois Nadon (Bronte, XO, and The Globe) and Melanie Blanchette (Lemeac) the influence of having worked with the top chefs of these restaurants is apparent here. Each dish masterfully created and presented with an artistic flair and the flavors are beyond belief. Who would have thought that this obscure restaurant has made it to the top 10 best restaurants in Montreal the last couple of years!
Why the name Bouillon Bilk? Bouillon is deriving from a type of soup kitchen that appeared in Paris in the middle of the 19th century serving popular cuisine at small prices. The owners wanted to serve comfort food. Bilk was chosen as an afterthought because it stuck in their heads as a catchy word. One might think it is not an appropriate as it has a derogatory meaning, but it fit well and they stuck with it. Bouillon Bilk was born, but it is far from a soup kitchen and one may go as far as saying it is a far cry from comfort food as we know it. You will not find home cooked dishes here but beautiful master fully crafted representations of foods we like and the prices are high.
This evening, even though parking was sparse on this side of town, I managed to arrive a few minutes late to hold our table. I was greeted by the maitre d with a smile and pleasant welcome and felt right at home. The bar area was already full and buzzing and I got a table at the back of the house, in a little corner, which suited me fine. I love corners and I had a great view for people watching. The crowd at Bouillon Bilk is of a mixed age group, we had a very young couple next to us that looked at the menu and walked out, and maybe they felt bilked. What a shame, because they surely missed out on a very special meal. Whatever their reason, it is not cheap considering the area. You will find a lot of older couples catching a pre show dinner. Then you will find the foodie who just comes for the good food and wine.
The decor here is minimalistic, white cream walls and wooden tables, yet its appealing, with a clean and crisp modern feeling. The place is busy, very busy and every table is full.
Our waitress Veronique brought me the menus and patiently waited for Frenchie to arrive as he was still looking for a parking spot. Meanwhile I ordered a bottle of Sparkling water and two glasses of Burgundy Pinot Noir Amiot by the glass at $14.00 each. Then I waited and waited and waited, no sign of Frenchie…I think he went to park the car in Quebec City! Finally I saw his head pop through the door, a little out of breathe he told me he found lots of parking at the UQAM building on Ontario St. (which is virtually empty at night).
After catching his breath and scanning the menu Veronique re-appeared and asked us if we were ready to order. She described their specials for the evening and proceeded to tell us about their amuse bouche, which we never received. We decided to share an entrée, as I wanted to leave room for dessert. I hear the dessert here are exceptional and did not want to miss out. Not being much of a dessert person I usually don’t go for them, but always end up feeling my meal was not complete.
We started with the Pork dumpling at $ 14.00 (not meant to be shared but we were advised by our waitress). The dumpling was one large flat dumpling topped with a tige of deep fried crispy rice, enobi mushrooms, sautéed green onions and celery, corn kernels, and cubes of sweet prune. This was delicious. The pork meat mixture inside the large pocket was flavorful and not overpowering with too much ginger or scallions. The toppings of vegetables really enhanced the dish. A mix of textures, with the crunchiness of the celery and sweetness of the prune and corn kernels. An earthy taste from enobi mushrooms and the sticks of fried rice were decadent. We should have had one each, sharing was not enough.
For our main meal, we both went with fish this evening, I took the Scallops, with shitake mushrooms, squash and pears topped with watercress and beurre noisette at $29.00. The scallops were perfectly sautéed in the beurre noisette giving it the whole dish an earthy taste. The scallops were tender and not overcooked, not rubbery.
They tasted very light, the mushrooms enhancing the earthy taste even more; the slivers of zucchini crunchy under the palate.
Frenchie took the Sea Bass with carrots, pistachio crumble, Brussels sprouts and a mushroom called “pied de mouton “at $ 30.00. A large portion of sea bass, with a sautéed charred cumin crispy topping surrounded by a pistachio crumble topped with slivers of carrots and sautéed mushrooms and greens. He admits it was one of the best fish dishes he has had in a while, the flavors complimenting each other perfectly, making this dish out of the ordinary. The presentations were magnificent and very artistic, very eye catching.
After marvelling at the creations we had just completed, we felt we had enough room for dessert. We decided both to order our own dessert and not share. I had the Pudding a pain at $9.00, with quenelles of granita, walnuts and maple syrup. I found my pudding a pain a little dry. Pudding a pain should be as it states, bread make with pudding, making it extremely moist. Almost creamy pudding consistency, this was not. The flavors were great but my quenelles did not taste anything granita, it had more of a creamy ice cream consistency, but was good. I focused on eating that and left the bread pudding on the side.
Frenchie had the Brioche at $ 10.00 topped with chocolate ice cream and peanut crumble, halved red grapes and foie gras. People with food allergies need not apply here. His dish tasted much better and the brioche was moist. This was the way to go here, but if you don’t like chocolate or can’t have peanuts it’s a no go. They do have plenty of other items for dessert that look equally as appetizing. But I feel my dessert fell a little flat. The presentations are great but I would stick with ordering more appetizers.
Upon paying our cheque a guy dressed with a colorful bow tie and hipster hair came to ask us how we liked the food and if all was according to our taste. He must have known we were bloggers from all the pictures we were taking. Frenchie being the ultimate ‘’ Chiaccarone” blabber mouth lately ranted and raved about the food.
All in all Bouillon Bilk is a great experience; maybe we felt bilked but did not mind at all.