Food and Wine

Top Ten Restaurants 2010

Bistro St. Jacques

51, rue St. Jacques, 819-420-0189, bistrostjacques.ca

Christopher Mulder | The dish: Filet mignon. Served with charred tomatoes, green beans, chimichurri sauce, and garlic chips

It takes everything I have to resist calling this a little gem. But, oh, the clichés are so tempting when talking about my new secret crush. I openly confess, it’s a sentimental pick based on how much this place reminds me of a neighbourhood bistro in Paris. Squinting (and wine) is required to play out this fantasy, but it helps that it is located on a residential side street in the heart of Old Hull, surrounded by the sounds of the French language. But it is the overall attitude that gives it a delightful, elegant European feel. Good-quality seasonal ingredients are a given, and like most bistro dining in France, nothing about it attempts to be hip or cutting edge. But what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in spades with its calm, relaxed attitude and generous French classic fare that, in expert hands, will always feel special. In an era when chef egos run large and service is likely to be either aloof or saccharine, Bistro St. Jacques is a breath of fresh air. Here you can experience the French tradition of being taken care of as if you were a guest in someone’s home. On a recent visit, I watched a woman at the next table struggling to remove her jacket, and within seconds, the server rushed over to lend a hand. A child dining with her mother at lunchtime was hoisted upon a phone book in lieu of a booster seat, to the great delight of all involved. White tablecloths, mais bien sur, feel right here. But don’t expect micro-portions. And don’t miss out on some of the best frites you’ll find on either side of the river. Confident cooking combined with a dedication to the primacy of pleasure — it’s like being in France without the cost of the flight.

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