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Friday, 10 February 2012

DOV 2012 #2: Mistral French Bistro

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IMG_7619 copy Our second and final Dine Out this year was at Mistral French Bistro in Kits and we were fortunate to be accompanied on this outing with the honorable Krispy Bites and Evan.  Having been to Mistral twice in the past 2 years and being very content with my experience each time, I was looking forward to going here and curious to see how the Dine Out menu compares to the regular one.  As good as the food has been, the service here in my past visits has been even better and is by far the BEST I've had in all the years since I've been eating out.  Besides, with a 3 course meal that would average in the $40/person vicinity on the average day, how can you say no to a $28 3 course menu? That's a 25% cost savings!  And we all like saving money!  Just look at the ING Direct guy for example.  Anyhow, here we were late on a Sat evening ready to indulge into frenchly delicacy.
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IMG_7634 copy Our reservation was a late one at 8:30 pm.  I knew they took their last call at 9:30 pm so I figured we wouldn't have to wait long to be seated, but boy was I ever wrong.  I guess there are many people who think like us and want to save ~25% and cash in on the Dine Out value.  We had to wait close to 30 mins in a cramped waiting area that had a constant influx of people not being balanced by an outflow, before finally being seated.  I don't recall ever seeing this place so packed or having to wait so long but this is what Dine Out does to popular restaurants.  It’s worth mentioning that while we waited, the waiters and the Owner herself addressed us regularly, apologizing for the wait and giving us a status update on our table.
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After finally being seated, we were tended-to promptly and nicely with the owner coming to take our order. The place was definitely packed and this sort of took away from the ambience of the restaurant.  With dim lighting, classy decor, and table sizes to ideally seat 4 - 6 people at most, Mistral caters more towards small groups or couples and is capable of rendering a somewhat romantic atmosphere.  Unfortunately this was not the case today but then again, Dine Out effect I suppose.
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Typically bread is served prior to the arrival of appetizers but today we got bread served more or less with the appetizers.  No biggie, but being a high end restaurant, this didn't exactly meet and beat expectations.  And as Krispy Bites points out, the bread was cold and hard, and served with not nearly enough butter to satisfy the 5 of us. I think the menu said something about charging $0.75 for an extra piece of bread...
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After much wait, my stomach was growling. The coveted appetizers finally arrived. The first one that came was the Provencal Tomato-cream soup for Richard and Evan. The white foam on the top is pistou foam and the brown stuff on the side is the olive tapenade crouton. Richard commented that the soup is creamy and tangy but a bit too sour for his taste. He was eating the salty olive tapenade crouton to balance out the taste. Nevertheless, he devoured the soup completely.  Evan commented the soup was just right in terms of sourness and he finished the soup as well.
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The next one to be served was the Soya and Black Pepper Marinated Albacore Tuna. Now, the seared tuna tataki was really good according to Ying. She's a big fan of raw tuna for some reason (yuck for me...). The tuna was very fresh and went well with the black pepper/sesame crust and soya marinade. On the other hand, the rest of the plate was really disappointing...with a sloppily put together, sorry excuse of a...cucumber and celery salad? Perhaps they were just too overwhelmed with the high turnover rate that night, but I really expected better presentation.
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The Smoked Salmon that I got was an interesting mix.  Two slices of smoked salmon was served topped with capers, lettuce, sour cream,  two slabs of mozzarella, two slices of beets, and a sliver of lemon.  Sounds like a lot but the quantity wasn't all that much.  The Smoked Salmon was easily the best and most delicious part of this dish and while the sour cream seemed out of place (to me anyways), the beets, mozza and capers provided enough substance and varying flavors to satisfy without drowning out the smoked salmon.  This dish was good tasting and average in appearance.  Oh it was served with a small butter grilled piece of toast was was too dry and hard and not buttery enough for my liking.
None of us got the duck confit, as Rich has an aversion to all “birds”, I can’t eat non-Halal meat, and Ying is scared of confit after one particularly bad experience with a very salty dish.
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Not long after the appy, main courses were served. Amongst the first to come was the Grilled AAA Alberta Rib Eye Steak. The presentation was comme ci comme ca (we are at a French restaurant after all :D).  It looks like lesser than Moxie’s as it doesn’t even have decorative veggie. What would set it apart would be the taste. Richard has mixed feeling about this dish. The steak itself was done just right (medium rare) but the quality of the meat left much to be desired according to him. He said the meat has quite the fat and was not lean enough. He commented that he had better. There just seemed to be very little thought put into how to present their dishes for this Dine Out menu. The fries were decent, but over-salted. He commented that he would have liked some grilled vegetables with the meat instead of the greasy fries.
IMG_7667 copy There were no items in the Mains that I could eat so I asked if they had any vegetarian or seafood substitutes and sure enough I was offered a vegetarian pasta in pesto sauce.  The portion size wasn't too small (I was pleasantly surprised as I usually end up with the smallest portion sizes) and the pasta was served hot and fresh with broccoli, cherry tomato and other various veggie.  It tasted really good at first, it did, but by the time I got to the end of it, the pesto-ness was over powering.  Oh well, I think I was content with it.  I remember that the Halibut I had last time I was here (it was a special that day) was OH SO YUMMY IN MY TUMMY.  Too bad I couldn't get that today.
Daube de Boeuf: This was Ying’s selection of beef cheek red wine stew served with seasonal vegetables, mushrooms and olives on a bed of spaghetti. She commented that the beef cheek was really moist, tender and quite flavorful. I could tell that the spaghetti wasn’t very appetizing even though I was only looking at it from a distance. Ying agreed – as it was definitely not cooked al dente and resembled spaghetti that would be served from a Hong Kong Café, hardly elegant French cuisine. She said that she wasn’t a big fan of the red wine sauce, but it could be just an acquired taste. IMG_7665 copy
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Again, this was the best part of my meal.  I got the Giant Coffee Macaron and it really hit the spot.  The crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside macaron was served partially balanced on a scoop of coffee ice cream and whipping cream, traced by blueberry coulis and topped off with sprinkled cocoa powder.  The best part of this dessert was that none of the flavours were excessive.  The sweet from the macaron and ice cream was nicely balanced by the tart-ness of the blueberry coulis and the whipping cream, well it did what it always does and added another dimension to the dish.  Deeeelish!
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Ying had picked the Mistral Dark Chocolate Mousse. She frowned when it was presented to her…consisting of two blobs of chocolate mousse and a ball of whipped cream. Look at the pictures…what do you see? Considering the fact that it was dark chocolate, she totally underestimated how sweet the dessert was going to be. She took a few bites of the mousse and pushed the plate toward with Rich. She commented that it would have been nice if there was another flavor to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and whipped cream.
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Since we started blogging, we’ve become more mindful to not order the same dishes to maximize our experience and give a more well-rounded review. However, the last dessert on the menu was Fresh Pineapple in Mint Sirop. I jokingly nudged Rich to pick it, even though it didn’t sound very appetizing. He obliged and it turned out to be a good thing since Ying ended up having it instead. It was probably the dessert with the best presentation as well – with a scoop of raspberry sorbet in the middle surrounded by pineapple slices, raspberry and blackberries. She commented that the dessert was very refreshing. She did note that the mint “sirop” was barely discernable though.
All in all, this visit to Mistral fell short of meeting expectations by a little.  It wasn't horrible but it definitely could have been better, and it has been better as per my first two visits.  From my experience, Dine Out is generally not an accurate reflection of the usual quality of food.  I say this from my Dine Outs in past years to Bistro Pastis, Boat House Restaurant, and Provence Mediterranean Grill; at each of these locations, the Dine Out experience fell short while my visits for non-Dine Out were great.  Same story here with Mistral.  I would definitely recommend visiting this restaurant if you've never been, just not during Dine Out.

The Yummies:
  • Richard jokingly remarked that we should go to DQ prior to Mistral because of our Hapa Izakaya experience. Thankfully, it wasn’t the case. The portion size was sufficient.
  • The giant coffee macaron was delicious!
  • Parking isn't hard to find in the side streets
  • Service was attentive – considering how overbooked the restaurant was… A+ for effort!
The Yuckies:
  • Presentation…or lack thereof ( really expected more out of a fine dining French restaurant)
  • The food was mediocre at best, with some worse than others
  • Waiting 30 minutes+ past our reservation time even though it was already such a late reservation already
  • Waiting another 15 minutes+ to receive our bill
  • Questionable stains on our tablecloth… do they really not change tablecloths between customers? We didn’t really pay close attention.

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krispymilk said...

Nooo you left out the joke about the chocolate mousse! :P

Edwina L. said...

why would anyone expect a ribeye steak to be lean?? it's the fattiest cut of steak you can get.

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