Monday, December 26, 2005

Le Bistro Chez Michel


This newish French place accross from our dentists has been tantalizing me. First its brochure, which even food-avoiding Fumiyo found intriguing. Then the tasty bites at the taste of Lower Lonsdale blogged earlier. Its really more Euro than French. Occasionally memoried Junko had told Fumiyo we were going out for lunch with her and Steph in North Van on Friday, and I persuaded Fumiyo that this was our chance to experience Chez Michel. We looked forward to it. And looked. And looked. Steph was unreachable by phone. Fumiyo finally reached Junko, who had forgotten our lunch date, thinking it was the following day, the dreaded busyness of the 24th. Chez Michel is closed for lunch on weekends. Or so I thought. Checking their website , I discovered that it had given us a vast present, hoping to cash in on all the busy, hungry shoppers, no doubt. Fumiyo and I stumbled off to the mall, panged with hunger from the missed Michel experience on Friday. Mall food smells aren't that enticing. But we somehow survived til Saturday and made it over to Chez Michel. We were asked if we had a reservation, but the spacious place was largely empty, and remained so.
The view, as we came in from the rain, was spectacular. The inside of my umbrella has its fine points, but the view of downtown Vancouver you get from Lower Lonsdale, and this is right on the water, is about as good as views get.
And then there was the food.
"Crepe" is a magically memorable word for me. When we were living near Granville in 77, there was a crepe restaurant nearby. It's Crepe St. Jacques was worth walking a great distance for, a celebration of scallops and brandy that made you seem to turn inceasingly French with each bite. Monet is peering at you from another table, wondering how to feature you in his next painting. Goddard sees legions of scallops overthrowing their plates and revolutionizing the next table. Marcel Mareau mimes a salt shaker impaled on dozens of plastic Eifel Towers. Rabelais adds some hemp seeds to his crepe, while Jean Valjean hides in the chandelier.
Those kinda memories.
When we first moved to North Van for Bit to go to 1st grade here in 1984, the library was a few blocks away. Accross from the library, the 80s restaurant provided delighful seafood crepes, not so literary, more family style, enjoyed by the entire hungry Ishikawa family. Bit, Fumiyo and I all loved their assorted crepes, and the seafood, a kind of malling of the classic St. Jacques crepe, varies immensely in quality from restaurant to restaurant. A lot of that is the sauce.
The Lonsdale Quay accross the street has a wonderful crepe I often have for lunch. "Seasoned chicken" mushrooms, ementhal and either artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers. A superb meal. Sauce-less, but this is an upscale Food Court, not a restaurant, eh?
Despite its French name, no St. Jacques but a Seafood Crepe awaited Junko and I. Fumiyo ordered her beloved paella and Steph had the penne.
"Tasteless" Fumiyo proclaimed. Except for the mussel. That was genuinely disagreeable. Her days enjoying food may be the past. Steph seemed to enjoy her Penne. Restaurant-worker Junko, just returned from the Really Good Food of Europe and soon back to the Unbelievably Good Food of Japan, was as amazed as I at our crepes.
If you asked a baby tomato what it wanted to be when it grew up, it would tell you that it wanted to be a part of the sauce on the seafood crepes at Le Bistro Chez Michel.
That is a taste memory that will last longer perhaps than my taste buds. When I'm dead, the memory of that perfectly sauced crepe will live on as new strings, vibrating off to tantalize other dimensions, an ever spreading empire of eternal pleasure. Dont die without trying this one.

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