French cuisine returns to Metro courtesy of Herve Hemlin, certified Chef de Cuisine. Hemlin’s namesake restaurant, “Herve,” has migrated from Dartmouth to the old Corso location on Granville Street, and has been rechristened Chateau Briand, named for the French dish of filet mignon for two.
The menu features French classics, of course, and a wide range of them—everything from the very bistro steak au poivre to the very Paris-chic chateau briand.
There is a varied wine list with about a dozen wines by the glass and the bar sports an espresso machine, as any European cafe would.
There’s so much on the menu that looks so appetizing that it’s hard to decide, but we finally make our choices and then admire the Mediterranean decor. A long, narrow room with a bar down one side, this is a decidedly intimate restaurant. Chandeliers hang from the high ceiling, and candles and fresh flowers adorn every table. But our surroundings seem to vanish once our starters arrive. The shrimp and lobster bisque ($8) is very fragrant—the aroma hits my nose long before the server can set the bowl down in front of me. And the flavour does not disappoint. Garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and a single shrimp, this rich bisque is filling enough to serve as a main course.
Classic cuisine was not developed with animal activists in mind, and we enjoy two traditional dishes that give me small pangs of guilt. Frog legs ($13) are a French classic, handled exquisitely here, lightly sauteed in a delicate batter and accompanied by an herbed tomato sauce. It’s a myth that they taste like chicken—a completely different texture (more like a whitefish such as haddock) and a mild briny flavour dispute that theory. I love the silky texture and intense flavour of foie gras (fatted goose liver), and the Chateau Briand version, while not my favourite, is quite lovely. It comes on a sweet port reduction with tiny slices of toast and a heavy apple chutney, but the membrane hasn’t been completely trimmed from the meat, leaving an unpleasant, strong-tasting chewy bit. Despite the membrane, it is very good.
My favourite of the starters is the smoked duck ($12)—thin slices of smoked duck breast served with an unusual (but fantastic) blue cheese bruschetta, greens and what’s called cucumber “cristaux”: a frozen, highly concentrated scoop of cucumber juice. In combination, it’s wonderful, with lots of action for my taste buds.
The duck a l’orange ($25) is a half duck, the leg and sliced breast, served in a orange glaze, garnished with blood oranges. Vegetables and potato pavé (“brick”) are served on a side plate, but are a dish unto themselves—white asparagus poached with saffron, red carrots, tender green beans and the potato are artfully arranged yet still hot.
For dessert, we go with peppered strawberries ($8) and three of the mini pastries ($2.25 each) that our marvelous server brings out to show. When asked if the pastries are made in-house, she laughingly tells us no, that Chef doesn’t have the time or patience for breads and pastries, and that they come from a Farmer’s Market vendor. The pastries and the house bread are fabulous, as are the strawberries that have been sauteed with Pernod and plenty of cracked black pepper.
And I don’t much worry that Chef has little time or patience for those things, because the rest of what he does is simply tres magnifique!
Chateau Briand 1873 Granville Street 446-4992 Mon-Thur 11am-10pm Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm Sunday closed
Find more of Liz Feltham’s reviews on “la internet”. www.foodcritic.ca