WHEN John Blakeley first arrived in Canada, Café de Paris on Denman Street was a natural spot for the charming Frenchman to work.
Since it opened in 1977, the West End bistro had maintained a solid reputation for dependable French fare, and the best steak frites in the city.
So when Blakeley - now the proprietor of Bistro Pastis and a North Vancouver resident - took over the restaurant earlier this year, renovated it and renamed it Le Parisien, it felt like coming home.
"It was always a dream of mine to buy it," he said, while hosting a recent tasting. At six months old, the menu was ready for some tweaking, featuring more rustic dishes for fall.
"We want to bring something a little more traditional," said Blakeley, "Something you don't see very often."
Now on the menu are Petits Plats - small plates that can be ordered to accompany a glass of wine or cocktail as you decide on your dinner.
Just $3.50 each, it's a tough choice between Pork Rillettes (Dijon Mustard), Baked Mussels (tomato and garlic), Oyster Rockefeller (bacon and Pernod), Crispy Calamari (saffron mayonnaise), Smoked Herring (warm potato salad) and Squash Croquette (goat cheese and apple chutney).
The menu is now also home to a rotating selection of what Blakeley calls "The Nasty Bits," including duck heart tourtiere, tripes à la Provençale, smoked beef tongue, slow braised pigs tail, popcorn chicken livers and Andouillette sausage, all made in house by executive chef Tobias Grignon. They are part of the harvest tradition, pointed out Blakeley, where every part of the animal is used, or preserved in some way for use in the winter. If Vancouver diners like them, the dishes will stay on the menu.
Among my top picks? A luscious smoked herring and warm potato salad, the deeply flavoured beef tongue, and the killer choucroute garni with smoked pork chop, sausage, bacon and wine-braised sauerkraut.
The Fall menu also includes such French comfort dishes as Choucroute Garnie, Boeuf Bourguignon and Crispy Braised Pigs Trotters, as well as dishes that have become fast favourites since the restaurant opened: French onion fondue, steak tartare, roast chicken for two, chicken liver and foie gras parfait.
Le Parisien is at 751 Denman St., Vancouver. Call 604-687-1418 for info, or visit leparisien.ca.
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For many people, the kickoff for Christmas shopping season has already come and gone. (For the rest of us, mind you, it's still a few weeks away. What can I say? I like to live dangerously.)
If you find yourself crowd-surfing at Pacific Centre this festive season and in need of a calming - and delicious - shopping break, duck into Four Seasons Vancouver for a taste of executive chef Ned Bell's fall menu at Yew Restaurant.
Snack on some of his must-try salt and pepper chicken wings (made with balsamic salt and sweetened with honey), or try tender octopus laid over crispy chickpeas. Pair your appies with one of their popular "We Make It, YEW Shake It" whiskey sours, and you'll soon be ready to do battle for that iPad mini or monster Lego set.
If, on the other hand, you're ready to throw in the towel, settle in for amazing Arctic char served with Savoy cabbage and bacon, or decadent lobster plated with local Cinderella squash, perfectly paired with wine from Yew's impressive list, curated by sommelier Emily Walker.
Now that's the kind of Christmas shopping I can start early.
Deana Lancaster has been writing about food and wine since 2000, and worked in restaurants for more than a decade before that. Contact: email@example.com.