Saturday, September 24, 2011

Brasserie L'Ecole

Address: 1715 Government St.
Phone: (250) 475-6260
Price: $18-25 for an entree
Notes: A staple of "good food" in Victoria that rarely disappoints.

Brasserie L'Ecole (Victoria, BC)

The Brasserie is one of "those places" that everyone raves about, and rightly so. They know what they are doing here. The food is very carefully chosen, it's presented without pretention, the service is excellent (although we have only ever sat at the bar) and the ambiance is relaxed, but flexible enough for most specialish occasions.

One of the most wonderful things about the Brasserie is the wine list! The owner has carefully crafted a fabulous selection of wines, all of which are incredibly priced from $7-10 dollars a glass. I remember the deal the first time we were there, although I didn't have it repeated last time (so check on this if you visit) but if you commit to purchasing at least two glasses, they will open up any bottle and just charge you at 1/5th of the bottle.

The one thing that's different about the Brasserie than many places is that they have shifted to no longer taking reservations. For a while this put me off - "argh, I said... if I want to go there I want to Know I will get in!" We decided to try anyhow, even though it was 5:25 on a lovely Friday night in September and there was a line up down the street. The line wasn't actually as long as it appeared from far away because most were groups of four - it really only stretched just to the edge of the building, past the Milkman's daughter but not into the QV's parking lot. We were pretty close to the end of the line, and ended up with lots of space at the bar, or one table for two to choose from so not too bad. I don't think anyone behind us ended up waiting and if they did, they were put on a list to come back later.

September 24, 2011
Top notch service from Jason at the bar today! We are more and more leaving any decisions we need to make up to our servers, with great results. He set us up with some excellent wine to start, joked about the price (turns out it was one of the cheapest selections but great value!) advised us on dessert choices and was very dutiful in checking in and chatting despite being busy with mixing drinks.

September 24, 2011
I took a picture of the bread because it was very tasty! Crunchy on the outside, dense but not too chewy on the inside. It filled that little nagging bit of hunger perfectly. It also is a really great example of good french bread, which isn't always easy to find!

This was my partner-in-food-and-life's choice. The fish was perfectly flakey, and the sauces beneath worked very well. I was a huge fan of the bite of one of the chorizo croquettes, but my p.i.f.a.l. felt like they were a bit cheezy. I disagree, I think although they are kind of an odd 'side', they were perfectly cooked and a little quirky and they fit the overall menu quite well. Apparently the beans were awesome but I didn't get a chance to try them because I was too busy eating...!

Brasserie Burger
I have heard nothing but the most phenomenal praise about this burger. Like extreme praise full of groans and moans and sacrilegious forms of worship. I can totally, totally understand it now. I almost can't say that it's "the best burger in town" because the experience of eating it is nothing like eating a burger. It's almost like they have transcended burger into a whole new form of cuisine. Similar to the first time I had the brownie at Ferris's - it was like I had never eaten a burger before trying this burger. 

I would like to take the time to dissect this piece by piece:
Bun. Perfect. Again, soft on the inside, nicely browned on the outside but didn't distract from the burger patty at all, just complimented it gloriously.
Toppings. Again - perfect compliment. I almost didn't notice them they blended in so perfectly to the overall taste. Greenery, bacon and pickles all delicious.
Cheese. Divine! It's listed on the menu as mamirolle. Further research suggests there is both a French and Quebec version of this cheese. I'm guessing based on the descriptions this is the French version. Either way, it was a Very Nice cheese. Can you see the rind in the picture? Mmmm.
Patty. This is the jewel of this hamburger. The server said "Do you want a knife or a second napkin for your burger?" I opted for the knife. I'm glad I did. Slicing into this patty made my eyes get really, really big. The outside was charred to perfection. The taste was closer to bacon than anything else, which made me think the cut of meat used was higher quality than your average burger. The patty was cooked medium-rare, meaning it was pink inside. Don't be turned off by this. If your meat is properly handled (and I am guessing they grind this meat in-house and have impeccable food-service practices) and it is cooked properly there is no need to cook a burger all the way through. 

Eep - I had to edit to add information about the fries! Sorry, got distracted by the burger. Our server chose the fancy fries for us - $3 more, but worth it. They were delicately seasoned with parsley, parmesan, garlic and truffle oil. It's a generous serving for sure - I was defeated!

Creme Brulee
Once again, when we were presented with the dessert menu we were told "this is the best creme brûlée in the city!" My p.i.f.a.l. challenged our server on this, but he was able to back it up with facts. Firstly, they came second in the city for desserts in the last EAT magazine survey only to be beaten by a non-bruleed dessert at Stage. So his facts were pretty solid, we had to try it. 

I looked back at my notes for my current top favourite for creme brûlée in town, Paprika Bistro, and I think they are comparable. Hard to say without trying them side-by-side which is better although should any restaurants ever want partake in a brûlée-off I volunteer to be a taste tester! The layer of sugar on this was Thick, and the melt-in-your-mouth factor was clear. The vanilla was definitely quality. 

Plum Tart
I saw this on the menu and couldn't resist, despite the recommendation from the server for the lemony dessert (next time!). I know plums are currently in season, and my instinct was that the chef would be really inspired to create something delicious. The tart was deliciously tart and really made me happy. I don't love things that are too sweet, so the balance of the sugar to the tartness of the plums and really excellent pastry made my tastebuds wiggle like a puppy. 

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