It is an odd name. “Bouillon,” I get, I think, but “Bilk”? The story I got is that that wasn’t what the recently opened (end of March) restaurant on an unremarkable section of Boulevard St. Laurent (1595) in downtown Montreal was originally supposed to have been named. Bouillon was a given, but in playing around with accompaniments, the French speaking co-owners, Chef François Nadon and Front of the House Manager Mélanie Blanchette, somehow came up with and liked “Bilk.” They went with it and it wasn’t until a little later that they saw the meaning of the word in English. Oh well, Montreal is a predominantly French speaking town and they ignored it. Based upon the quality and value of the meal I ate there, so can its customers as the second word of the name couldn’t be further from the reality.
Bouillon Bilk is a small restaurant with a clean and spare, green-tinged interior. The center of the dining room and the two glassed-in areas on either side of the main entrance are dominated by large, tall wooden block tables. Here, one sits on tall bar stools, but elsewhere in the restaurant, the tables are more regular and aligned along the restaurant’s side walls. There, one sits on regular dining room chairs or banquettes. I asked to sit at one of the window tables, where the light was superior for photography as it was still early enough for natural sunlight to stream in. Though this light dissipated over the course of the evening, the remaining light from halogen spots overhead, remained sufficient.Despite the fact that my server was brand new on only his second day on the job he was friendly and enthusiastic without being smarmy or overbearing. What he may have lacked in experience at this restaurant, he made up for in attitude and helpfulness. Though I ordered a first course of red snapper crudo, I received a dish with mackeral. Paired with strawberries, rhubarb and shaved fennel, the mackeral was a beautiful and extremely well balanced and delicious dish. Even though I ate and was quite pleased with the dish, my waiter realized that he had erred with my order and brought the snapper as a following course, anyway. It too was delightful. Assembled with marinated red cabbage, ikura, apricot, creme fraiche and wasabi, this Japanese inspired dish was also tasty, though I could have used a bit less apricot, as that along with the red cabbage tilted the balance of the dish to the sweet side – just a bit too much for my preference.
Antoine, the waiter had also suggested and delivered a glass of dry 2008 Chenin Blanc from Chateau de la Guimoniere in Anjou, France. Even though it had an alcohol level of 14%, the wine was crisp with good acidity and was refreshing. It was an excellent choice and carried well over both fish dishes.
Antoine had also suggested a red to go with my main course, a 2009 Nebbiolo from the Langhe area of Italy made by Produttori del Barbaresco. Though this is made from grapes from young vines that had been declassified, this wine still could have been labeled as a more prestigious Barbaresco. Despite its youth and status, this was still a delicious and powerful wine. That it went as well as it did with my main course was a very pleasant surprise to me.Half a butter poached lobster with a gorgeous, crisp-exterior veal thymus sweetbread atop grilled, mandolined zucchini and spiced orange slices would generally command a lot more than the $27C that it sold for here, especially when it was as perfectly cooked and scrumptious as it was. The butter poached lobster and the sweetbread were both technically flawless and combined for an exceptionally delicious and satisfying main course. The restaurant may be new, but despite his still boyish looks, Chef Nadon is not new to cooking. Having cooked at restaurants like Globe and Bronte amongst others, Nadon clearly learned a lot. In his own kitchen and with dishes such as this, his passion and skill are clearly shining through. Desserts followed. I was comped a dessert that was off the menu. Chocolate ganache with coffee, nuts, melisse infused cream and some chocolate cookies was solid.
Mr. Legault’s strawberries with a scone, pepper, vodka and white chocolate was even better as the strawberries were perfectly extracted and well married to the other ingredients.Nadon and Blanchette are not doing anything revolutionary at Bouillon Bilk. Their food is neither wildly creative nor totally derivative. It is simply very well conceived and prepared. The Bistronomic movement that started in Europe is no longer new, but I haven’t found too many that provide tastier and more well valued dishes than those I had at Bouillon Bilk. Nadon’s food would be much more expensive if served in a fancier environment in a better building. In addition, costs are kept reasonable with a good sized produce garden behind the restaurant, a kitchen staff of two cooks and a dishwasher in addition to Nadon and a Front of the House of the lovely Melanie Blanchette and the engaging Antoine only. With enough time, the restaurant’s owners may not need to worry about the unfortunate English definition of the word, “Bilk.” They may just change that definition.