Au Comptoir, Vancouver.

November 2014.

On paper this place looks to be an absolute dead ringer that can’t possibly fail. It is a breathtakingly authentic Parisian bistro, smack in the middle of highest-traffic Kitsilano 4th Avenue, and very well reviewed in a recent Vancouver Sun article. The staff is parisian french, the chef has a good pedigree.

Because we were skipping out of town we were only able to go for breakfast, which is served daily along with lunch and dinner. Walking in at 9 AM on a Friday, there are two other people present, and we are seated at a very nice front-window table. The waiter is a pleasant and respectful brisk young guy with a slight French French accent.

It’s a beautifully-done room with beaten-up old tile floors, white archaic tile wainscoting, wooden tables and iron chairs, and a zinc-looking metal bar. The music was a bit loud but forgivable early in the morning.

Breakfast items include croque monsieur, smoked salmon plate, eggs done in a ramekin with potato and sausage, several others. We went for the croque monsieur and eggs plus potato and sausage. Unfortunately, they were both pretty disappointing.

The croque was just ham and some cheese on a fairly dry toast. The eggs presented in their ramekin were a little overcooked so the yolk didn’t quite run. Toast was burnt and dry without any butter. The sausage had a nice flavour but was too lean, and potato pancake was nicely puck-shaped but undercooked and strangely-flavoured suggesting the wrong fat had been used. No onion, not enough salt and pepper. Coffee was a competently-set-up espresso.

Damn. It’s entirely possible that serving breakfast is a stretch for these guys or the morning chef is somebody’s kid brother, and that the dinner and even lunch would be a lot better. The wine list is very abbreviated but the choices look good, with one (usually French) item for each of the major varietals white and red. The dinner menu pretty standard French bistro fare. Prices no surprise all around.

Of course we will go back and see if the dinner justifies the raves. I would almost (but not quite) eat at this place just for the ambience. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Food 4.0, service 7.7, ambience 8.6, value 7.2.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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