Great evening at Batifole
Arrived impromptu at Batifole around 9 pm, having been told at JK's Wine Bar that we would face a two-hour wait ! The bistro was full, but the friendly hostess seated us outside on a small patio, and supplied quickly our beer and bottle of Tavel. After about a half-hour, she took our orders; and by the time our appetizers were ready she had found a table for us inside the very pleasant dining room.
The chef-owner brought out delicious warm bread and our appetizers promptly: a brulée version of house paté, some rillettes which one friend found a tad salty; and a duck/ham salad which our other friend thought was the most delicious salad he had ever had in his life. We washed this down with a pleasant Cotes de Rhone selected from an extensive all-French carte, heavy on the vintages from the south of France.
For mains, two of us enjoyed steak frites (Batifole's frites, with tarragon mayo are a separate order and worth the $6: potato-tasting, crispy yet yielding.) Our other friend pronounced his veal hanger steak with mushrooms as equally toothsome. For dessert, we devoured with no less pleasure a chocolate mousse (frozen) and a delicate orange-accented floating island. Some liquor-added coffee drinks were complemented by the gift of a glass each of cognac with grape juice, a bottled concoction the name of which I forgot to write down: it was fabulous, without any of the harshness at the throat one sometimes associates with cognacs - a great ending to a very fine meal.
We will be back ! IMHO this place has a genuine welcome, sophisticated service and excellent food, in a comfortable surrounding - placing it several niches above the pleasant but a tad rough-and-ready La Palette.
AmandaEd, the price point is reasonable markup for wines (100-150% I guess), all starters $8 or so, all mains $16-18 except for the steak which is $23 I think. The frites are $6 and easily serve two. Desserts also all $6 or maybe $8. Two, with a modest bottle of wine, could enjoy a three course meal with change from $125 or even $100.
They had a prix fix during summerlicious which by the historically low (and declining) summerlicious standards was exceptional value. The menu was $25 for a 3 course dinner, but it felt more like a $40 dinner. No corners were cut - the meal wasn't prepared in advanced and slopped on banquet style (like some other more well-known establisments, ahem... like B&O). The bread was fresh, no yesterday's leftovers or cheap ingredients, and the server seemed genuine in explaining all the menu items.
I was just SO impressed with them. I think part of the reason why they are able to keep the price-point low is their location. I can't imagine old Broadview Chinatown being a high-rent neighborhood. And that just suits me fine. Eating at Bay and Wellington may be "hip", but it just doesn't feel cozy.
BigTigger, we must have passed you on the patio as we left the other night. I was going to post a review, so I'll just add mine here.
First let me say the overall, I loved this place and the bread is terrific. I loved having the chef bring out the food, smile and make a real connection with each and every table - unique for usually-uppity TO chefs. I imagine if it was less busy you could have actually converse with him in more detail. However, that personal service seemed to come at a price as it was 1.5 hours (from the time we arrived) before we got our mains. For quite sometime, no meals seemed to come from the kitchen. They apparently hit a bottleneck that took some time to clear. The servers were great under the pressure, but neglected to use the time to clear the empty plates from the table next to us, who waited patiently to move to the next course.
We went for our anniversary and ordered a pricy ($80) bottle of bordeaux that brought our tab up to $170. To start, hubby had the duck and rocket salad and I had the escargo. We both enjoyed these immensly. I was going to start with the Vichesoise, but when the next table started to ooh and ahh over the escargo dish, I switched and was glad I did. A delicious little dish with plump, tender escargos in a wonderful cream sauce (not thick). When we did get our meals, the special (duck breast with fresh local peaches MMMMM and the steak) we were quite pleased with both. The kitchen was only about 10 steps from our table and my meal really should have been piping hot, but it had already cooled some by the time it got to the table. My husband thought the steak was well flavoured, but the cut had a little bit more attitude than he likes. The crunch in the kitchen also held up our sides (I was almost half through my main before the side arrived). Good frites, nice tarragon mayonaisse. I was hoping for more from the side of veges, but got a sort of ragu of zuchini and peppers over baby spinach. Being in the very best season for local, fresh vegetables, I was hoping for something more fresh. In retrospect, I'm not a fan of peppers, so I should have asked about the dish and then ordered the side salad instead.
The biggest problem of the evening was the near deafening din. The place was packed and there was a large table of "big" guys who were having fun. With all the noise, my husband and I found ourselves almost yelling across our wee table to converse and finally gave up for parts of the evening. Apparently they had some music piped in, but we could only hear it intermitently and then it was so distorted by the competing noise, we could not tell what it was.
Not very romantic for an anniversary to say the least.
The personal service of the chef, the overall high quality of the food, a creative menu that goes beyond the usual fare with reasonable prices, and the genuine nature of the servers made this a restaurant that I really want to see stay around for a long time.
IMHO, if I could make a couple of recommendations to the chef/owner, I would tell him to add the staff he requires, whether it is in the kitchen or a bus person to keep things moving (cause they are going to be busy), find some way to mitigate the noise levels (add some screens, plants, accoustic tiles...anything that will absorb), and find a nice antique bar to replace the gyprock and paint version and to hide some of the backroom mess that is in full view of the clientelle.
I am sure we'll be back many times, but we'll be packing ear plugs.
Went to Batifole with my sister in early April and LOVED it - what an amazing deal - $8 appetizers, $16 mains (some $22) and broad range of French aperitifs and beverages. All the food was tasty. I will definitely go back - I liked it better than Le Paradis's food. We didn't find it noisy the night we went. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the FAT frites - more like french fries - I prefer mine thin.