Les Faux Bourgeois has gotten rave reviews since it first opened; it seems like everyone we know who had tried it loved it, and blogs like Ho Yummy, The Bon Vivant , and Noshwell similiarly rave about it.
Well, on Friday we decided to pay a visit to the restaurant because it was Shane's birthday. I'd heard rumours of people not being able to get reservations for weeks, but we didn't have much problem calling a couple of days beforehand. Of course, we did book a table nice and early at 5:30, right when the bistro opens. The restaurant is in East Vancouver, right around 15th and Fraser (a few doors down from The Lion's Den). Shane used to live a block from there, and it was unimaginable that a French bistro would be right in that neighborhood at the time.
When we arrived, there were already a few people lined up, but when the doors opened we got seated right away (in the darkest table, furthest away from windows, explaining these poor pictures). The room was intimate, with a wooden bar with stools along the right side; there was a row of banquette seating along the left wall; a couple of tables right at the windows, and finally a row of small tables in between the banquette and the bar. The room had a cozy feel, with solid wooden tables and chairs, mirrors lining either side of the room, and lots of warm wood on walls.
The servers were mostly young men who were dressed casually in t-shirts, jeans and a half aprons. We sat near the back so we could hear them speaking in French (not Quebecois French, but France French), calling each other 'idiot' in French (of course it is the same word in English!) and generally joshing around. Note on the menu--they've removed a few things from the menu that is still on their online menu (for example the 'salad frisee,' 'cassoulet', 'hot chocolate et madeleines' were all gone), but they do have 3-4 daily specials written on blackboards.
We were immediately brought water and a few minutes later, Shane's beer (R&B Bohemian - $4.75), and a basket of bread and butter. From my vantage point I could see them energetically slicing the baguette for each table--there was a basket full of delicious-looking baskets at the back. However, the bread tasted a little old, the crust being more chewy than crispy. It was okay though.
We had the 'Escargots en Bourgogne' ($8) to start, and each plump, large escarot arrived glistening on three toasted crostini that were soaked in butter and garlic. Escargot in general don't have a particular taste, but these guys were fat and slightly chewy and bathed in lots of garlic and butter. The texture contrast between the crunch and the soft-chewy snails was really interesting. Delicious.
We also got a side of 'pommes puree' ($6)-- mashed potatoes is one of my all-time favorites, and this one did not disappoint. The potatoes were lump-free and completely smooth, fluffy, well seasoned, and loaded with butter. It was heaven. I could have eaten this all night.
For the main course I chose the 'Steak Frites' ($16) with red wine sauce, and it arrived simply presented, with the steak sliced and the fries piled in a large mound upon the plate. The fries were piping hot and steaming, golden crispy and perfectly salted. One of the best fries I've had, seriously. The steak was a little tough, as it was a hanger steak, but it was cooked a beautiful medium rare. The sauce wasn't distinguishable at all, and required more seasoning. However, I would get this again.
Shane ordered the lamb cheeks with couscous ($17). He enjoyed this at first, but the cheeks tasted too 'lamby' for him, though it was extremely tender. I don't like lamb, so I could barely eat this. It was out there on the lamb flavour. The apricot sauce was good though, with a slight sweetness which went well with the meat. The couscous that accompanied it was plain-tasting but beautiful: fluffy, with each grain distinguishable, and permeated with the aroma of mint.
By this time we both were very, very full. The mash filled us up, and the portions on the main were quite large (in fact, I couldn't even finish my steak frites). But we decided to get dessert anyway.
This is the Lemon Tart ($6). The sugar crust was thick and hard, but gave quite a contrast to the custard part. The custard itself was very tasty, with a real lemon flavor and tartness that melded well with the perfect amount of sweetness. However, the custard was quite a lot more runny than I expected. It wasn't really a custardy texture, it was more of a pastry cream texture. That was the one off note about the dish.
The creme brulee ($6) had a nice, crackly, caramelized sugar crust, and it was very nice, but to be honest, I've had better ones elsewhere. This had to do with, again, the texture of the custard. It was overly runny for me, more like a custard cream.
At the end of the meal I was full to the point of sickness. But overall, it was a good experience, even though I was expecting a phenomenal experience. Perhaps I had heard too many superlative things about it, or I fantasized about the meal too much in advance. However, I can say that this place serves great food with great service and atmosphere, and the prices are reasonable for the quality portion of the food. Would go again.