When it comes to great ‘neighbourhood’ restaurants, Vancouver is a paradox worth exploring. So many of them are worth traveling to that the name seems funny. Pretty much regardless of area code: savvy small rooms, smart chains and soulful street fare abound.
Vancouverites do not lack for choice, but we never stop looking for those gems that would shine anywhere.
Everything about Vancouver’s newest neighbourhood bistro is as though pulled from a storybook romance. For the past 12 years, John Blakeley and his team have been sharing their passion for French cuisine at the celebrated Bistro Pastis on 4th Avenue. His latest venture is a win-win-win (morning-noon-night) for the neighbourhood and marks a return to where his own culinary career began in Vancouver in 1981.
While it would make a welcome addition to any neighbourhood, Le Parisien could truly only be in one place: ensconced in the former location of Cafe de Paris at 751 Denman Street. Mere minutes and measurable metres from the seawall and mouth of Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver, Le Parisien has all elements working in its favour rain or shine.
“I’ve wanted to run a casual place for years,” said Vancouver’s own French chevalier. “Opening Le Parisien means a lot to me. For years it was the iconic Café de Paris – it was then owned by Maurice Richez who gave me my first serving job when I came to Vancouver. Almost everything I know about restaurants I learned from him. He was an amazing mentor to me. To open Le Parisien in the same location is my tribute to him.”
A classic in its time, the 70-seat room has been thoroughly redone, save for two key feature – the tables and the size of the kitchen.
The first is a nice touch. With white walls decorated only by inset, the focus is drawn to the rich reds, black accents and sturdy granite table tops – where the conversation and pedigree of Le Parisien truly shines.
The second is handled deftly by Executive Chef Tobias Grignon who, together with Manager Geraldine Daugy anchor the room with familiar faces and graces for those already charmed by Bistro Pastis. Executive Chef Grignon will now oversee two kitchens with super sous assist at both restaurants. And while it is Grignon who will most deservedly garner the accolades and awards in the culinary columns, it is Daugy who brings a continuity to the house that crosses the Atlantic for Blakeley.
“I’ve known Geraldine since she was a little girl – her parents are my best friends back in France. It has been a wonderful experience to teach her what I know and watch her develop into an excellent restaurant manager. I’d be lost without her,” said Blakeley.
In contrast to Bistro Pastis, the menu is even more elemental in its bistro authenticity, as are the hours of operation. Closed Mondays, weekdays begin at 8 am with coffee and freshly-baked croissants and chocolate au pain and service with a smile continues until well after dark. That alone defines Le Parisien as a true neighbourhood restaurant.
Its the weekend brunch, lunch and dinner menus that will bring us from the burbs and beyond. Executive Chef Grignon has gone back to the basics of bistro and returned with menus that read like a best of the best repertoire – roasted bone marrow, roast chicken for two, cassoulet, boudin noir, croque monsieur, moules et frites, côte de boeuf, oysters, omelettes and tartare three ways: tuna, salmon and naturally, traditional.
For those familiar with Proust, moments of Madeleine brilliance abound at Le Parisien. This is food that transports you to another place entirely. That the entire room travels with you is what maintains matters of continuum. Put simply, Le Parisien is as close to Paris as you might imagine – the Left Bank without leaving Vancouver.
For the team, the neighbourhood and visitors from France alike – Le Parisien is a veritable homecoming: French soul food served by the best.