Thursday, May 14, 2015

Black Cat Bistro (Review)

Black Cat Bistro, located in the heart of Little Italy, has been on everyone’s top restaurant list for several years now. Unfortunately, Lola and I were a little behind the times, and we only just had a chance to try it out last weekend. But we’re sure glad we did! This modern French bistro was unique in both design and menu, and was instantly inviting from the moment we walked in. A simple, yet fresh design welcomes patrons into the space and creates a lovely ambience.

We were seated at a table by the window, which had with a great view of the hustle and bustle on Preston Street. Also, unlike many restaurants where you have to wait forever to get service, our server greeted us right away, happily introduced himself and filled our water glasses. Our experience was off to a good start!

From there, we decided to wet our beaks with something from the Black Cat cellar, and so we went with a Sauvignon Blanc. As we sipped our French wine, we perused the classic, yet creative menu, which is divided between first courses and mains. The menu boasts a variety of traditional French fare with a modern twist, and all dishes are made in house with fresh, local ingredients.

Napa Cabbage Roll ($22)
We started off the evening right with a cheese plate for $18, which consisted of three different cheeses, brioche, pickled rhubarb, almonds and honey. We had sampling of the Belle Marie, which is a soft, cow cheese with natural rind, as well as the Mouton Noir, a semi-firm goat cheese, and the Castello, a semi-firm blue cheese. The Castello was by far our favorite, which paired quite nicely with the honey. Our server was also not stingy with the brioche, and quickly brought us some more once we finished the first serving. (Unfortunately, we dug in before we had a chance to take a picture!)

Usually, Lola and I have a very difficult time deciding on what to order (as we usually want everything on the menu), but that night I quickly made my choice. Since I love all Ukrainian-inspired cuisine, I ordered the Napa Cabbage Roll for $22. It was stuffed with Thai scented basmati rice, scallions, wild mushrooms, spinach, tomato jam, carrots, ginger and yuzu sesame broth. Even though the dish was meatless, I was thoroughly satisfied with my selection and it definitely hit the spot. The flavours were rich and tasty, and it left me feeling comfortably full.

Cornish Hen ($28)
Lola, on the other hand, wavered back and forth between the Artic Char (served with scallops, tomato fennel saffron broth, lentils, carrot ribbons and crispy leeks for $30), and the Cornish Hen for $28. In the end, the server persuaded her to go with the Cornish Hen, which would more thoroughly satisfy her big appetite. It was indeed a very good helping of bacon-wrapped hen, which was artfully displayed on the plate and served with asparagus, tomatoes and roasted potatoes in a braised sauce. The hen was cooked to perfection – juicy and succulent – and was certainly not overcooked.

By this point, our wine had run dry, and we were quite thirsty for a new libation. The drink menu had several signature cocktails, one of which of was a twist on the classic Mojito, which is what we went for! It was light and refreshing, with the perfect amount of mint.

Crème Brulée ($9)
Now, the meal would not be complete without something sweet to end the evening. So we ordered the traditional Crème Brulée for $9 and the Macarons for $5 to share. The Crème Brulée was heavenly and melt-in-your-mouth delicious! The French Macarons, on the other hand, were probably the only negative part of the whole culinary experience. The Macarons consisted of a passion fruit ganache sandwiched between two chocolate, Oreo-type meringues. The combination of sweet and fruity did not go together, and it did not live up to my high expectations for Macarons.

But aside from the Macarons, we had a great experience at the Black Cat – great food, great service and a great ambience! We were even lucky enough to catch a fireworks display in the distance that was going on at Dow’s Lake for the Tulip Festival.
Macarons ($5)

Verdict: 9/10 – an indulgent and tasty culinary experience with phenomenal service!

Hours: Tuesday to Thursday - 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm; Friday & Saturday - 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm

Price: First courses range from $9-$18; Mains range from $22-$33

Black Cat Bistro, 428 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON

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