703 Belmont Ave. West
After our unusually critical reviews on All About Crepes, we sometimes wonder if our expectations were set too high. So when we heard about the opening of Village Creperie, we decided to give it a try.
If a restaurant's appearance can speak for its personality, Village Creperie strikes me as a slightly reserved, down-to-earth, yet chic place. The interior is quite neutral, with only one red wall to boost your appetite. Dark-wood chairs with clean lines, white linen, sturdy white ceramics, 18/10 stainless steel cutlery and a bar create an informal yet elegant ambiance. A bike hung behind the bar acts as a reminder of cycling in Brittany where its ever-changing landscape awaits you.
Once you are handed the menu, you'll be informed that the main dishes are under "Les Galettes" section, and desserts are under "Les Crepes" and "Les Flambées". Galette, made with buckwheat, is the savory type of crepe. Flambé refers to a cooking technique: by igniting liquor (minimum 40% alcohol content) which has been poured over food, you are able to add the flavor to the food without keeping the alcohol.
We were told that 98% of the ingredients used in the restaurant are organic. I don't know how they came up with this number (based on quantity or variety?). Here I have no intention to get into "is organic really better?" type of debate, but kudos to their determination on providing (what they believe) the best for the customers. If having three rolls of crepes for a three-course meal seems daunting, fear not! the only crepe in the appetizer list is "Petit crêpe au fromage de Brie: Brie, Nutmeg, Green onion w/ herb wine tomato puree, wrapped and melted in a crêpe". Crepes are, however, your only choice as main or dessert.
We started with kibbeh and soup of the day - vegetable soup with rye dinner roll. The texture of the vegetable soup was silky smooth, a great way to start the meal. Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish composed of minced meat, bulgar and spices and its vast variety ranges from raw to cooked. The kibbeh served at the Village Creperie is "baked organic, extra lean ground beef mixed with spices, onions, and bulgar cracked wheat w/ non-fat house-made yogurt cheese". Let's just say they looked like meat balls, tasted like meat balls, and they were mildly-flavored yet tasty.
For the main dishes, J had Reuben français while I enjoyed Saumon et moutarde.
Reuben français: House-made corned beef (no nitrites or nitrates) creates a delicious crêpe w/ sautéed sauerkraut & Mozzarella, drizzled with in-house Reuben dressing.
Saumon et moutarde: Wild marinated salmon fillet w/ organic buttermilk-dill, and grainy mustard
The piece of salmon in my crepe was very lean but moist. Butter milk, dill and grainy mustard are the tried-and-true match with salmon, you just can't go wrong with it. However, the spotlight should be on the crepe (or in this case, galette). The pancake was so thin yet spongy. With a bit of seasoning, I could eat a stack of this all on its own. The corned beef was quite different compared with the normal ones from deli or grocery stores; the corned beef made at Village Creperie didn't have that artificial after taste. Both dishes were nicely done but I prefer the corned beef over the salmon. Due to the thickness difference between the salmon and the galette, the salmon was so dominant that the galette was merely a staple in that dish.
Dining at the Village Creperie without having their crepes is like going to KFC without ordering chicken. We ordered one "regular" crepe, one flambeed.
LES CRÊPES: Dulce de Leche w/ toasted pecans, topped w/ fresh fruit
Pomme au Miel: Crêpe de Froment and caramelized organic apples & honey, flambéed with cognac and topped w/ crème fraîche
Dulce de leche used to be quite exotic. Thanks to President's Choice, it is being marketed extensively this season and becomes "mainstream". Dulce de leche is made by slowly simmering sweetened milk until it thickens so its look and taste are similar to caramel. In this dish, the "pancake" stood its ground. The toasted pecans were aromatic and they added crunchy texture to the dish. The dulce de leche was creamy but not too sugary; after having their version, I'll only grab a jar of this from the grocery store when I'm desperate. This was truly sensational. We had to draw our swords (dinner knives) and fight for it.
"Pomme au Miel" was another nice dessert. Normally flambé is considered a way to "wow" the diners. You pour liquor in the pan, tilt it then, WHAM! flame rises. On very rare occasion, an inexperienced server might not remove the bottle soon enough thus "bigger-than-expected" flame can be created accompanied by cries and chaos. Nope, this won't happen at the Village Creperie. A professor-like gentleman showed up with a cream pitcher containing cognac. He struck a match and set the cognac on fire, then poured it on the plate. The beautiful blue flame quickly spread along the cognac. It was quiet yet precise process, indeed something a (retired) professor of Chemistry would do. This dish had a pungent floral scent, I am not sure if it was from the apples or the honey.
There are only few of things with room for improvement. The portions might be small for men but more or less acceptable. Also, there's no coat check. As the weather gets colder, this service becomes crucial. The owners might intend to run it as a casual restaurant but it is NOT - on a weekday night, no one showed up in jeans. I couldn't help frowning for a second when I realized that I had to "sit" on my overcoat. Last but not the least, the "grouping" in the dessert section on the menu is confusing. For example, there are both "Dulce de Leche w/ toasted pecans, topped w/ fresh fruit" and "fresh fruits w/ dulce de leche or chocolate" on the menu, and they are not adjacent to each other. It will be nice if the list is sorted with some rules. (Or there is, I just haven't figure it out.) Overall, we had a great time. "Village Creperie" proves that new customers can become regulars, if your crepes are so good that people simply can't get it else where.
Monday, December 17, 2007