Bonjour mes amis! I can’t remember where I heard about Au Comptoir – maybe it was an Instagram post – but it involved a picture of a mouthwatering Paris Brest. For the uninitiated, Paris Brest is doughnut shaped choux pastry split and piped with a praline cream. The last time I had one was in a patisserie in Lausanne some ten years ago and I have dreamed of it since. I was really hoping to have one at brunch but after nagging the host and two waiters to check with the pastry chef, they weren’t ready yet. As a consolation prize, James and I shared a rather deflated and disappointing Almond Croissant. But things perked up with the mains, and besides, the anticipation of a Paris Brest is a good reason to go back. And brunch! Yes brunch! Another excellent reason to go back.
For our latest brunch adventure, Theresa and I hopped in the car and drove west along hyper-trendy 4th Avenue to Paris, France.
Well not exactly of course, but our destination offers an approximation of a Parisian café, from the large mirrors lining the walls to the faux distressed tile floor.
We arrived just as breakfast was segueing into brunch, and wanting to eat from the latter menu, we decided to enjoy tea and share an almond croissant. Almond croissants are generally a day-old and stuffed with almond paste, so their light-and-fluffy youth is behind them, but the example that arrived at our table was a disappointment. Greasy, not very flavourful and compacted; the poor thing looked like someone backed their Citroen over it.
Optimism appeared at our table along with the mains. I ordered the Brandade de Cabillaud sur brioche ($17). This flavourful ling cod and leek concoction has a buttery, gratin-like consistency. Served on toasted brioche and topped with two poached eggs and saffron-dill hollandaise, the brandade was really satisfying – rich but not overwhelming.
Equally positive was the serving size: in addition to the two-egger brandade, a zesty frisee salad and a good helping of pomme frites filled the plate. This delicious main dish, and the brisk and helpful service, puts Au Comptoir on my “return for more” list.
Rating: 🥚🥚🥚🥚 out of 🥚🥚🥚🥚🥚
I had a conundrum when it came to ordering brunch at Au Comptoir. The breakfast I wanted – Confit de canard en salade ($18) – contains two things, one I love, and one I hate. I love confit de canard. I hate kale. I know it’s an incredibly nutrient dense green, but it’s a high maintenance vegetable. To get the full nutrient value of kale, it has to be either whipped into a smoothie, macerated until it’s nearly liquid, or massaged until the tough fibres are loosened. But the lure of confit de canard to strong to resist.
My guess is the chef is a graduate of the Vancouver College of Massage Therapy. The kale arrived from the spa in the kitchen stripped of it’s tough and fibrous bits, gently rubbed and massaged, and lovingly sauteed in butter until it was relaxed and limp. Mixed in with the greens were roasted squares of squash and two perfectly poached eggs. The star of the dish by far was the confit. Most places are skint with confit, but look at the picture. Big, juicy, buttery, perfectly marinated chunks of duck, sacre coeur I was in heaven! Heaven!
And here’s where Au Comptoir really shone. The dish had a really beautiful balance of flavour and texture-the slight bitterness and bite of the kale, the sweetness and softness of the squash, the salty butteriness and melt in your mouth texture of the duck, the umami and creaminess of the poached eggs. It was a moment of perfect culinary grace. Go here. Just go.
Rating: 🥚🥚🥚🥚.5 out of 🥚🥚🥚🥚🥚
2278 West 4th Avenue