Need something to do this weekend? Here are five places around town where you can indulge in moules et frites, a classic Belgian dish of steamed mussels and fries.
Tableau Bar Bistro, 1181 Melville Street
Located inside the posh Loden Hotel, Tableau serves up classic French comfort food in a cozy-casual setting.
One of the restaurant’s popular features is moules et frites, here crafted with a bit of Asian flare. Its broth is made with green curry, cilantro, coconut milk, and lime, this twist on an old favourite forgoes the white-wine and cream broths traditionally employed by the French.
Instead, guests will be treated to the multicultural tastes and ingredients that the Vancouver likes to use. This dish is also certified by Ocean Wise (Vancouver Aquarium’s sustainable seafood conversation program) and can be found on both the lunch and dinner menu.
As they say in French, bon appetite.
Salade de Fruits, 1545 West 7th Avenue
Those of us who passed high-school French may be wary of Salade de Fruits’ offerings given its name, but fret not, mes amis: there’s a reason this casual joint—tucked inconspicuously within the Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver—is typically packed come noon.
Not only does it produce a well-rounded list of French specialities like escargots à l’aïl (garlic snails), steak frites, and daily soup, fish, and omelette specials, it’s hella affordable, to boot. The moules et frites, in particular, are an absolute bargain at $18 (from $20 for the larger size, depending on whether you’re dining for lunch, brunch, or dinner) and gets you a giant pot of perfectly plump mussels swimming in a creamy white-wine sauce plus complimentary bread and a mountain of crisp skinny fries.
Add chorizo, goat cheese, or curry to your broth for a small fee if you’re feeling fancy. The lesson here? Never a judge a restaurant by its moniker. Oh, and bring the paper—the spot is cash only.
Jules Bistro, 216 Abbott Street
Situated in Gastown, Jules is an authentic French bistro that serves up its food sans the froufrou. The restaurant’s warm, brick-walled interiors and dimmed lighting exude the sort of ambience that you’d find at a moody café on the streets of Paris.
Its menu offers plenty of classic French fare, including croque monsieur, escargots, and steak frites. But our favourite pick is the moules-frites—steamed mussels in white wine, garlic, and parsley. Cooked to perfection with no unopened shells, this is one dish you won’t want to share. The side of fries comes with ketchup and mayo for dipping and they get addictive fast.
So the next time you’re in the neighbourhood, forget about checking out the trendy new coffee shops or pizza joints: go for this low-key yet comfrotable French bistro instead.
Chambar, 568 Beatty Street
There’s a reason Chambar is consistently voted the top overall restaurant by Straight readers in our annual Golden Plates survey year after year: this fine-dining spot specializing in Belgian cuisine knows what it’s doing. Sure, we could go on about the inventive cocktail program, gorgeous interiors, or award-winning wine list, but we’re here to talk about the moules-frites.
Chambar offers the dish in three variants: the coquette, which uses a white-wine cream sauce with smoked bacon lardons; the vin blanc, which pairs a white-wine broth with braised celery and leeks; and the Congolaise, which soaks the mussels in a rich tomato-coconut cream sprinkled with smoked chili and cilantro. You can’t go wrong with any of the three, though we’re quite partial to the Congolaise, which provides a kick of spice that’s well tempered by lime and fresh herbs.
The fries are a perfect combo of crisp and light and will have you craving seconds. Plus, everything is served artfully on a sturdy wood board that will make you feel a lot more sophisticated than you probably are. Avoid disappointment by stopping by for lunch or dinner: Chambar does not serve moules et frites for brunch.
Au Comptoir, 2278 West 4th Avenue
There are many things that could capture your attention as soon as you step into this quaint little Parisian bistro in the heart of Kitsilano.
It could be the plush velvet curtains that welcome you at the doors, the small round tables that are reminiscent of those in cafés in Paris, or your server’s thick—and very real—French accent. Or it could be a combination of all of the above, which come together to transport you effortlessly to France.
To help strengthen the feeling, we suggest ordering Au Comptoir’s mussels and fries—served only on Wednesday nights—a dish that goes well with a glass of wine. Guests will get to indulge in one pound of fresh mussels steamed with white wine, shallots, garlic, and parsley, and paired with crispy golden frites.
This eatery doesn’t take reservations, so be sure to arrive early.