Gare de L'est
Gare de L’est is a newcomer to our neighborhood, but already a vastly popular spot. It tends to be full when there is a theatre performance and consistently hums with life throughout the day.
There isn’t particularly a lot to mention about the exterior appearance, but there’s a simple, large-window wall in a newly-built grey space with warm glowing interior lights. The name is finished in modern, bold sans-serif with loosely-kerned letters, a sample white decal on the window that’s a classy and simple treatment. At the same time, these large windows allowed for a generous peek inside, where things were decisively more interesting. The interior sold the exterior in this case.
We settled at our table in old-school, bistro wing chairs, a little bit lower than the street level which put the passersby at a unique perspective - from the legs up and making us feel smaller. On the flipside, the strict, simple design throughout created an impression that the space was crafted by someone practical and with good taste. One could say that the interior lacked passion and life, as in there were no bold, vibrant colours infusing statement areas or feature walls. The human humming and warm light livened up the space. Due to the lack of extravagant art, sculpture, and bold colours - the dining room gave a formal and strict impression. Furthermore, the interior and patrons were on display through those large windows. Several more curious elements we noticed were an interesting black and white portrait series throughout, walnut chairs working well with copper, mid-century lighting elements radiating warmth all around.
The grainy, causal black-and-white photography adorning the menus was rather repetitive, as it was the same photos that had welcomed us at the entry point. Odd, we thought, but nonetheless, Ma Cherie appreciated the simplicity of the classy menus.
We started with paté and were impressed by the sizable portion. The meal was fully made in-house with pistachios in the meat, topped with both grainy mustard, smooth spicy dijon, and dry parsley leaves. There was a decent count of mini pickles to the side and a fresh greens salad. Surprisingly, we didn't get any bread with it, however, our unvoiced concern had been soon addressed. A dark and crispy baguette came our way to land alongside the appetizer. It would have been perfect had it been warm and freshly baked.
As for our mains, the Poulet Roti Grand-Mere was the first item on the menu, it’s one of the more popular choices, as we were told by our waiter. Served in a sizzling skillet, it turned out to be a generous portion of baked baby potatoes, radishes, cremini mushrooms in a thin, milky sauce. It was topped with a bundle of rosemary and thyme, still smoldering when served and taking us back to the times we enjoyed traveling through the French countryside.
Steak Haché was the second choice: a really meaty dish with loads of protein and a need for a side salad to ease off the heavy feel. With a base of reduced wine on a bready slice, the large beef meatball was topped with chives, egg, and a thick, minced meat patty. It had a curious taste, - a flavour we couldn't quite put our finger on. Overall, we didn’t think the flavours came together well in this dish.
We’d almost ordered their Creme au Chocolat for dessert, but decided against it after hearing out the other options. It seemed too sweet, topped with cookies, basically not what we were in the mood for. Our actual choice - Bread Pudding Dessert - is an impeccable dessert. It was the daily special - the bread was dense, warm and fresh, looking a bit marbled. All the goodness came topped with cranberry compote and rhubarb as well as caramelized bits. Also, its presentation was a deconstructed masterpiece.
While the name Gare De L’Est may appear to be chosen at random, it is important to keep the neighbourhood history in mind. The restaurant occupies a spot where the cargo railroad tracks met. There never was a Gare there, but it was an important industrial intersection back a century or so ago. We wish the interior could reflect the history a bit more, although, the strict and classy look it has going for it, is more than decent and did just fine. Gare De L’est is an impressive neighbourhood spot and we enjoyed celebrating our anniversary there very much.