While we were waiting to be seated, we each enjoyed a glass of NV Champagne Piper Hiedsieck Brut in the bar area near the entrance.
When people think of French food, many think of fattening foods such as baguettes, croissants, cheese, butter, foie gras, French pastries, etc. So when my friends and I were invited to the soft grand opening of Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie, I was expecting mostly rich and indulgent menu items. I was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of light and healthy dishes (besides salads) on their menu. Here is a recap and review of the lighter and healthier menu items we tried…
The interior decor and ambiance are gorgeous. Cluny even has a raw bar and seafood counter off to the side of the dining area (bottom right picture).
LEFT: Our awesome server, Penny! RIGHT: Spicy Chilled Watermelon and Tomato Soup with Firm Tofu, Basil, and Oven-Dried Tomato ($9).
The first dish was the Spicy Chilled Watermelon and Tomato Soup (with firm tofu, basil, and oven-dried tomato), which ended up being my second favourite dish of the night. I loved the flavour balance between the sweetness from the watermelon and the tang from the tomato. Although this vegan dish is technically not a gazpacho since it is made with oven-dried tomato and not raw tomato, it was just as refreshing! This chilled appetizer would be even better during the summer. However, as a big fan of spicy foods, I do wish this dish was spicier. Next time, I will ask them to add extra chilies or chili sauce in mine.
Qualicom Bay Scallop Crudo with Watermelon, Chili, Peanuts, and Cilantro ($14).
My hands-down favourite dish of the night was the Qualicom Bay Scallop Crudo (with watermelon, chili, peanuts, and cilantro). It was also my favourite dish presentation. The colours of this dish were so vibrant and the flavours complemented each other so well. Like in the soup, the level of spiciness from the chili was very mild, but I enjoyed it in this dish, because the flavour of the raw scallops was so delicate. Also, the textures of this dish were so enjoyable on the palate. The texture of the raw scallops balanced well with the slight bite from the watermelon and the crunch from peanuts. This dish was perfection! I highly recommend it.
Tuna Tartare “Niçoise” with Egg, French Beans, White Anchovy, and Niçoise Olives ($17).
The next dish was the Tuna Tartare “Niçoise” (with egg, French beans, white anchovy, and Nicoise olives). With the anchovy and olives, I was worried that this dish may be too salty for my taste buds, but it wasn’t! This was a delicious French twist on the classic tuna tartare. The tartare itself was creamy enough that I didn’t need the white cream sauce that was provided on the side.
Moroccan Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew with Couscous, Harissa, Almond, and Apricot ($18).
If you are vegan, you will enjoy their only vegan main course, which is the Moroccan Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew (with couscous, harissa, almond, and apricot). This was such a hearty and comforting dish that I didn’t miss meat at all. Before digging into this dish, I recommend mixing the couscous with the stew and letting the couscous absorb some of that delicious stew sauce. It was so yummy!
There is a bread bar in the middle of the restaurant and it is fully stocked with a variety of breads that are baked daily on site!
Also, there is a bread bar in the middle of the dining area. It is fully stocked with a variety of their breads, which are baked fresh daily on site by Head Chef Paul Benallick. Unfortunately, there are no gluten-free options yet for those sensitive or allergic to gluten. My favourite bread was this one containing small chunks of apple in it. I really enjoyed that small touch of sweetness in the bread.
When the food is so delicious (and light) that you just want to jump up with delight post-meal!
All in all, it was a very enjoyable night filled with great friends, great conversations, and of course, great food! Our server, Penny, was very knowledgeable about the menu and very welcoming. I highly recommend this restaurant for romantic date nights, especially since it is located in the heart of the Distillery District. If you are looking for great modern French cuisine in a beautiful French-inspired setting, then you must check out Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie!