Long have food lovers in Calgary yearned for a simple, classic French bistro delivering classic dishes at a reasonable price. After a trip to Cassis Bistro this past Friday I can safely say that our wait is over…and it was well worth it.
Located at the base of the new Casel condo development on 17th Avenue and 24th street SW, the opening of Cassis Bistro and the rest of the Casel Marche market has been highly anticipated. That anticipation is even greater at a personal level as I happen to have a direct view of Casel from the balcony of my condo which is less than 1 block away. Owner Gil Brassart was born and raised in the region of Aix-en-Provence and aims to bring the warm cuisine of the South of France to our fair city in the great white north. When we visited executive chef Dominique Moussou was overseeing the kitchen…which was a reassuring start to our evening as Dominique is surely one of the best chef’s in the city.
First off, let me say that I am now officially in love with Cassis. This is definitely the most excited I have been about a new dining spot in this city…ever. The concept is so simple. Deliver classic, delicious food from quality ingredients, in an unpretentious environment for a reasonable price. Seems simple, but until now no one in this town has nailed it. Cassis however, has managed to hit the ball out of the park in a big way.
The room is open and inviting, with a mixture of banquets for larger groups and intimate 2-tops perfect for a date. There is a projector playing French cinema in the background (sound off of course) and despite its small size there is a great energy in the room. The wines are supplied by the neighboring J Webb Wine Merchants, offering a small selection of reasonably priced French wines that compliments the menu perfectly.
I started with a little black olive tapenade ($5) and a glass of Domaine Montrose Cabernet/Syrah ($8) to tide me over as I perused the menu. The rustic, savoury tapenade played nicely with the ripe fruit and fresh herb notes in the wine.
I then moved on to the Nicoise Salad ($9) which was a hearty mix of lettuce, green beans, potatoes, boiled egg, anchovy and tuna confit. WOW. The flavours were assertive yet achieved perfect harmony within the bowl and every bite left me longing for more. And the price? Insane! This is what I’m talking about…this would have been at least $15 at most spots in the city. It is so refreshing to know I can drop by on a nice summers evening and enjoy this delicious salad and a refreshing glass of rose for under $20. A true revelation in this town.
By this point I was already sold but as a plate of beef tartar passed by I just couldn’t help myself…I had to have my own! The tartar ($14) was beautifully presented with house made “croutons” encircling the beef and a freshly cracked, raw egg at the top of the plate. The portion size was massive by most standards (I’ve seen many portions half the size for more $ at other restaurants) and once again this was beauty in simplicity. There was a moment when I punctured the fresh egg yolk and it cascaded over the tartar when I think I nearly wept.
The beef was intertwined with a perfect symphony of seasoning/garnish including capers, parsley, salt, pepper and other ingredients I cannot bring to mind at the moment. I paired this with a glass of the “house” red, which was Moulin de Toulot Rouge ($7) from the region of Gascony which is just south of Bordeaux. The wild, leathery, earthy character of this soulful wine was tamed perfectly by the tartar.
Needless to say this was a perfect evening and I am thrilled to have this outstanding new Bistro just seconds from my front door.
For more information or to view the full menu visit http://www.thecassisbistro.ca.