Having a boyfriend in Paris for five years meant that I was nearly bi-coastal and developed a bit of a taste for French cuisine. While having experienced many a Relais and Chateaux and Michelin-starred restaurants during that time, I still prefer to head to the closest neighbourhood bistro near my boyfriend’s apartment and enjoy French comfort food. True Parisian bistros are elegant, but busy and noisy - no muss and no fuss. And no substitutions, thank you very much. Which leads me to my own neighbourhood bistro, Au Comptoir, in Kitsilano - where on their menu they state the no-substitution clause in very small fine print.
Run by true Frenchmen (plus a female staff member from Quebec) - who all speak French to each other as well as move as efficiently as they do in Paris, Au Comptoir is a perfect little escape out of the rain on a chilly Vancouver weekend. I went there this past Sunday for brunch - with my boyfriend who now lives with me in Vancouver after moving here from Paris. Both of us felt immediately at home, like we had never left Paris. The interiors are very French without trying too hard; the tin bar, crafted by hand has rustic, moulded edges that were custom made in a workshop in France. Its skylights lend a blanket of airiness and natural light - which I’m sure the living wall behind the bar is thankful for. We’ve both been there on previous occasions but I decided to write a review on this, my third experience and specifically, for brunch.
When you go to a bistro - you expect a few things - good food, good prices and an inviting atmosphere. Au Comptoir has all three in spades and more. In fact, here is where the difference between this bistro and all others in Paris exists: The men are actually charming, warm and friendly - particularly to young children who aren’t sure what to order - and efficient. None of this - just give you your food and make it good - sort of attitude. There’s a complete end-to-end customer experience that I did not expect here.
As it was already 10:30 am, I was famished and started off with a cafe au lait and croissant. Like most Parisian bistros and cafes, my drink was accompanied by a tiny sweet - in the form of a little almond cake. Delightful and just the right pairing for my rich and dark cafe au lait to whet my appetite. The croissant was flaky perfection - they’ve done well with the Viennoise pastries here. The menu is comprised of the French classics and I opted for some protein this go-around: confit de canard et lentilles (duck confit and lentils) while my boyfriend started with the soupe du jour - a potato soup - so frothy and flavorful, and the assiette au comptoir, consisting of eggs cocotte (eggs cooked in a ramekin), house-made sausage, bacon, bread and the crispiest potato rosti I’ve ever sampled (ultra moist and tender inside housed within an exterior that’s deep fried to perfection).
My dish was generous and tasty; the eggs poached just right, sitting on a bed of arugula, lentils and generous amounts of duck confit. My only reservation about this dish was the amount of lentils on the plate - there could have been half the amount and the dish would have been perfect (while keeping the same amount of duck, of course). I actually had to pick through the lentils to find the duck, which made for a humourous exercise. While the flavouring in the duck was decent, my personal preference is to have it made slightly more salty; but not a deal breaker.
The restaurant gets pretty busy after 10:45 am so it’s best to get there early to grab a table. And similar to bistros in Paris, it’s a first-come, first-serve policy; no reservations. We’ll definitely be coming back here again - maybe for the oysters and a bottle of Sancerre like last time, seeing as though my dry month is coming to an end!
Food - 8/10
Service - 8/10
Atmosphere/Interiors - 9/10
2278 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Closed on Tuesdays
No reservation policy, first-come, first-served