You would be forgiven for judging this little Chelsea Plaza bistro, sandwiched between a Freshmart and a Rona, as somehow unworthy of your dining out dollar – simply by the look of it off Route 105, and by virtue of its place in the world. It even has a lame name.
But look more closely: at the picnic tables that frame the place, covered with a jaunty striped canopy (a canopy with curtains if it’s raining or if you want to block the view of parked cars); look at the pots of pansies and the urns of hibiscus — they are very sweet. Somebody cares in there. Besides, the sign on Route 105 says Le Resto, Fish and Chips. How bad can it be?
Venturing in and you’ll be greeted warmly, in French and English, by Le Resto’s Line Boyer. Formerly of the brilliant Les Fougeres, former owner of Le Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse, Madame Boyer runs Le Resto with her UK husband James Hargreaves. The room is green, black, and white. Shelves are lined with cookbooks and with the colour-packed stubby pillars from the nearby Doozy Candlemakers. On the pale green walls are the works of local artists and some black and white portrait photography, along with the menu of daily specials – food, wine, and craft beer.
I happen to know Le Resto is far from lame because I’ve reviewed it before. But not for many years – six, I think – and then as a wider piece on fish and chips. It was due. And I was due for a road trip for a plate of battered cod with fat English chippies, served with a bright green blob of minted mushy peas and a pot of tartare sauce. Just to see if that plate was as good as I remember, way back when.
It was. In fact, I think the chips may be better. Fatter. As for the hunk of fish, the batter crunches comme il faut, and the Atlantic cod within is moist and juicy. Minted peas, hand-smashed, are the bright bit on the plate. I eat mine and my husband’s, who still has the palate of a six-year-old when it comes to peas. Keeps him young, he says.
Ahead of fish, we try the spring rolls served with a little carrot-daikon slaw. They are delicious, filled with Quebec bison rather than the usual minced pork sausage you find in Vietnamese cha gio. We roll the rolls in the lettuce provided, filled in with the shredded vegetables, dunk it in the nuoc cham sauce, lively with lime, funky with fish sauce, fired with chilies, and are happy campers. From the specials of the night, a salmon tartare is a bright, easy pleasure, with red onion, capers, a touch of mayo and lots of lemon.
Fresh cod again, in a casserole inspired by Portugal, is heady with smoked paprika, saffron and anise. The fish is soft and white in its tomato-anchovy sauce plumped with chorizo sausage, capers, carrots, Greek olives, and chickpeas, crowned with a softly cooked egg and served with oiled bread.
Carrot cake for dessert, well spiced and studded with pineapple bits. Some of the fruit had sunk to the bottom of the cake tin and caramelized down there, which may not have been intended, but the chewy, bitter notes were most welcome. Do it again!
It was a treat to return to Le Resto, after too many years away, and find it still vibrant, still packed with regulars. Félicitations, Madame Boyer.
Mains, $12 to $20
Le Resto, Fish and Seafood Bistro
528 Route 105, Chelsea, QC 819-827-5559
Open from 11:30AM to 8:30PM, Tuesday to Saturday