Chef Stephen La Salle has taken his talents from one hotel restaurant, Feast + Revel in the Andaz, and started anew in the freshly renovated Metcalfe Hotel’s Cocotte Bistro. Cocotte serves up classic French cuisine in portions designed to be shared. Mains range from $20 to $54 and run the gamut from a vegan cassoulet to a filet mignon.
The décor is as sumptuous as the menu with a spacious dining room and bar featuring rich textures of wood, stone, and velvet.
Sparkling cocktails and sours feature prominently on the drinks list – with a negroni and old fashioned on offer for those craving a more spirituous sipper. The two cocktails I sampled, a riff on the sidecar and a limoncello/vodka sour, were tasty but a touch too sweet.
As you might expect, decadence abounds on the dinner menu – cheese, baked brie, and truffle grilled cheese all populate the appetizer list.
To start, I share the salmon tartare and foie gras parfait with my dining companion. On the tartare, there’s herbes de provence and lavender-cured salmon finely diced with ratatouille vegetables. Topped with chives and served with crostini, this thoughtfully orchestrated dish allows each delicate flavour to sing. The portion is large and best shared amongst two or more diners, or enjoyed as a main with a side of frites.
The foie gras parfait is silky and rich, and the accompaniments make La Salle’s interpretation stand apart. Whipped foie gras is adorned with pistachios, a briny gherkin, and sweet-tart passion fruit mustard — this last element is unexpected and divine. While I’m all for a spirit of generosity, this dish would be best enjoyed in a portion half the size – in its current quantity, the decadence overwhelms.
Moving onto the mains, braised veal cheeks and Arctic char meunière were the order of the day. Succulent Quebec veal cheeks nestled into a creamy blanquette sauce with oyster mushrooms, peas, Brussels sprouts, and dill. A theme emerges; this dish is similarly oversized.
I’m a firm believer that fish is best enjoyed undercooked and so was pleased that the Arctic char meunière was moist and flaky on the exterior but neared raw and wet at its dense centre. Roasted hazelnuts offer welcome textural diversity against the fish, as well as the beets and pearl couscous on the plate.
The marquee dessert is the Ottawa-Brest, an amalgam of a classic Paris-Brest and a Beavertail – fried choux pastry filled with maple and walnut praline, dusted with cinnamon sugar and a squeeze of lemon. It’s a great concept but the result is cloying and chewy.
On the whole, Cocotte Bistro is a formidable entrant to the capital food scene but a little restraint on portion size and richness would make the decadence that much more enjoyable.
123 Metcalfe St. Cocottebistro.com