Go for dinner at Beaurivage and you won’t be exactly sure what you’ll get — it will be whatever Chef George is cooking that night — but it will be good.
This friendly Lebanese bistro recently moved from St. Boniface to Corydon Avenue, adding to the strip’s developing Middle Eastern scene.
The evening menu centres on fixed-price multi-course options. The light dinner ($30) delivers two apps, a house salad and a main. A dinner supreme ($40) includes three apps, two salads and three mains (these are good-sized samples rather than full-on entrée-sized portions, so it’s not an overwhelming amount of food), as well as baclava and Lebanese coffee or mint tea to finish.
There is also a "fruit de mer dinner extravaganza" (unsampled) with fish and seafood, which is available by reservation only.
The lunch menu includes some combo plates but also offers a la carte options for apps and mains.
One evening, four of us ordered two light dinners and two dinners supreme and ended up with plenty of food, fresh and full of flavour, all served communally on plates and platters.
The apps kicked off with hummus, light and silky and finished with parsley and good olive oil, and smoky, garlicky baba ganoush. Both are served with whole-wheat pita that’s slightly nutty in flavour and a little chewy in texture.
Stuffed grape leaves are rich but not oily, and cauliflower rosettes, steamed and then fried crisp and brown, are a standout. Served with some chopped veg and tahini, they’re better than most of the fancy hipster cauliflower out there.
Tabbouleh salad, served with spears of romaine, is bright and lemony. The house salad is crisp — packed with romaine and chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers — and finished with a sprinkling of sumac.
Herby kafta rolls made with ground sirloin are good, as are the kibbeh balls. The beef is ground very fine — it has a very different texture from standard North American ground beef — and mixed with burgol (also called bulgur) and warm spice. Chicken shawarma is tender, with lots of flavour.
Excellent Lebanese coffee comes out in a rakweh, and it’s intense but not bitter and very aromatic, with just a suggestion of cardamom. You can order to your specified sweetness. Mint tea (bagged, not loose leaf, but still quite good) is served in a small metal pot. There is also a short wine list.
Baklava is simple and good — flaky on top and just a bit gooey and honey-sweet on the bottom.
Lunch options include many of the dishes that are served at dinner, as well as a Lebanese omelette and shawarma wraps. The sampled beef shawarma featured stretchy and tender bread and meat that was nicely spiced but a bit dry.
The interior — not much changed from the sushi restaurant that was there before — is plain but comfortable, and there is a small patio area on the side, which is good for the kind of drawn-out summer suppers the menu encourages. Service is charming and warm, and Chef George will probably come out at some point to check in and chat.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.