To celebrate a success by Sheila in her new business idea, we went out to dinner last night. Having my 23 year old niece is living with us for a couple of months makes going out easier.
I heard that Amuse Bistro and Bakery in Shawnigan Lake was supposed to be a good place to eat and reading the review at Feast or Burden made up my mind to try it.
The space is not large, it is in a small converted house. There are not a lot tables, but the various small rooms give it a wonderful ambiance. There is also a very nice back patio as well.
The chef is Bradford J. Boisvert, an American with a record of being good, very good. Few people get to take part in the American Bocuse D'Or. He opened the restaurant with his wife Leah Bellerive in 2006.
Leah was the person that served us and she is a perfect fit for the restaurant. She has a calm grace and a relaxed manner that enhances the whole experience.
The menu is short but focused on local fresh food. It also changes constantly as different ingredients are available. We were quickly seated and served. After ordering we were given bread with a lentil or bean spread - I was not taking notes last night as I was too busy enjoying dinner with Sheila.
We got an amuse bouche of a white gazpacho before the starters. It was a cucumber basil one and reminded me of how much I do like white gazpacho and really should make it more often.
I started with grilled spot prawns with lentils and a salmon pate/terrine. Perfectly done, the prawns were on a bed of asparagus and green beans which was on top of the salmon.. Sheila had the house made chacuterie, some sausage and pate.
Between the starter and main we were given a lemon thyme sorbet. A perfect scoop in a Chinese soup spoon.
Shiela's main was the cider braised chicken with a barley/lentil side - she had pickled veggies to go with it. I had the roast lamb with white beans, asparagus and green beans. The lamb was perfectly crusted on the outside and rare on the inside. The lamb was tender. This was one of the best dishes I have had in a very long time. The white bean side was light in a way I can never manage with beans. The use of lentils and beans throughout the menu has inspired me to try and make some dishes with them.
We got deserts, Sheila had a cheese panacotta, I had a chocolate rhubard tart with a cranberry ice cream - big enough for two.
Drink - I had a nice gewurtztraimner for the starter and some Belgian beer the main. The restaurant is the sort of place that is not pretentious and intimidating in a way that some upscale restaurants can be. I did not feel foolish ordering a beer with the main and it went very well.
We both had coffees after dinner - locally roasted coffee from Moziro's two doors down. The smell of the coffee was so good that we had to get a cup. They finished the evening with two perfectly made truffles.
The price for our meal was quite reasonable, many lower quality restaurants charge more for their meals.
By my measure - can I do better at home? Amuse clearly is not something I could ever easily do at home. I will be going back there, ideally often. There are few other places on the island that have the attention to detail and exhibit the definition of west coast casual dining.
All I can say is go there, try the place, you will not be disappointed.