Long standing French restaurant, Provence Marinaside presents “Quelle Surprise”. From March 15-April 15th diners are invited down to Provence for a little surprise. In addition to their regular lunch and dinner menus guests have the option of orderingh the “Surprise” of the day. A classic bistro dish that the restaurant normally does not offer, made available in their latest spring promotion. Each, a classic hailing from the mind and appetite of Provence Marinaside’s Owner/Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia. These are dishes native to France, recipes that he has grown up with and has fond memories of preparing with his mother, but reinvented and made modern for Vancouver appetites.
Simply put, each morning Chef Jean-Francis and his Chef Team, will make a limited number of dishes from a rotating assortment of bistro favourites (the list of what could be made available is below). “Some days we’ll make a dozen orders of a particular Appy and Main and other days, depending on the availability of ingredients and what inspires us, we might make two dozen, or only ten” says Chef Quaglia. There is no set order to these dishes, nor is there a plan on how they will be presented. You will simply have to come down to the waterside restaurant and find out for yourself. And as soon as they are out of one “Surprise” they will simply roll over to the next. A fun way to keep things interesting for their customers and the kitchen team.
The 2023 Quelle Suprise Menu is two-courses set at $49/person. And can be Os à Moelle (Roasted Bone Marrow) and Canard Confit (Duck Confit) one day or Soupe aux Oignons (French Onion Soup) and Daube de Boeuf (Provençal Beef Stew) the next.
And what is fine French food without wine? To not be overlooked, there will also be a few wine ‘surprises’ as well, according to Provence’s Wine Director Joshua Carlson, “I have a few bottles in one’s and two’s that I’ll open depending on what the food surprises are that day. There will also be a sommelier recommendation for each of the dishes available by the glass. Each glass will be value driven, French, and limited in availability.” Meaning, you may be treated to the last sips of some pretty rare vintages, an experience we were able to partake in tonight, as we gathered for a light dinner with Chef Jean-Francis himself. Worth mentioning is that every Wednesday (which was the day that we visited) Provence has live jazz musicians in to set the mood.
The two-course rotating list will include such bistro favourites as:
- Pissaladiere et sa salade
- Salade Niçoise
- Soupe aux Oignons
- Os à Moelle
- Foie de Volaille à l’Ail et Persil
- Huitres au Gratin
- Petite Omelette aux Champignons et Fromage
- Petites Sardines à L’Huile d’Olive, Salade
- Moules Gratinée
- Oeuf Mimosa
- Blanquette de Veau aux Petits Légumes
- Canard Confit
- Bavette à L’Echalotte
- Tartare de Boeuf
- Coq au Vin
- Thon aux Olives
- Daube de Boeuf
- Vol au Vent au Lapin
- Tartine de Boeuf
The following are photos of what we had, tasting size portions of what customers can actually expect. A handful of dishes brought together and served as a course, so please bear that in mind when considering the following. I will also be posting the photos of the wine we had and enjoyed with our meal, but will not be going into too much detail on each, as what will be made available during a subsequent visit will differ, especially as we finished 2 “last bottles”.
Our meal began with fresh bread, served warm and crusty in a brown paper loaf sleeve. The novelty of this evoked the Parisian dream of cycling in the valley with such a loaf, placed tenderly in the basket of your bicycle. We would finish this with butter and follow it with at least 2 more to have with the tartare and subsequent cheese course.
Our first bite was Sardine on toast. This was light as a fresh and easy start. Not as fishy as you would expect with the tang of vinegar to balance. This morsel spoke to our Chef’s roots in Provence. It was paired with a glass of sweeter white wine, that was passed out in welcome as dinner guests trickled in.
Our second course came out as a trio of tastes, but normally each will be its own appetizer in a more fulsome portion. This was paired with a lovely rose that was so silky, that both Chef Jean-Francis and myself clamoured to have a refill of it. Domaine La Grande Bauquiere, Cotes De Provence.
The Salade Niçoise was a classic assembly that included peppers, tomato, and egg with a sardine vinaigrette. The common preparation also includes canned tuna fish, but here they opted for a nice slice of ahi tuna instead. The fish was fresh and well-treated, it elevated the portion alongside the gingerly sliced beans. I have never seen green beans sliced lengthwise like this and found it really added visual interest to the plate.
Oeuf Mimosa or Eggs Mimosa is the French name for Devil-ed Eggs, and honestly just calling it that adds a certain air of refinement to the dish. The name comes from the bold hue of the yolk, that is scooped out of a poached egg, seasoned and mixed before being piped back into the solid white. Their rendition was milder than the pickled and mustard forward ones I am more accustomed to.
The Pissaladiere et sa salade is a classic Nice (the city in France) dish. It is a savoury tart of sweet onions, salty anchovies, and black olives that is popular all over France. Crispy and light, it ate like a flat bread pizza, fragrant with onion, plus salty and briny from the combination of both the olives and sardines. Not necessary for everyone, but amazingly delicious for my particular palate.
Our next wine pairing was a “funky” red that looked organic in nature due to its ashy red hue and murky finish. Despite this description it was very tasty and did well as a palate refresher for our red meat course of sorts. 2018 Benedicte & Stephane Tissot.
This would be the most sumptuous course of the evening and definitely the table’s most memorable. Once again, served in a tasting size as to not overwhelm us with food, so that we would be able to try more and still leave the table comfortably.
The Os à Moelle, Roasted Bone Marrow is probably my favourite taste of the night, and I highly suggest coming down until you get to order it for yourself. This was some of the cleanest and leanest bone marrow I have ever had, prepared without losing out on any of its pleasant and lush, gristly mouthfeel. The toasted herbed bread crumb added a nice textural component and a varying flavour. I found it an unexpected twist and one that I immediately found more appealing than the other versions of bone marrow I had had in the past. Presented along side crunchy and hard crostini, I preferred it smeared over the french bread mentioned above, for a textural base that best highlights the marrow and the breadcrumb uniformly.
Tartare de Boeuf is steak tartar, prepared classically c and crowned with a single raw quail’s egg. Mixing the yolk in adds a layer of richness to the otherwise clean tasting meat. Once again, the crostini was available for use, but I much rather bread as the base.
Next course saw duck and rabbit with a different wine for each. The 2019 Faustine, Vieilles Vignes was a light bodied red bottled with 2 different grapes varieties. It was tangy with plenty of tannis, offering a nice palate refresher for the saltier duck.
With the duck we had a full bodied white in the 2016 C…Marie Les Trois Saisons, Languedoc. Made with a blend of 3 grapes, this was the last of the restaurant’s reserves, and we finished the bottle.
A classic confit de canard is cured duck drumsticks cooked in duck fat until the meat starts to separate from the bone. At Provence they have sous vide-d their duck for some of the most tender confit I have ever had. I am typically not a fan of duck confit, often finding it hard and dry. Given that this was salted raw, rinsed, and then placed in a bag of duck fat to gently sous vide, the meat was amazingly tender. A little on the salty side, a side of mashed potatoes would have been ideal here to held curb that. But luckily sitting beside Chef Jean-Francis meant a fresh baguette was always within reach.
The Vol au Vent au Lapin is another dish. I urge you to continue visiting Provence for the next month for, until you are able to try it. This is rabbit meat and vegetables in a tomato sauce served in a savoury pastry shell. Once again, rabbit is a type of protein I do not typically gravitate towards as I often find it prepared hard and dry. However, this was hands down the best rabbit I have had to date. It was cut thick and cooked tender, that if you didn’t know better would think it was chicken thigh. Be sure to eat this dish quick as it is best when the buttery puff pastry basket is still warm and flaky. Filled with a mix of artichoke and zucchini in an herbed tomato sauce it reminded me of ratatouille. Altogether, simply wonderful.
Our “Quelle Surprise” tasting ended here, but we would not leave Provence without having either cheese or dessert to end on, which meant more wine pairings based on what each individual ordered.
For those who like it savoury, like myself, we were treated to a cheese platter that included blue cheese, brie, and a bowl of mix pitted olives. This was paired and a wonderful ice wine, so that we too could end in some sort of sweetness.
And for the guests who like it sweet, they were able to choose from one of the restaurant’s classic desserts that are always available on the menu. And once again, each one was expertly paired with either a red or white by Provence’s Wine Director. Either the Creme Caramel with fresh whipped cream, the Fondant Au Chocolat which is a rich chocolate mousse with a raspberry puree, or the Clafoutis Aux Fruits Rouges the restaurant’s version of the classic French cake stuffed with raspberry.
In conclusion, Provence Marinaside is a longstanding (21 years) option for amazing classic French cuisine coupled with an on-par wine program. Come for the food and drinks and linger long after for their view that overlooks the stunning waters of False Creek. Over the years they have pared down their menu to ensure only the dishes they are most proud of remain. So, to be able to get a taste of their quality and workmanship in such bistro style dishes is a treat. I highly recommend coming to try this limited edition surprise menu before April 15th, 2023.
1177 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2Y3