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For my birthday, Jaime took me to Bon Rouge, a French restaurant that she knew best as the place where her French colleague swore off her vegeterianism for the night to sample their duck dish. That gave me high hopes, with the seal of approval of someone from Toulouse who would know their French food.

Well, that French seal of approval was highly earned, though I did not have the duck.

My first impression upon seeing the restaurant was “Oooh, if this is good, we should come back for our anniversary!” I didn’t have a camera unfortunately, so I didn’t manage to take any photos of my own, but here are some photos off the internet to give you an idea of the interior:

I’m a big fan of black, white, and red, but the pictures give a false impression, the lighting when we were there was a lot more warm and inviting. I wish we could have dined on the outside patio though, it was gorgeous. But the weather was iffy, so it was probably for the better that we were nestled inside.

Jaime and I’s table was right next to the entrance of the kitchen, which normally would be a problem for the noise level, but it was unusually quiet, and I got to watch the chef work, which fascinated me. He was kind of cute too, but Jaime said his nose ring was ugly. Fie! Another pleasing thing about the restaurant was how quiet and subdued the music was. It was mostly soft jazz and Canadian rock, and just the right volume so that I wasn’t distracted at all, but could still appreciate the music when Jaime and I were having a quiet interlude in conversation.

Our server was a lovely fellow, I believe his name was Yuri. He was kind, informative, speedy, and always ready to bring out a new basket of bread or offer a recommendation. He also kindly ignored my verbal slip-ups when ordering, such as asking for a “28 ounce steak” when I meant an 8 ounce steak, and corrected me without laughing at me.

We each ordered a cocktail, I had a Brigitte Bardot, and Jaime had a Yves St. Laurent (I had to tell her who that was, she’s not big on fashion like I am) both were delicious, but I think I got the better deal, being a fan of pomegranate. We also got an endless supply of bread, which delighted me, having never been allowed to sample the bread basket as a child at restaurants. I felt like asking for a sauce of olive oil and vinegar to go with my bread, but the butter was so soft and tasty that I soon forgot about it entirely.

I had a French Onion soup, she had the garden salad. I adored my soup. I’m exceptionally picky about my French Onion soup, having too often been served warmed-over onion broth with some stale bread and a few chunks of cheese sprinkled on top. This was a magnificent soup though, with chunks of peameal bacon, a delicious, complex broth which was savoury with a hint of sweetness, and cheese so thick I had to twirl over my spoon to get it into my mouth. Jaime loved her salad, but forgot to ask for it without the goat cheese, so I happily obliged in eating it off her salad. Vancouver Island has some of the best goat cheese I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste, dairy fresh and soft.

For our dinner, we both had steak frites, with her going for a classic red wine reduction, and me opting for a roquefort topping, since I am, obviously, a cheese lover. The first bite, Jaime moaned happily, and I said it was like “eating a beef cloud”. The steak was juicy, tender, and the cheese on top added the perfect contrast to the beef. The frites were just as good, and were a bit sweeter and denser than what I usually think of as a French fry. I believe it was the type of potato used that made the difference. I dipped them in the juice from my beef.

For dessert, she had a lemon cheesecake, and I had crème brûlée with a chocolate truffle. I snuck bites of her cheesecake, but since she wasn’t a fan of crème brûlée, I had my dessert all to myself. 🙂 The cheesecake was positively perfect, a huge, towering thing of lemon and ricotta with a crust that was as delicious as the filling (such a rare thing with cheesecake and pie) One of my favourite parts of crème brûlée is taking a satisfying first crack at it, and I believe the first crack tells you a lot about the quality of the crème brûlée. In this case, the crack was smooth, and caused the dessert to erupt into custard when my spoon broke the surface. A good, good sign. The top was a bit more burnt than I would normally care for, but the pleasure of seeing the chef do it himself made up for that, as did the filling.

The whole thing ended up being rather cheap for a very lovely romantic dinner in the heart of downtown Victoria. Considering the high quality, the atmosphere, and the highly competent staff, I feel like it was almost magically done just for my birthday, but really, this is probably consistent of Bon Rouge.

A solid A+ for a perfect birthday dinner. Merci beaucoup!