Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bouchée Boucher

Apparently I have to check the internet regularly to make sure the places I blog about still exist. This one, it seems, no longer does.

Super bright; super cool.
I don't talk too much about décor because it's largely irrelevant to my dining experience, unless it's truly awful, but Bouchée Boucher's was eye-catching enough to mention. Unlike many of the schmancy places I frequent, the restaurant here is big and bright and kind of a refreshing change from hiding in the dark, inhaling cocktails like some kind of of posh crime lord on the run and in hiding. A lot of places seem to equate dimness with chic, but this restaurant demonstrates that windows and light can be trendy too. If you're one of those people who complain how you can't read the menu in The Keg or Earls, you're going to like this place a lot better.

I really need to start remembering to
take pictures of my food before I
tuck into it.
The menu featured small, medium, and large plates that were priced accordingly and the server let me know right away what wasn't available that evening so I could plan my meal around that. As per usual, the cocktail list featured high prices that, in this case, I wasn't sure were entirely worth it. There was a cocktail with Zubrowka which I was super excited to try; as a Pole I feel particularly connected to that vodka and it doesn't show up on a lot of drink lists in town. It was a nice enough drink but the weird grit that was in the bottom of my glass, which I think was from the juniper berries used in the recipe, was fairly unappetizing.

I found the tartare surprisingly flavourless, considering the place doubles as a butcher, you'd think they'd have a really good one. The really, really charred grilled lines in the sourdough that came with overwhelmed what little taste there was and the texture wasn't awesome either, so overall this dish was a bust. I also ordered some heirloom tomatoes, which were nice, but nothing that you couldn't make for yourself at home.

Mmmmm... Taleggio... the cheese
I didn't know was my favourite
until now
Now, in retrospect, the meat and cheese boards are the obvious choice at this kind of restaurant; if you want a three-star experience, stick with that and you will have it. There are two sizes available and you get to pick your meat/cheese ratio depending on how carnivorous you are feeling, with no change to the pricing. You can also select your meats and/or cheeses specifically, but I'm indecisive, so I left the choosing up to the server/kitchen.Now, the really cool part is that if you particularly like something that was on your board you can walk next door and buy it because that's a service you can offer when your restaurant also doubles as a butcher/deli with a retail space in the same building. Pretty damn cool. If you're up for trying something new that you can also purchase and assemble fro yourself/impress your friends with at home, this is the only place that I can think of which was designed to facilitate that. Check it out.

Rating: **

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Alright, it's winter. There's no denying it and it sucks. However, when the weather is at it's worst, it is actually a great time to head to one of my super favourite solo-dates. Thermëa is certainly not without its flaws (many of which I think might be due to its own success) but it is definitely the best thing that I can think of to do alone on a cold, crappy day. Also, considering you can spend as much time there as you wish, it's a pretty economical staycation in an hourly sense, particularly if you can make it out on a weekday when the rates are reduced.

So, the cons of this one are oft-cited, so I'll just confirm that some of the legends are true: be prepared to wait forever to check in. Even the so-called 'fast lane' for those of us who book massage appointments and such are entitled too moves at a snail's pace and, if you need your receipt for insurance purposes, be prepared to wait again (for some reason) after your appointment. All this, of course, is a best-case scenario; if you try to go on a holiday or particularly nice weekend and they are at capacity, the wait-list is literally four hours long. Since I mentioned massage appointments, I'll just mention here that such services are not required to enjoy the spa and in fact I wouldn't even recommend it, to keep your costs down. The discount they offer on the 'thermal experience' is comical considering the cost of their services. But my back is what professionals refer to as 'permanently f*cked' so I opt to get a deep-tissue massage whenever one is available.

Come prepared with your own bathrobe and sandals since these are not provided and renting/purchasing them is just further raising your costs unnecessarily. The towels are also stupid tiny, so you might want to bring one of your own if you want to wrap yourself up in it. Maybe bring an extra bathrobe if you've got it since yours will inevitable get wet and that's not super comfortable all the time. Final pro-tip: memorize your locker number; the sharpie they use to write it on your wrist band will wear off approximately 36 seconds after you enter the spa. It's almost useless that they do it.

Now, back to the reasons why, despite the minor annoyances listed above, I think Thermëa is the greatest solo-date: you move through at your own pace and (when they're actually enforcing) the silence policy means that conversation isn't even an option. Basically, in my opinion, it's designed to be done on your own. I mean, I suppose if you've got a partner that you don't mind snuggling in public, this could be a place to do that, but apart from that I can't think of any other reason that going alone is not the optimal experience.

Silly Thermëa, Vegan Farmers are called 'gardeners.'
If you do use the restaurant, be prepared once again for some signature, Thermëa-style waiting. Seating can take forever, especially since the entry to the restaurant is in an awkward spot for staff to see who's waiting for service. While there are no pants required in the restaurant, it can be a bit chilly in a thin, wet robe, so you might want to bring a change of clothes or that extra, dry towel I recommended earlier. The slow service once seated isn't super noticeable since the staff is supremely friendly and you really shouldn't be rushing off anywhere anyhow. If you did book a spa service, maybe do that before visiting the restaurant so you done have to sprint off. The menu is alright, but I feel it could use more nibbles; I'm not really looking for a full meal after spending all day in a steam-room.

I got soup because it's the thing to have in the winter. It was nothing special but I am never really super moved by tomato-based soups, so maybe that was it; I find them boring. Cheese was the only really snacky-thing that appealed to me, so I went with that. There were two smoked cheeses out of three, which I thought was a poor choice, but it smoked Gorgonzola was pretty awesome, so it made up for the lack of variety. The baked brie was tasty but could have been hotter; it wasn't gooey all the way through as one might have hoped.

They don't allow phones in the spa,
so you'll just have to be content with
this pic full of chocolate.
Desserts aren't usually my thing, but if you're going to be here all day, you might find the time to try a couple. The rhubarb platz was super delicious ans super huge, so my super kind server boxed it for me and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to go *hearts and flowers*. The lockers are pretty tiny here, so that was appreciated. A much less portable but definitely more fun choice is the chocolate fondue; how much fun is it to have your own little burner at the table? Speaking of fun, they used to offer sippy cups so that you could take a cocktail outside. But when I asked about this, the server informed me that you can't take them to the pools or pavilions so... I don't really know what the point is. I'm 80% sure you could take them to the hot tubs in the recent past. I assume things got irresponsible and now it's been ruined for the rest of us. I can't imagine walking around in the cold in a robe drinking a mimosa would be fun, but that's just me.

So yes, it's true, there are a few things about this place that are less than perfect BUT if you actually want to do something by yourself for the day, as opposed to just sitting around a restaurant lounge, this is your best potion in the city. That I have found so far. I'm totally open to suggestions.

Rating: ** ½
Price: $$

Monday, 6 November 2017


I've mentioned my renoviction before and was thinking about my standard solo date-nights that are now slightly further for me to walk to and thus not as common these days for me as they once were. So I decided to head over to Cornerstone, which is my favourite place to go on a Monday night. Not only is the restaurant geographically convenient for someone like me, but it's open until 2:00 every day which is nice, given that most places shut down by 9 or 10, particularly on weeknights.

From my small, corner table, I
probably looked like a psycho,
taking pictures of other humans in
their natural environment
So, why Monday? the specials for their 'TGIM' include $1.50 oysters and discounted bubbly, which can be a perfect after-work date on a day of the week many 9-5ers loathe. When I lived in Osborne/Corydon I was a big fan of using this place as an after-work stop since my bus stopped literally steps away from the door and it got quite a bit of seating. It can be pretty hopping there, even on weeknights, but right after work it's fairly easy to snag a seat at the bar or at one of the small tables along the window. The TVs and loud-ish music might be distracting if you are here with friends, but it makes chilling alone super easy.

The bar service can be slow, especially when there are like-minded after work crowds, but the cocktails are smooth and creative (in addition to my standard Cornerstone-Monday Cava, I snagged myself a Citrus-Sage Sour) without falling too far away from classic to be threatening or obnoxious. Speaking of drinking, in cool, crafty bars like this one, I find they can make a decent mocktail since they have a lot of house-made syrups and such. Don't ask for one here. I requested a non-alcoholic drink from the bar and my server looked at me like I was an alien and informed me that the bartender couldn't do that. Maybe she thought that keeping me drinking booze would keep my bill up, even though I find that fancy virgin drinks are usually $5-8 anyway... I don't know. It was weird. I wouldn't recommend trying it.

The red stuff in the middle is super
Anyway, food. Let's talk about that. Naturally I ordered oysters, which can come with hot sauce or horseradish, if you're into that, but I declined since I just really like the dressing/vinegar that it comes with; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Also, since it's cold out now, I went with the chickpea soup, which was amazing and had all the textures going on at once and is anything but boring (some people think that soup is boring; those people are wrong). I've got a bit of a cheese platter obsession going on right now, so I got that too. It was both great and awful all at the same time. The crosini was weird and, like... stale? I don't know. It was really bad. I don't usually ask for a reboot, but this time I did. Round two was the same. I've had cheese here before and I don't remember the crostini being oily, not crunchy, and old-tasting but I also don't like making a fuss, so I just let it go. Not having crostini that's palatable might have been okay, but the cheese bits were really small, so without bread, it ended up being a pretty minuscule plate. Regardless, the cheese was really good and since that's the name of the game, I suppose that's a pass. I didn't know it until having a Cornerstone cheese platter, but apparently I can like blue cheese. Even when it's not smoked. The server told me that it was something Dutch and I found it way milder than the other blues that I try to force myself to eat when they show up in dishes that I've ordered in an effort to not look picky. There was also some kind of soft cheese from Quebec that made me equally happy and a Parmesan to round everything out. It all came with a couple of savoury jams, which I prefer over sweet when eating cheese.

Apart from some of the weirdness I mentioned (one I didn't because it's not super relevant, but still confuses me: there's an ATM by the door. I don't really understand why it's there, but it is. I guess that's just a bar thing? They take credit and debit so...? Yay for choice?)  this one is a pretty cool spot that's buzzing and fun but not full of teenagers. I recommend it if you'd like to play a trendy business person who's who's unwinding after work some Monday. Or another day of the week if oysters aren't your thing.

Rating: **
Price: $$