A couple of months back, I found out that the lounge at the Bear’s Den had been converted to become Bside Bistro. It is still under the same ownership and shares the kitchen with the Bear’s Den. Bside Bistro has a more casual atmosphere than the formal fine dining side of the Bear’s Den. The bistro has its own menu and the full menu from the Bear’s Den is also available at Bside.
Our evening started off fine as we were seated right away when we arrived and our server came by to take our drink order promptly. My friend ordered a glass of wine while I decided to try one of the beers from the Unibroue brewery in Quebec. When I had quickly perused the food menu, the dishes that caught my eye were the PEI mussels in a saffron seafood broth and the pappardelle pasta & lamb. I was hoping for a light meal so I was leaning towards ordering the mussels. With that in mind, I decided the Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue would be a good pairing to go with the mussels as it is a light Belgian-style white ale with citrus notes. Since there were three Unibroue beers available on the Bside Bistro beverage menu, I even pointed out on the menu to our server which beer I had wanted as I was afraid my French pronounciation wasn’t great and there would be a mix-up. As luck would have it, when our drink order arrived, the server actually brought me Unibroue’s Maudite ($7), which is an amber-red ale with spicy, floral notes. This beer on its own is complex and delicious but would not be the right pairing for the delicate mussels. I didn’t notice initially when he had poured it as I was engrossed in conversation with my friend. Otherwise, I would have sent it back immediately. After the first sip, I noticed immediately it wasn’t what I had ordered but by then, he had already left our table. At that point, I decided not to send it back and decided to pick another dish from the menu that would be more appropriate to go with this beer. I wasn’t impressed that he got the beer wrong but I could live with it.
Then the service got really strange for a bit. After our drink order had been taken, another five or so tables of guests had arrived meanwhile. And for about twenty minutes we felt like we were being ignored as our server went back and forth between those five tables and never came back to check on us nor take our food order. My friend and I started getting restless and were even contemplating our options for going elsewhere for food. We finally managed to flag him down to put in our food order.
Awhile later, he came back with a basket of bread and a trio of whipped butter. He explained the butter flavours were sea salt, chipotle, and sun dried tomato. I decided to the “chipotle” one first and was a bit confused both visually and flavour-wise as I was expecting some smokiness from the chipotle and the butter to be more of an orange-y color. As it turns out, this “mystery” whipped butter was not chipotle-flavoured. It was actually dijon flavoured and I could definitely taste the tanginess of the mustard. Of the trio of butters, I found the sea salt one to be rather pedestrian and not that flavourful. My favourite out of the three by far was the sun dried tomato as the flavour was bright and bold.
For our mains, both my friend and I had a small order of the Pappardelle Pasta & Lamb ($14 for small; $18 for big). This dish consisted of pappardelle pasta tossed with a braised ratatouille lamb sauce and finished with a lemon gremolada. The pasta was perfectly al dente and I loved the bright flavours of the lamb sauce. The meat itself was melt-in-your-mouth tender. This dish ended up pairing perfectly with the complex flavours of the Maudite beer.
Overall, the food was perfectly executed and I really enjoyed the flavours. However, I do think their service needs some refinement and their serving staff needs to pay more attention to the finer details.
254028 Bearspaw Road NW