They say that you should never go into business with your friends. But if it wasn’t for two entrepreneurial ladies and their shared friendship and commitment to high-quality, delicious food, Le Bon Vivant wouldn’t have come into being. And for that, we would all be the poorer.
Only steps away from Marché Atwater, Le Bon Vivant is nestled between independent small restaurants and Metro outposts on a quaint block of Notre Dame Ouest. Its intriguing sign, potted plants, chalkboard-scribbled specials, and large glass windows invite passersby in with a wink a nod, and strong promise of more.
Upon entrance, a large display case features the restaurant’s daily take-out options. Those in a hurry can just grab a bite and leave, their wares proudly displayed in a simple white bag bearing the likeness of the restaurant’s mascot: a black fox.
Diners with more time on their hands are invited to sit at one of the restaurant’s plush grey booths, or a tall table for two. Seats are also available at the bar, from which diners are able to watch the kitchen staff grill, flip and sauté with flair.
The restaurant, designed by local firm Mookiyams, combines French country chic with sleek industrial detailing. The colour palette is grey and white, with touches of wood and exposed lightbulbs. It is unobtrusive, and serves the restaurant beautifully in its day and nighttime functions.
The soft glow of a custom-made light fixture with dozens of exposed bulbs illuminates the evening crowd. Daily specials are proudly displayed on the metal walls. The wine and spirits list is respectable, though cocktails are notably absent. There is a lively atmosphere about the place, a buzz that intensifies as the night draws closer.
Le Bon Vivant promises a good time. The creation of Stefanie Poulin and Geneviève Guertin (of nearby Pizzeria Geppetto), the restaurant circles the globe in its flavours and influences. Poulin describes the restaurant’s style as California cuisine with international influences and bold, spicy flavours; and with associate partner Catherine Martel and chef Fiodar Huminski at the helm, it truly delivers.
The house kimchi alone is a reason to storm the doors. A mix of daikon and Napa cabbage, the kimchi is redolent with excellent rice vinegar, the heat of chilies, and the funky aftertaste of fermentation. It certainly packs a punch, and should not be missed, whether as a lunch-time side dish, or an evening snack.
The rest of the offerings are just as inventive. The lunch menu varies from snacks like beef jerky to stellar sandwiches, ranging in price from $11 to $13. The Stoner sandwich offers a unique combination of fried chicken, kimchi and blue cheese, topped with lettuce and Sriracha sauce. It’s a best seller.
The Dany Israel is the lone vegetarian sandwich option, but it won’t leave you wanting anything more. The Mediterranean vegetable medley is cooked to perfection, while the hummus and melted cheese create a surprisingly pleasant creamy taste and texture. Moist and flavourful gluten-free bread offers a great alternative to those who can’t tolerate gluten.
The evening menu expands upon the sandwich options, adding an assortment of small plates to share. Fries and certain appetizers are offered all day, like the stand-out fried Shishito peppers, a work of art served on a marble slab. With a drizzled balsamic vinegar reduction, shaved parmesan and ham, the dish tastes as salty and tangy as it looks.
The beauty of Le Bon Vivant’s present package, with its streamlined, chic design, comfortable lighting and exceptional food, is undeniable. For great, creative food, bold flavours, and a fresh take on the good life, you couldn’t do much better.
Visit Le Bon Vivant at 2705 Notre Dame West or view their website for more information.