Fleur de Sel Brasserie – Calgary, AB

Fleur de Sel Brasserie
2-2015 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2S 1W6
(403) 228-9764

When I think of French food, my thoughts generally fall into one of three categories. High end, refined cuisine, delectable and precise pastries, and peasant food. While i can appreciate the skill and refinement of haute cuisine, as well as the skill of a Herme in creating perfect pastries, I really prefer peasant food. Coq au vin, beef bourguignon, rilettes, pates, stews, poulet de bresse, cassoulet – simple meals big on flavour, with generally safe and easy cooking methods. This is not sous vide – this is braised, hearty soul food. And the best place to get this is typically at a brasserie or a bistro. While there is a general shortage of good honest French food in Calgary, Fleur de Sel Brasserie bucks the fine dining trend by providing Brasserie-type fare.

On first look, the menu is an interesting mix of french classics, modern interpretations of french classics, and not so french classics like Jambalaya and smoked atlantic salmon with pickled ginger. A very extensive list – too extensive in my mind. I prefer most establishments to focus on fewer dishes, generally finding diminishing quality whenever a menu tries to be all things to all people.  I went at lunch, which has a different menu from dinner, by including some sandwiches and lighter fare.

When dining at any establishment, going at lunch has some advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage is typically price – lunch, though often serving the same thing at a slightly smaller portion size, is generally significant cheaper. However, there is often a limited menu, so you’re not able to order all your favorite dishes. At Fleur de Sel, you’re staring down a potentially pricey lunch menu – with entrees pushing $20-$30, it’s certainly not for someone looking for good cheap peasant fare. In order to get a wider variety of dishes to sample, i order their set lunch menu. A 3-course meal for $25.

First off came the bread with an olive oil and vinegar dip. While the bread was ok, i was a bit disappointed  in the quality. It was definitely lacking in a crispy exterior. Sacrificed for the healthier whole wheat/whole-grain combo.

Next up was the salad, which was lightly dressed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing. A nice collection of greens, simply dressed, it was decent. Nothing that made it stand out, but with a three course meal, I don’t feel it needs to be. Sometimes, a salad can and should be just a salad.

For an entree, I had a choice between a cassoulet, or egg fettuccine with fresh mussels. I wasn’t feeling supremely hungry, so i went with the mussels. The mussels themselves were plump, succulent, and well flavoured with the white wine they had been sauteed in. The egg fettuccine was simply dressed with butter and parsley, and swam in the white wine sauce from the mussels. Once again, decent, satisfying, but nothing that stands out as a must-have.

Lastly, dessert was chocolate mousse. With a slightly chalky flavour, i found it a bit off. It was definitely light and fluffy, but the light chocolate flavour combined with the chalky taste led me to believe it was made with cocoa powder, and not melted chocolate. The highlight of the dish was sadly the fruit on top of the mousse.

What do i think? Well, It’s not that French. And there is nothing all that exceptional about it. They serve good solid food that satisfies you, and in that regard i was happy. However, at the price point they are charging, i generally expect more. A lot more. While Table D’hote may have been a poor choice on my part, i feel that they would be better served trimming their dishes down to a manageable number that would allow them to focus on quality and value. They use some good quality ingredients that i recognize from purveyors around Calgary – grass-fed, Galloway beef, magret duck breast, things like that, but don’t do much that most people couldnt replicate in their own kitchens. Overall, i’d be happy if things were 30-40% cheaper, but at this price point, regardless of the quality, I won’t be returning.

Fleur de Sel on Urbanspoon

5 thoughts on “Fleur de Sel Brasserie – Calgary, AB

  1. Ah. Our favorite french place. I agree with the pricing issue (Foie Gras now at 25.00, up from 19.00), this however seems to be an unfortunate, unstoppable trend in this city for right now.

    To find a suitable replacement is the challenge. They do use basic ingredients of better qualities than most restos, which makes it so enjoyable in the first place. No pre mixes, ready made sauces or any other Nestle type packages there.
    There is a shortage of authentic French Bistro Fare, compared to all the other cuisines representated in this town. Maybe you’ll find one for all of us.

  2. I agree in that they use very good quality basic ingredients, but the value add (the culinary skill) fails to transform those great ingredients into something great – something worth the high prices.

    It’s funny that most people, my friends included, feel rising prices is an unstoppable trend. Many places have managed to keep reasonable prices, probably more importantly, good value, and i find myself frequenting the same places over and over again for that reason. I refuse to give in! We’ll see if it ends up being an avalanche that bowls me over 🙂

  3. I agree with you on preferring the peasant food… love the peasant food. I’ve only been to Fleur once with some friends that I’d arranged to meet there. Uncharacteristically, I had a bit of a bad stomach and didn’t eat much, but made a mental note of the menu and vowed to go back, so I can’t really comment on the quality of the food or prep. I will go back to properly try it out. My question: Are there any other restaurants that you know of in Calgary doing similar fare?
    Have you been to les faux bourgeois in Vancouver? Thoughts? (I haven’t as yet)

    • In Calgary – not true french. There used to be Bistro JoJo which moved from 17th Ave to Marda Loop, but i don’t know if it’s still open or not. It was ok – not great, not bad, but very pricey – though the menu was definitely french. There is Bistro Provence in Okotoks, which is also ok – but a long way out and not true brasserie style fare. I would say the closest thing to the spirit of what you are looking for might be Petite. The food is modern upscale bistro, but simple, high quality, and well executed. It is a bit pricier than i prefer, but it might satisfy you.

      I’ve never been to Les Faux Bourgeois – though Gastro might have. Gastro?

  4. Fleur de Sel was originally opened by the same owner as Bistro JoJo. They moved to Marda Loop, but have since closed (or renamed at least). For peasant – there really isn’t anything. Which is a shame, because the ingredients we can actually grow here (celery and other root veggies), along with local pork or beef, make great base ingredients for it. So Fleur de Sel remains a favorite, and a quarterly treat.

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