I had a lunch date with an esteemed member of the National Press Gallery, with whom I was to discuss the year that is coming to an end. Luxe Bistro had been selected for the occasion.
We were seated in the middle of the restaurant. The decor is all in subtleties: brass, dark wood, brown leather, subdued lighting and framed mirrors. The white clothes are rounding it up to a classic, upscale feel, yet still comfortable without being casual.
Located in the Byward Market, Luxe styles itself as a blend of Steakhouse and French Style Bistro. In my opinion, it is neither, especially not at lunch. Luxe does offer 6 different cuts of beef on its dinner menu, with an interesting selection of sauces and side dishes. But at lunch time, the selection is reduced to two very specific cuts:
The 8oz Beef Tenderloin or the Steak-Frites – a 6 oz Striploin.
Executive Chef Alex Sang-Ho Kwon arrived at Luxe in October and hasn’t yet put his personal stamp on the menu. In fact, he is the 6th chef in 6 year at Luxe Bistro, after Derek Benitz (Now at Lake City Casino in Kelowna), René Rodriguez (Navarra), Duane Keats (Shore Club), Kyle Christofferson (Brookstreet) and Steve Wall (Supply and Demand Foods & Raw Bar). The rumour has it that the Firestones, owner of the Firestone restaurant group which includes the Blue Cactus and the Stella Osteria, rely on an established formula and do not let their chefs get out of the pre-established frame much.
We each ordered a 16 oz. glass of Okanagan Spring Pale Ale, the standard format at Luxe. My partner even got to taste a sampler before ordering his own glass – not trusting my selection yet tempted by it, the waitress offered it to him to help him make his choice. We looked at the menu, perusing the options.
A classy basket of whole grain bread was brought to our table. Fresh, soft, with a crusty crust. Great bread, with a nice herb butter served alongside.
It didn’t take long for us to decide what we wanted, and we both wanted the same thing: le Steak-Frites.
As I said, at lunch Luxe offers the 6 oz Striploin as its Steak-Frites. We both ordered it medium-rare. Our meals arrived after a few minutes wait.
Le Steak-Frites at Luxe is served with lemon & roasted garlic butter, and topped with house made onion rings. On the side, the frites-allumettes Luxe is so proud of, served with caramelized onion mayonnaise.
The fries were very good, a nice crunch with a fluffy interior, a hint of salt. The bowl was generous, and the mayonnaise served on the side was as well, on top of being rich and onctuous. As for the caramelized onion, you’ll find the flavour at the finish – don’t expect a whole lot of punch, which was fine by me.
The steak was served pre-sliced, which I did not expect in a steak-frites. The Striploin was a thick if short cut, and the meat of a good quality. Thankfully, they did let it rest properly and there was minimal juices underneath the steak. Still, I would have preferred it not to be sliced.
Part of the reason is the compound butter’s dispersion was not optimal – it melts between the center slices without reaching the edges. Flavourwise, lemon and roasted garlic was a good combination, the garlic holding its own against the lemon.
The onion rings were disappointing. Luxe used to serve thick, battered, hearty onion rings, but they have now opted for plain onion rings sliced paper thin. The result is that you quickly get a mush of onion-flavoured batter instead of biting into a juicy thick onion piece. The flavour wasn’t bad, but on top of the steak like that, it only soaked up the juices from the meat and the melting butter.
Overall, for $20, le Steak-Frites de Luxe was a good choice. We both enjoyed our meat and, also importantly, the service, which was efficient and courteous.