512 Yates St, tel: 250-480-0883 Wed-Sun 5:30 - 10 pm


I had a hankering for foie gras - I had resisted it for a couple of weeks, but it was inevitable I would break down.

Having never been to Matisse, I was curious about another local venue where I could satiate my routine craving for rich French food.

Greeted promptly at the door and seated in the busy restaurant, it certainly seemed like Matisse was the quintessential French restaurant.  Small and cozy with classic decor and table settings, there was little else they could do to communicate their intended theme. That said, they do appear to have a ventilation problem (low ceilings, no opening windows) and for those of you who are uncomfortable in warm, confined spaces, I would plan to where something light.

While the service was attentive, it was a little unbalanced. We received our cocktails quickly, but waited a long time for the menus. The extremely knowledgeable, professional and friendly Maitre d' was assisted by a bus person and another server who seemed competent, but who's product knowledge was disproportionately low.

In a ridiculous attempt to eat lightly, I decided on three first courses, omitting the main and dessert. Not really a very good idea, since my first course selections were all incredibly rich. I started with the lobster bisque ($9) - rich and creamy, with subtle lobster and saffron flavours. It could have handled a more powerful shellfish flavour, but overall a solid preparation. For my second course I has the escargot Bordelaise ($10). I felt obliged to try this dish, since it's pretty infrequent that you see snails on a menu that aren't sautéed in butter and garlic. The sauce was rich and flavourful and I liked the serving dish - a mini Le Creuset casserole. Of course, I finished up with the foie gras ($23). Perhaps, one of the largest portions of I've ever received and definitely the largest outside France. To be perfectly honest, they could get away with a smaller serving. The accoutrement was good, I especially liked the coarse sea salt, but I though the caramelised apple compote could have used a little more acid to offset the richness of the liver. The server was quick to upsell a glass of sauterne to compliment the foie gras - a good suggestion, although we didn't really need any more alcohol on the table.

Ryan started with the tomato and onion salad ($9). The tomatoes were good quality, considering the season and the onions were presented attractively. The balsamic vinaigrette was a bit of a snoozer, but he liked it. He followed with the foie gras. Ryan found the portion overwhelming and nearly didn't finish it (may the gods have struck him down, had he not made the effort and finished it off.) He had the seared scallops for his main, served with a lobster cream sauce ($23). I wasn't overly thrilled with the dish, but then again, the previous courses were hard to follow. Some how, Ryan also managed to eat a slice of chocolate truffle cake ($9). Not a terribly impressive cake, it was rich and the presentation good - Ryan seemed satisfied (at last).

I was a little dissatisfied, when I inquired about one of the premium calvados on the menu ($18), to be offered the response that if it's on the menu, it must be good. I was looking for a more comprehensive answer than that. Coming from the junior server, he should have brought his colleague over to answer my question - he didn't. Had I not already been a bit drunk I wouldn't have ordered it. That said, I did and it was ok, but I'm not sure I got my full money's worth.

The wine list generally isn't bad, but I thought a little heavy on showpiece bottles (relative to the total number of wines on the list), some middle-high priced Bordeaux that in my opinion shouldn't be served for a few more years and some sketchy looking Chilean wines. We selected a Gigondas, which was lovely and reasonable value - the Rhones overall seemed to me to be the best value on the list. 

I was pleased that Matisse offered reasonably good value and quality of food. Given their location, one might assume that it's a tourist restaurant offering tourist fare. While they clearly attract tourists, they also seem to have strong local clientele. I had a craving for rich French food and Matisse delivered.

reviewed April 8/2006