Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by MacNaughtan
I recently trekked out to Cap-Rouge to try Ambre Bistro Bar. As someone who lives on the edges of Old Quebec, venturing out to Cap-Rouge is something I *might* do when I have a rental car. I could travel there by bus (2 or 3, actually), but the ride is almost 90 mins long. I need to really love a place to ride a bus for 90 minutes – or have a medical appointment.
Tucked down rue Saint-Félix, near Plage Jacques-Cartier (Jacques Cartier beach), Ambre resides in a taupe-coloured Regency-style house with a shiny sloped metal roof, teal trimmed windows and a wide patio. In the 19th century, this was the house of Timothée Delisle, a brickmaker, and it is likely that the brick walls inside the house were made in his brickyard.
about ambre bistro bar
Ambre Bistro Bar opened its doors in July 2022. Chef-owner, Étienne Nadeau, spent eight years working in a couple of food truck kitchens prior to opening Ambre. The small kitchen mentality continues at Ambre, where the chef works alongside one other person. Along the left wall, three kitchen stoves seem to be purely decorative, but perhaps they are used for food prep prior to opening. Along the back wall, shiny metal shelves hold containers filled with vacuum-packed meats, each one cooked sous vide and ready for a night of service.
The restaurant dining area feels sparse. Here, small square tables and black chairs are spread out, making it easy to navigate the restaurant. Some art decorates the walls, and what was once the front door of this old house now leads to the outdoor patio – which fills up quickly on warm sunny days.
Near the kitchen, an L-shaped bar with seating offers views of the kitchen. It’s here that I choose to sit. I like being close to the action, plus, it allows me to chat up the staff as they mix drinks and interact with the kitchen.
The menu at Ambre Bistro Bar is small. There are eleven dishes in total, two of those being desserts. The price ranges from $14 CAD to $23 CAD, with the exception of the 25oz rib eye steak which is $65 CAD.
Initially, I was planning to start off with the tomato salad (tomato season is my favourite food season), but as the focaccia et fromage included tomato salad, I opted for it instead. What a delight. The small halved cherry tomatoes were seasoned with a little salt, bathed in basil oil and decorated with thin ribbons of fresh basil. Next to them, house made stracciatella cheese (frayed mozzarella cheese soaked in sweet cream; basically, what the inside of burrata cheese should look like) drizzled with basil oil is the perfect companion. On the side, a piece of focaccia which is far too small.
Overall, the focaccia et fromage is delicious, and when I finished my small piece of focaccia, I asked for another so I could sop up the remaining cheese and basil oil.
While I was intrigued by the lobster, and the lamb and pancake dishes on the menu, I convinced myself to try the steak. I love a good steak, and when it’s done right, it is worth every penny. This, however, was not the case at Ambre.
I really wanted to love the steak, and when the staff kept asking how it tasted, I said “good”, which was a lie. Perhaps they were having an off night, but it has been a week since my visit to Ambre and I am still haunted by this steak. After the order was placed, I watched as they pulled a streak from the sous vide, open it up, and then blowtorch the top. There was no searing, just two minutes with a blowtorch on the top and nowhere else. I watched as they sliced it, then I’m not sure why, but the chef pulled another steak and repeated the process.
Once it was sliced, the steak was spread over a generous smearing of puréed broccoli, then topped with sautéed mushrooms on one side, and an obscene amount of parmesan on the other.
The first couple of bits were fine, but the rest was not. Although the menu said the rib eye was medium-rare, the steak I was served was medium to medium-well, and the meat was grainy from being cooked too long by sous vide.
Dessert was a little better. The key lime pie arrives deconstructed, with a pile of graham cracker crumbs down the centre of the plate, oval scoops of key lime filling on either side, with dollops of foam finishing off the presentation. The filling and foam are good, but the crumbs would be better if a graham cracker pie crust had been made, then crumbled and plated.
I spent the last seven days contemplating how I wanted to write this post. While the steak is a hard pass for me, I’m not writing off Ambre. This is a new restaurant, and the chef is still getting his footing and perfecting his methods. I will likely go back at some point to try the lobster or the lamb and pancake.
Overall, the staff here are welcoming and quite friendly, the prices are affordable, and the vibe is chill. If you’re planning to hang out in Cap-Rouge, stop by Ambre and give it a try.
eat at ambre bistro bar
neighbourhood: cap-rouge • 4292 rue saint-félix • 581-982-4067 • ambre-bistro.com • thurs-mon 5:45pm – 3am