Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bu: Montreal restaurant and wine bar

     Now that the weather is cooling off, Montreal's bars and restaurants are closing up their terrasses for the winter and patrons are retreating inside from the autumn chill. This is probably welcome news for the owners of Bu, a wine bar/restaurant located on a not-so-trendy stretch of northern St-Laurent Blvd, just north of Fairmont Avenue (5245 St-Laurent). When we were there this past summer, on a warm Saturday night in July, the place was completely empty when we arrived at 10pm.  The restaurant livened up only slightly when a passing group of four friends, looking for a place to chat over a glass of wine, decided to accept the obligatory purchase of a food dish even though they weren't hungry, and took the table next to us.

Bu: empty on a Saturday night in July

     Our waiter/sommelier, Alex, had all the time in the world to explain to us how things work at Bu, and also told us that summer is their worst season, but that winter nights are completely different. This does reflect our past experience, having had to wait for a table one Halloween evening, and again on a snowy Saturday in February last year, when we were finally seated at a table next to renowned Quebec film director, Robert Lepage. The advantage of being only one of two groups of clients at a wine bar, is that you benefit from very personalized service. We had an interactive wine-tasting session with Alex, who willingly answered our many questions and offered a very interesting and thorough description of all we were drinking.

Caprese Salad

     Bu has been around since 2003, and is officially a restaurant with a liquor license rather than a true bar. This means that everyone must purchase food from its menu of simple yet flavorful Italian antipasti-style dishes in order to taste the real star of the show at Bu: the extensive and constantly-changing list of privately-imported wines from all over the world. Wines are available by the bottle or glass, and contrary to most restaurants, the choice of wines available by the glass is both extensive and excellent in quality. Bu's wine menu also includes wine trios: three 2 oz. glasses of wines grouped together by some theme, such as geographical region or type of grape.

Brandade de morue
     On this visit, I had the trio of chardonnays from Burgundy ($20), and my husband chose the Languedoc-Roussillon trio, with one white wine and two reds ($21). These were accompanied by the Caprese salad ($11) and the brandade de morue ($6), a whipped concoction of codfish served with two pieces of toasted french bread. Both dishes were fresh and tasty, and served as an excellent backdrop for our wine tasting.

     Alex brought out the bottles of wine for each trio separately, and displayed each label as he described the wine's composition and flavors before pouring each glass. He was knowledgeable and also clearly enjoyed his work, taking time to answer our many questions with enthusiasm.

     Although we were initially surprised to find Bu practically deserted on this beautiful summer Saturday night, it worked out to our advantage, as we had more attentive service, and the opportunity to really question our sommelier about the wines we were drinking. I recommend rushing over before the crowds come back!

Bu on Urbanspoon

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