Bravo! High-quality food and a relaxing ambience give Fraser Valley new edge.

Mia Thomas, Vancouver Sun | Published: Thursday, July 27, 2006

It’s not their style to put up a flashing neon sign, so you’d better keep your eyes open when you’re looking for Bravo Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Chilliwack. One could easily miss the discreetly-scripted Bravo on the awning outside.

Missing it would be a pity, because Bravo offers a unique dining experience in the Fraser Valley community.

Damian du Plessis, who co-owns Bravo with Louie De Jaeger, said their aim was an adult-oriented restaurant with high-quality food and drinks where people can relax.

It’s reflected in the menu, which offers what du Plessis describes as “international, West Coast cuisine with a comfort food edge”.

It’s all about matching menu to market.

There’s a different value and presentation to what they would have in a downtown Vancouver restaurant, explained du Plessis.

“It’s a little less fussy than if we were in Yaletown — and the portions are a little more generous,” he said.

“We’re very conscious of the community we’re serving.”

They’re also conscious of the location, which offers the best of many worlds. Bravo is within easy reach of the fresh produce from the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan.

Up on the roof, there’s a garden with herbs and flowers that will make an appearance on summer dishes.

And De Jaeger uses the herbs to make his special infused vodkas.

Du Plessis and De Jaeger put together the menu and it is interpreted by the kitchen staff.

“It’s constantly changing,” the former said. “We print these menus up ourselves and even colour the ‘Bravo’ in red by hand.”

Wine is another consideration and the wine list at Bravo has, for two years running, been recognized by the Vancouver International Playhouse Wine Festival. At the 2006 event it received a bronze award, the only Fraser Valley restaurant to make the list.

On a recent Thursday visit the restaurant was still busy when three of us arrived around 8 p.m. — and it didn’t let up for an hour.

But that didn’t affect the service, which was exemplary: fast and friendly.

A table was set for us and we were ordering shortly after.

We started with an appetizer each.

One of the chosen was the dish of prawns, sauteed with Pernod and feta. Firm, fresh and generously sized, the shellfish were delicious; flavoured with the tang of the cheese and a touch of the sweetness of anise.

Braised bison shortribs, prepared with a port demi-glace, were tender and rich.

A favourite was the wild mushroom ravioli with gorgonzola cream. It tasted as decadent as it sounds. Two large pockets of a firm pasta enveloped the tasty mushrooms, which had a dusky flavour that left the more pedestrian white mushrooms in the dust.

The cheese added bite to what might otherwise have been an overly-rich sauce.

The chicken entree was a breast stuffed with field mushrooms and prepared with a Marsala demi-glace. Tender, the chicken had a nice, robust flavour.

It was served with lovely scalloped potatoes and cooked just right in a light cream sauce. Side vegetables of asparagus, beans and broccoli were properly steamed, keeping some firmness.

The duck breast, another entree, was a medley of strong but complementary Asian-influenced flavours.

It was prepared with five spice, shiitake mushrooms and spinach and served in a sauce touched with soy.

The rich meat was tender and, along with the vegetables, sat on a crispy cake of mashed potato that had a touch of garlic.

The halibut filet was served on spring vegetables and prepared with a Chardonnay fumet.

Cooked to flaky tenderness in the brothy sauce, the fish was served with fresh and sundried tomatoes, snow peas, chick peas and mushrooms.

It took comfort food to a new level.