It stands inconspicuously on a quiet corner of Somerset Street. The building looks fairly ordinary, and one could easily walk by, not knowing that they just passed an experimental and unique restaurant.
Le Poisson Bleu opened in February with brothers Alex and Eric Bimm and their cousin Sophie Velour at the helm. Eric Bimm says the path towards Le Poisson Bleu started when they were kids at their grandmother’s lavish parties, where food was a central focus. They were enamoured by her ability to create incredible food and bring people together. It was among the main reasons that all three were propelled into the hospitality business. Eventually, they followed a natural progression toward getting together to open their own place, a dream that finally became a reality, with Alex as head chef, Eric as general manager, and Sophie as head bartender.
The trio chose to open a seafood restaurant for several reasons. The Bimm brothers had close familial connections on the East coast. Eric recalls childhood summers walking the beaches, catching crabs, and eating fresh seafood, leaving a big impression. The other reason was simply that all three of them had significant amounts of experience working in seafood restaurants, most notably Ottawa staple The Whalesbone.
When looking at the menu, it can be hard not to gasp at some of the prices: Le Poisson Bleu is among the more expensive restaurants in town (with items such as the seafood charcuterie costing nearly $70), but that’s not without good reason. Eric says fresh and sustainable food is of utmost importance to them, and with a seafood-focused menu in a landlocked city such as Ottawa, it can be a very difficult and expensive endeavour.
“It’s logistically difficult—but possible—to get fresh fish to Ottawa,” Eric says. With decades of industry experience, he’s garnered many contacts in the business and is very knowledgeable on the planning and sourcing required to get fresh ingredients into his restaurants. So logistics were never a worry, but Eric says the price tag has thus far been one of the restaurant’s biggest challenges.
“Many people have been thrown off by the food’s cost, but it’s important to provide the best quality food, and with fish especially, you can taste a big difference in quality.”
Along with the seafood charcuterie (which varies according to season and availability), the menu includes fish and chips, salmon, sautéed squid, oysters, smoked trout beignets, tuna tartare, and steamed clams, with duck confit, a cheese board, salad, and a scotch egg rounding out the non-seafood side of the menu.
What makes Le Poisson Bleu so interesting is its desire to approach fish uniquely. Eric says they “look at fish as a whole animal, rather than just a fillet.” The charcuterie board has previously included items like tuna bone marrow, cod tongue mortadella, and cured tuna loin. Meanwhile, previous specials have featured dishes like smoked swordfish collar tacos and a fluke Kerala curry. Even the more traditional menu items are infused with unique flavours due to the restaurant dry-aging all of the fish it uses.
When asked how he would describe the restaurant, Eric said, “I want it to be a place people could go in, eat super nice food, and have a casual atmosphere.” He emphasized a desire to achieve “casual refinement,” and you can sense it from the restaurant. Le Poisson Bleu provides diners who prefer a formal meal with tasting menus, while those wanting to keep things more affordable can stick to drinks and sharable items.
Going forward, Eric wants Le Poisson Bleu to be a restaurant with a unique style that remains approachable and encourages people to be more adventurous regarding fish: “I want to normalize our more unique menu items,” he said. “I want it to be OK to eat things like fish liver.”
Le Poisson Bleu is located at 610 Somerset St. W. Open for dinner Wed-Sun 5-11pm. Visit the website for menus and reservations.