La Bêtise
By Rachel Ryan

Connecting Cultures Locally

La Bêtise on St-Hubert and Bellechasse is nothing if not distinctive. A tapas bar combining top quality Asian fusion cooking with Quebecois comfort food, this restaurant was going to have a unique vibe even before it was decorated in the style of a Western saloon, complete with chairs covered in cow-hide. Marie Bilodeau shares how it all started.

“We opened in August 2010. The four of us were all working in different Asian restaurants. Our chef cooked at two different Japanese restaurants. We’d all done grad studies in business or law so we had the urge to start something of our own.” Since the four friends were based in the Rosemont–Petite-Patrie area, it seemed lika a logical place to start. “There’s not much hype in this neighbourhood yet, but it is up and coming and we see ourselves as part of that,” Marie explains. “More and more people are going out here, staying in their own neighbourhood rather than leaving to socialize. New bars and cafes have opened since we’ve been here. We refer people to one another so it builds a sense of community. We’ve built a connection with our clientele and the neighbourhood.”

Our chef brings in the best parts of Asian cooking with Quebec comfort food. - Marie Bilodeau, co-owner
Oysters, Tapas, Asian fusion, Poutine, Cocktails

Where Comfort Food and Asian Fusion Meet

Marie admits that La Bêtise was something of a novelty when it first opened. “We were different from any other restaurant in the area. We’re an Asian fusion restaurant – and everyone working here is Asian other than me! People were a bit surprised, some were slightly put off, but others were curious enough to come in and try.” Once they try the food, Marie says all misgivings evaporate. “Our chef brings in the best parts of Asian cooking with Quebec comfort food. We serve a tartar du saumon based on the traditional French, but prepared completely differently – on a bed of avocados, with oriental spices and homemade mayo, spicy teriyaki sauce, and stuffed with tobiko. We also serve our own general tao poutine with fried chicken. They’re our two most popular dishes.”

One of the partners is involved in two other restaurants, which helps when ordering bulk items, and with credit terms for a new business starting up. “Because we had all worked at Asian restaurants already, we had our own contacts,” Marie explains. “And our chef speaks some Vietnamese and Chinese dialects, which is extremely helpful. We’ve hired more people and now have one of the best teams out there. When we first opened it was only staff from other bars and restaurants that knew us, but we’ve developed regular customers over the years and word of mouth brings new customers. It’s very gratifying.”

Oysters, Tapas, Asian fusion, Poutine, Cocktails

Friendly Faces in the Wild West

Because it’s an open kitchen, the staff must be friendly and sociable as well as good cooks. Marie explains that part of the Bêtise ethos is to be open in interaction with the customers – and to put on a good show. “As for our interior design, well, it’s a funny story. We were kind of broke at first, we had no budget and made everything ourselves. We approached a real designer through our other owner (involved in other restaurants) and asked him to give us a deal. He became very focused and thoughtful when he saw the space, and then struck on the cow theme. He gave it a real western look and colour.”

Despite the apparent strangeness of pairing such décor with Asian fusion tapas, Marie says they’re delighted with it. “It’s very distinctive! It draws people in and it’s memorable. It’s a bit odd, but funky like we are, and it works with the name.”

Bêtise means a silly mistake. There’s no direct translation in English. “We like to stay in keeping with a kind of appealing oddness,” Marie explains. “Certainly the western feel made it a bit less threatening to those who might be turned off by Asian food.” For the food and the décor, as well as the delightfully friendly staff, La Bêtise is certainly a place to remember.

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