I don’t know what it is about Courtenay, but it seems that all of this town’s best restaurants are tucked away on obscure side streets or in little strip malls. We found another one just recently – a small, unpretentious bistro-style spot called, simply, bisque. It fit the bill as far as location is concerned – it’s situated on a side street and in a strip mall. And, it certainly runs in the same league as some of Courtenay’s better eating establishments.
bisque is run by the husband-and-wife team of Steve and Maralee Dodd, a couple with extensive backgrounds in the restaurant industry. They have been operating this hidden treasure for five years, with an emphasis on fresh, Island-produced ingredients served with a bit of what Maralee describes as ‘city flair.’
Steve is the main man in the kitchen. He took his formal chef training in Winnipeg, Manitoba before gravitating to the Island. His CV includes a stint at the now-defunct Gourmet By The Sea near Campbell River. He and Maralee both worked in the lush Cowichan Valley as well – another ‘foodie heaven’ on the Island, and one that opened their eyes to the great and varied culinary possibilities to be found here. Steve grew up in the Comox Valley area, so it was a natural for the couple to end up back there to fulfill what seems to be the dream of every chef – his own restaurant.
Neither bisque’s location nor ambiance is pretentious, and the menu isn’t, either. However, it is clear that Steve and Maralee aim to provide innovative and delicious offerings – and they succeed, in spades. We enjoyed a delightful repast and some enjoyable conversation with Maralee, who waits tables in addition to other duties – early on a recent Saturday evening. Her easy-going ways made us feel right at home instantly; the meal that followed ensured that we will return.
Things got off to a tasty beginning with a pair of amuse-bouche, followed (for my husband) with a smooth seafood bisque and a Dungeness crab cake (for me). The crab cake was flavourful and of generous size, but that bisque! All I can say is that its’ memory still brings to me the essence of the ocean and everything good that comes from it.
Our entrees arrived hot and fresh; a beautiful tender schnitzel finished with a wild mushroom hunter’s sauce, accompanied by spaetzle and perfectly-cooked fresh vegetables and a sizeable bowl of home-made linguine brimming with prawns, scallops and mussels. The pasta dish was finished with a mouth-watering sauce that was so good I was compelled to mop up what was left with a piece of the excellent bread.
The dessert menu at bisque is small (a relief, actually – not as much indecision involved as with the main menu.) We settled on sharing a sizeable slice of lemon-ginger cheesecake. It was another good decision, although I think it is probably impossible to make any bad decisions when considering the contents of the bisque menus. The deft combination of the two flavours is little short of sheer bliss, and the light, creamy texture of the cheesecake was a nice change from some of the heavy offerings found in other restaurants.
The great, fresh food combined with a very warm, casual and relaxed atmosphere at bisque produces the end result of a very happy dining experience. You will feel welcome when you arrive, and full upon your departure. Clearly, many Courtenay residents have already discovered this – now you are in on the secret too!
Further information on bisque can be found at the restaurant’s website at
bisque is located at #307-b 14th Street, Courtenay
Reservations advised; wheelchair accessible
Price rating: $$
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.68624612546551 Long. -124.99339431524277
N 49 41.175 W 124 59.604