Friday, November 19, 2010

Enlightenment & noodles....

I haven't been to Toronto in 10 years - what made me go?  Well, the Dalai Lama doesn't stop by every day, so we went to visit him (along with over 17,000 other of his close friends) at the Rogers Centre - a wonderful afternoon chat.

Yes, the CN Tower is still there, but we found some other interesting places to visit.

But what I was really in search of was a real bowl of Japanese ramen - those lovely chewy noodles so poorly represented by Cup-Noodle and the plethora of fried/dried/compressed instant noodles you can find in any grocery store now...

Chowhounds led us to Kenzo Ramen, on Dundas Street West, tucked away along a nondescript streetscape, but with a red ramen sign (in Japanese of course!) luring us in...
Great menu - drool inducing photos - I was ready...
We ordered the King of the Kings ramen, which was spicier than I thought - with 5 toppings (wakame (seaweed), soft boiled egg, fish roll, green onions, and pork).
As it was getting really chilly, and we were coming down from our Dalai Lama high, AND I was starving - the warm spicy broth and chewy noodles filled me with joy - slurp slurp!
Donald ordered yakisoba - stir fried noodles and veggies in a sweet/savoury sauce - House-of Parliament-ish.  I think they use tonkatsu sauce...
He also insisted we try the Tako yaki - or octopus balls!  A chunk of octopus cooked into a pancake globe, topped with more tonkatsu sauce and bonito flakes...  I've never been much of a fan, and this is always better eaten from a street stall in Japan on a chilly day - but it did bring back memories!  Note the nice disposable wooden boat it is served in.
Great atmosphere - always a good sign when an Asian restaurant actually has asian clientele!
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal, with a beer - warmed us to the core, and brought us to a more contented state - enlightenment NOW!  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Farm to Table @ Savana Cafe

On a chilly November 1st evening, Savana Cafe hosted their first Farm to Table meal with local produce provided by Mariposa Farm and wines from Prince Edward County's Rosehall Run.

Tucked away in a Victorian home on Gilmour, we entered the Carribean-inspired restaurant to experience a very different meal prepared by Savana's chef of 1.5 years, Michael Radford, former sous chef at Ei8hteen.  We started the evening off with a fruity rum cocktail as the restaurant filled - a sell out.

First course:  Butternut squash soup with an  Allegreto cheese foam, served like a cappacino, dusted with a pepita cocoa nib sambal on top.  Amazingly complex flavours - and we were rewarded by the surprise of chunks of duck crackling with each spoon...  very hard not to lick the bowl clean!
The soup was paired with this oaky 2008 Chardonnay cuvee county that beautifully matched the intense flavours.  Donald gave this one 5 stars...
 Second course:  Scallop crudo nestled on a strip of laquered pork belly, with radish watermelon and tomatillo chunks.  Wow!  The scallops delicately firmed up by the lime marinade - with the salty pork to balance the acid.  And what's that on top?  Yes, foie gras snow....

 This was paired with a chardonnay musque - not an oak tree in sight - almost sauvignon-blanc-like - fresh and fruity. Donald's rating = 4

 Third course: Beef shortrib ravioli, with beets, bleu Benedictin cheese, beet veal jus, truffle oil and chives.  Unbelievable flavour, from the salty beefy ravioli to the tiny purple skinned turnip on top - loved the veggies in that beet jus...  This was paired with Rosehall Run's Cabernet Franc = Donald's least favourite = 3.
 Fourth course: On to the main (!!?!?!) course - duck 4-ways!  Sherry glazed duck breast, foie gras du canard, duck confit bathed in a salty delicious duck sauce.  The foie gras was served on a slice of heirloom corn bread, with greens, blue potatoes, fried plantain and apple balancing out the plate.

 A lovely pairing of Rosehall's 2008 Pinot Noir - we were all very very happy with this dish. And the wine : 4.

Fifth/dessert course: Any room left?  Dessert was a candied ginger cake, topped with sweetened creme fraiche, with malted milk ice cream, apple compote and pumpkin pudding.  Lots of tropical spice flavours here.

Rosehall Run's Dan Sullivan and Mariposa Farm's Ian Walker.  Spent lots of time with us talking wine and food in Ottawa.
 Ian and chef Michael Radford - looking forward to trying more of his creations.

Here we are before it all happened... we hope this is the first of more evenings like this!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Restaurants in Ottawa's Byward Market

I often get asked for restaurant recommendations for the Byward Market in Ottawa. It's a very special part of Ottawa, and perhaps that's its downfall - as in many touristy areas, there are always loads of mediocre restaurants that live off the tourists that only come to Ottawa once in their lifetime...

The list was made for a meeting, so the choices are quite varied, but we avoided smaller places that were on the outskirts of the market (see some additions at the bottom). These lists are in no particular order.

Decent affordable restaurants :
  • Haveli’s: indian $$
  • Khao Thai: $$
  • Vittoria Trattoria: italian $$$
  • Metropolitan: french $$ - $$$
  • Milestones: roadhouse $$
  • Lapointe’s Seafood $$
Good but expensive ($$$ - $$$$):
  • Murray St Bistro: homemade charcuterie a speciality - won a spot on the 2009 best new restaurant list in En Route magazine
  • Navarra: spanish nouvelle cuisine
  • Domus CafĂ©: high end canadian regional cuisine
  • Sweet Grass Aboriginal Bistro
  • Play Food & Wine: Beckta's resto in the market, but can be inconsistent
  • Kinki: fusion sushi
Small venues:
  • La Botegga: my all time fav - lunch counter is a hidden gem
  • Ahora: mexican fast food
  • Benny’s Bistro: cute little bistro with consistently interesting dishes - great brunch
My favs are underlined. Two favorites that are missing are: