Friday, 28 March 2014

Ottawa's restaurant scene in the Capital

For years Ottawa had very little to offer in terms of good restaurants, with the turn of the millenium everything changed. We now have a serious food scene and here is a compilation of the best in the Capital. Of this list I have been to several of them more than once. I would certainly recommend them and see my list of preferred at the bottom of this post.

Black Cat Bistro
Where: 428 Preston St.
Type of food: Modern French bistro
Words of praise: "The flavours and textures were already expertly layered, without my having to do the work of dabbing and assembling all sorts of dips, foams, and frills." - Ottawa magazine
Navarra by Rene Rodriguez
Where: 93 Murray St.
Type of food: Spanish and Mexican
Words of praise: "[How] could your meal be as good as the extravaganza of dinner at Navarra? Indeed, you could pose the same question to all of Rodriguez’s competition." - Ottawa Citizen
Bonus reasonRodriguez is competing on season four of Top Chef Canada.
Where: 296 Elgin St.
Type of food: Modern Italian
Words of praise: "Every so often a restaurant surfaces that, right from the get-go, seems exactly in the swing of its time and place. Such is Town." - Capital Dining
Oz Kafe
Where: 361 Elgin St.
Type of food: Asian shared plates with a twist of Mexican
Words of praise: "But the real magic of Oz is that its tiny closet of a kitchen has the best karma in town." - Ottawa magazine
Fraser Cafe
Where: 7 Springfield Rd.
Type of food: Seasonal and local
Words of praise: "[We] want a restaurant with thoughtful, fresh, delicious food that doesn’t require an enormous splurge. Fraser Café is all that." - Ottawa Magazine
Restaurant 18
Where: 18 York St.
Type of food: 'Cutting edge' French-based cuisine
Words of praise: "When you are rating a restaurant you want to be sure that you do not become too generous in your praise lest no one believes you. But 18 is one of those that requires an alltogether [sic] different scale." - OpenTable
The Whalesbone and The Elmsdale Oyster House & Tavern
Where: 430 Bank St., and 1084 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Seafood, of course, that is sustainably sourced
Words of praise: "I love a place with a raunchy vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is The Whalesbone Oyster House menu pricey? Yes it is, but my friends, that’s the price you pay for sustainable seafood, line-caught, farmed in sound conditions and approved by the watchers of the sea at Ocean Wise." - Food Gypsy
Murray Street
Where: 110 Murray St.
Type of food: A carnivore's dream
Words of praise: "They take ordinary things and they do an extraordinary way of preparing them." - Food Network Canada
Where: 18b York St.
Type of food: Thai-influenced tacos
Words of praise: "Refreshingly unlike anything else in Ottawa, Sidedoor is about small, Mexican and Asian-inspired, produce-driven sharing plates." - Capital Dining.
Bonus reason: He was the second runner-up for Top Chef Canada's season three.
El Camino
Where: 380 Elgin St.
Type of food: "Tacos. Tequila. Raw bar."
Words of praise: "We didn’t recall a place having such high energy on a Wednesday night on Elgin street in quite a while.
There was a good reason. The place was fantastic and didn’t affect our pocket books too much." - Apartment 613
Supply and Demand
Where: 1335 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Heavy on the seafood, with pasta thrown in
Words of praise: "All in all one of the best meals I've had in Ottawa, even though I'm not much of a shellfish person. My boyfriend and I have already made plans to go back." - Ottawa Foodies
Where: 6400 Hazeldean Rd.
Type of food: Asian-influenced cuisine
Words of praise: "[The] food presented an exceptional balance of textures crisp, crunch, soft and supple, embellishments salty and sweet, rich yet refreshing, often on the same plate." - Ron Eade
Where: 337 Richmond Rd.
Type of food: Global cuisine
Words of praise: "The Lake Erie Pickerel was seasoned to perfection, laid on a bed of salted fingerling potatoes and chard. If you are looking for light but filling, this dish was perfect." - Food Search Ottawa
Where: 87 Holland Ave.
Type of food: Fresh and local, with a constantly changing menu
Words of praise: "Allium is our favourite spot in Ottawa. Delicious food, complex enough to be special but still accessible." - TripAdvisor
Where: 540 Rochester St.
Type of food: (Stunning) molecular gastronomy
Words of praise: "[Chef Marc Lapine] masters the unique modernist techniques and weaves them into the local and seasonally inspired ingredients, while having fun with his menu descriptions."
Union 613
Where: 315 Somerset St. W.
Type of food: "The Canadian take on Southern hospitality," so lots of comfort food
Words of praise: "With its communal seating, ear-busting playlist, and late-into-the-night hours, Union is ushering Ottawa into a new dining dimension, already adored by restaurant-industry insiders and those who think everything’s better when smothered in Thousand Island dressing." - Ottawa magazine
Where: 1208 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Contemporary comfort food (and fondue Mondays!)
Words of praise: "This joint is one of the most reliable in the city, IMO. Relaxed but professional servers, good wine list and good variety of delicious dishes make this a solid stand by." - Ottawa Foodies
Zen Kitchen
Where: 634 Somerset St. W.
Type of food: Vegan healthy, whole foods prepared in an environmentally friendly manner
Words of praise: "The food is so satisfying, so balanced, and so incredibly varied -- nothing like the old-fashioned stereotypic if not cafeteria-like vegetarian eateries where you pile greens and sprouts on a tray to weigh at the cash register." - Ron Eade
Domus Cafe
Where: 87 Murray St.
Type of food: Canadian, with a focus on local ingredients
Words of praise: "Domus never fails to satisfy me. We go there at least once a year on special occasions. Last time was my 10 year anniversary." - Ottawa Foodies
Where: 366 Dalhousie St.
Type of food: Made with beer!
Words of praise: "There’s an excellent burger and fries, to be sure, but the menu otherwise travels as far as possible from traditional pub fare. Forget baskets of greasy nachos and wings — Flowers opts to make a delicate tuna crudo and plates it beautifully." - Ottawa magazine

So here is my list based on what I know and have tasted.
I really enjoyed the quality of the food and the service coupled with the imagination the Chef showed in preparing and presenting dishes at the following restaurants,
my list of restaurants in no specific order;  OZ Café, Absinthe, Fraser Café, Allium, El Camino, the Whalesbone, Play Food and Wine on York Street. We will be trying out Union 613 this week, I have been wanting to go there for a long time.

On another good cheerful note, I am happy to report that Yesterday's in Spark Street at O'Connor the last of those dreadful Ottawa Family restaurants has closed and is gone. Thank You GOD. Yesterday's formerly known as Sharry's was one of those restaurant which at one point in the very early 60's could pass for a restaurant, service was surly, food lukewarm and the theme of the restaurant was more important than the cuisine, not to mention the fact that it was for families with lots of screaming kids, stretch pants and well you get the picture. All those restaurants are gone and this was the last one to go. Not a minute too soon, a blight on Sparks street just one block from Parliament.


  1. I notice you did not list the local THs. Is this an egregious error or a sign TH does not capture the haute cuisine of Ottawa?

  2. You are going to get such a slap!