Friday, December 28, 2007

Totoya on Dalhousie

Well, I have finally ventured on to Totoya, since I had heard so much about it on, the place where I learnt that there is actually a Swiss restaurant in Ottawa… fondue everything….

But first a few words about current trends in eating….

Poutine, see as the new cuisine canadiana, now where could that go….? Heard that it was good for hangovers, but any milk product is good for hangovers… try a glass of milk before you pass out after a night on the town…. Or better still before you go out on the town… The morning after poutine would probably be too late…. Maybe in a century it’ll replace pizza as the true north’s cuisine des arts. And I wonder what Health Canada would have to say…

And eating in the dark….! Now that’s a trend that the blind can follow…. Jap food is definitely out, because all they have is presentation! I wonder if they cover the laundry bill after….?

Back to Totoya and why I went… alone, for lunch on a cold winter’s day… I had heard so much about it from the web sites in Ottawa that I had to give it a try… (They had jap pizza too…)

Disappointment is the only word I have for it….. And it is run by Japanese…..!!! $80 pp for lunch is very expensive, but then jap food in Ottawa is expensive… except those run by those frugal chinks… Takara just up the street is a case in point….. I had heard so much about the ramen though…..

I asked if they had toro and uni … and surprise…. they had uni... (By the way, uni comes in from Boston on Thursdays… and I am beginning to wonder whether the larger cities have usurped all of the toro…)

So I said I’ll have the omakasi…. you choose… six pieces…. And I’ll have the uni in it…. Sure test of freshness of the sushi… They said they didn’t have any omakasi, but they would bring six pieces of sushi as an appetizer…. Great… test failure… I had expected that I would get six different pieces to please…, instead I got two uni, two salmon and two maguro…. The uni was fresh enough… (and believe me… I have had bad uni in Kingston, Ont., at an established jap restaurant…), the salmon was quite fresh, but you know my thoughts on salmon…. most parasitic of the sushi’s and not really eaten by the japs…and the maguro was pretty bad… also the choice was non existent… still think Ichibei has the best sushi in Ottawa… benchmark that….yuck….

Then the piece de resistance… ramen is only available at lunch… fine, it’s hamburgers for the japs or kfc…. And it was pretty so so… granted I have never had it in Japan… but those folks who have, must have been to some pretty so so restaurants in Japan. The broth was ok…a little low in quantity and thick in taste… but the ingredients were easy to come by… (like the viet pho’s, the soup broth and au dent-ness of the noodles is the thing…), and I can do it better at home with the packaged noodles and for less than the $17 price tag…. The noodles were overcooked… a cardinal sin… and the pepper was… well… pepper… not the jap stuff….

I toyed with the idea of having the sushi lunch… but was only interested in the nigiri sushi… mistake… The difference in price was $10… quite a bit…. (uni $13, salmon $10 and maguro $7). And I didn’t get soup, salad and rice…

In short… not a place for sushi; and totoya ramen was the only ramen on the menu… the other two noodles were udons with tempura… I had expected much more… like 6 different pieces of nigiri sushi and a number of ramen to choose from…. With tea and saki (the cold booze, not the salmon), for lunch $80…choke… next time I will try the little jap fast food place in the market mall... which had udons for under $7…..

Checked out the dinner menu and it was not much better… definitely not a ‘full’ jap restaurant like Suisha or even Ichibei…. There were some domburis, but not much else…. Definitely trying to be a ‘fast food jap place’.

0/5 on my scale of restaurants to eat at… for Japanese; and my benchmark Suisha Gardens only gets 2/5… Mark it up appropriately…..

Interesting clientèle though… mostly locals who frequent the place, it was ¾ empty at lunch in the market on a holiday Friday… a francophone that spoke Japanese, who spoke constantly to the chef, rather than his guest…. wonder what he ate... and most people greeted by name… doesn’t impress me as I only look at the food, but puts context around other comments I have heard….

Picture was taken by and my ramen was not as colourful, no greens and reds, but two half eggs…must have run out of ingredients….

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Firestone Conspiracy

Did you know that the Firestone family... late of Senators fame, owns the Metropolitain linked to Empire Grill as well as the Luxe, Stella and Blue Cactus group? Wonder what else they own.

Talk about the chinese food oligopoly. No wonder eating out is so expensive in Ottawa for the medium priced ($40 - $120 pp) restaurants.

Ciccio Cafe and Le Panache Cafe

Ciccio's on Preston and Panache on Somerset. The former to be laid to rest soon and the latter... is already semi dead.

As for Ciccio's, that's the last time I go there... I woke up at 1:40am and had that same sinking feeling as I did from Le Panache... think it's the msg again. I get a reaction from drinking red wine with msg.... was awake the rest of the night!

Too bad that these restaurants are all falling by the wayside with retirements and old age.... Speedi, right? Think he used to work at La Strata way back and then moved to Ciccio's. He's the one they wrote about in the citizen and my friend loved the bread he baked fresh every morning and the tiramisu that was one of the best in Ottawa. Apparently Speedi passed away in the fall. The bread was cold and rock hard; and the tiramisu was passable. I had the pork roulades ... msg city, but just tasted over-salted at the time. Friend had the raviolis ... which was not bad. 1/2 litre of wine, a salad to share and the bill was $50 a person. And no speedi to sing for us and no osso buco, one of my favorites at this place.. with none in sight... I was told. It was fairly full though so the word hasn't gotten around yet.

Le Panache on Somerset... awful amount of msg, empty on a Saturday night... think msg was used as a preservative here because of the lack of business. Mama and papa waiting to retire... best turn it back into a chinese restaurant... it was so bad... Or as the saying goes, 'they shoot horses, don't they?'

Small wonder that people in Ottawa would rather eat at home.... I am only going to waste my time writing about really good places or really bad places from now on. These two are the ones that would rate 0/5 on my 6 point scale. Metropolitain based on the one shot... 2/5. (I wasn't going to write about it, but my son insisted...) Beckta's, the benchmark 3/5. Heard Benitz on Somerset is supposedly good... almost afraid to waste my money.....

2007 12 22.

Metropolitain Brasserie

We had dinner at the Metropolitain Brasserie which is one of 'the' places to eat in Ottawa these days.

But Ottawa is really not a town that thrives on eateries. Most bistros I had called were closed Sunday nights... and this place's kitchen was closing at 8pm. I asked if the chef was in.. he was not... just the sous.. so we ordered accordingly and the results showed.

Appetizers of foie gras was passable... duck confit, dry and awful. We all had beef, my son the black pepper steak and daughter and I shared the chef's rib cut for two. Both were excellent, cooked exactly right... and daughter had a cream caramel, which was ok. A bottle of very nice Spanish red, three teas and an aperitif came to $100 a person. Kind of expensive.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sushi in Ottawa... there is none...

Will put more on my blog when I get time, but the most recent discovery is Sushi Time on Queen Street in Toronto. It is run by a Chinese chef from Hong Kong who has worked in Japan. As a result, he has merged some of the best Chinese orientations to this Jap dim sum… and with creativity. And it’s not all raw fish….. The guy’s name is Tony…and that’s about all the facts I know at this point, but the program was pretty impressive and you’d have to speak Cantonese to get it, but he has squid with melted cheese, eggplant deep fried topped with raw tuna, sushi made with fruit and fried salmon roe…. The tastes are of course in the sauces and ingredients, and are supposedly magical.

Goes to show what we have in Ottawa… how low the standards are and where we have to go to get decent multi cultural food and vindicates my berating of Chinese cooks usurping other cuisines like Thai and Jap because of the margins in Ottawa. Until we get world class chefs here, there will always be a niche for someone to make money…. Or maybe not… does Ottawa really know what to eat?

Also read Desbrisay’s pieces in this past Sunday’s paper and you will see why I don’t think much of her reviews….

2007 11 19. Aspy's Birthday....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mukut Indian Restaurant on Rideau

Was one of my fav Indian places, but my latest experience last night was:

Mukut is now off my list of Indian restaurants to eat at. The chicken tikka, should have been tandoori pieces cooked in a more buttery sauce, less coconut. The boona gost was essentially tasteless, certain de-spiced to death and aloo gobi was pretty well tasteless as well for a curry.

The latest rumour in the Indian community is that Little India on Carling is probably one of the best Indian Restaurants in Ottawa. I have been many years ago, but then I liked Mukut as well. I am sure the owners at Mukut has changed, as I believe has the owners of Little India since then.

The futility of following restaurants.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ichibei, Suisha, Genji, Wasabi, Takara, and other Jap Restaurants, or the ones that want to be Jap vs Korean!

2007 11 11.. or thereabouts...

I went back to Ichibei for lunch recently and dropped $30 for lunch! The part I wanted to share was my chat with the sushi chef.....

Apparently he was the main sushi chef at Suisha Gardens! But wanted to start his own place... he was grumpy, but with a few enticements, divulged what he thought of Ramen and that the new center town place that has that great ramen that is so close to Japan, as some of the folks on Ottawa foodies have suggested....

As suspected ramen is fast food, like hamburgers, in Japan... I knew this, but to charge $17 a bowl... god forbid, where is the 'eating sense' in Ottawa.

Probably the only Jap rest I have not visited...... even forgotten it's name.... (Totoya)

and fish comes in twice a week, Tuesdays from east coast and Thursday from the west coast... uni actually comes in from Boston and toro... forget about it.... go to Tor.

2007 11 28.

Let me start by saying that there is an inordinate amount of interest in the Jap restaurants in Ottawa, & on the web... don't any of you know how to eat Jap food? ..... (I will give a tutorial as part of this piece....!!!)

I also noticed that the names of the restaurants in the title gets more hits.. shows how much you guys know about food... try or the yellow pages....!

revised.. 2007 08 25.

Ichibei @ 197 Bank

At $50-$60 pp all in for dinner, and no booze, this place is medium priced; as are all Jap restaurants run by Japs. That's why the chinks (I am a chink and I know the margins!!!) have gotten a hold of the margins!.

Over $100 for dinner, without booze and tip and taxes is expensive...., ok?

Now Ichibei...

At least the raw fish is fresh... OmaKasi (sushi chef decides on what’s fresh and he sets it up for you) ...Toro, Sable fish, Mackerel and Salmon. Extremely fresh... just about as good as it gets on a Thursday night in Ottawa. Especially the Saba or Mackerel, which is a challenging nigiri sushi fish at the best of times. At a buck a piece, it was cheap... 3 x 4 pieces... (They didn’t have uni, alas...) ....... And you know my opinions on salmon sushi.... it is always fresh... snicker...

The dinners were pretty standard; steak, trout and eel.

The trout was the most interesting, unfortunately ordered by a transitioning vegetarian, so the crispy skin was not appreciated, nor the head and cheeks of the fish. Nicely de-boned.

The eel was nice and moist and ‘fatty’. I kind of like it a little more dry and crispy, but this had an interesting flavour to it. (humility here... more later...)

At $25 a shot/dinner, a little expensive. Each dinner came with miso soup, rice and a mayo based appetizer, the last of which was nothing to write home about.

(Have stories about service (sukiyaki), good, (and humility about the eel!) and the sushi chef, grumpy, .... but will add these later..... keep in touch.... and try to read the rest of the site for the 'basis' of my opinions.....!)

Another $12 for a steak appetizer that was also expensive and 'good' tasting. That, with three green teas and no dessert came to $150 for the group of three.

All you can eat sushi (Sushi Kan) may not be as fresh, but a heck of a lot cheaper! (see other parts of this site) ...

Is it better than Genji, the fish is fresher, but it is more expensive, so there is less ‘value’. (see Genji review on this site, I liked them for trying, in a chinese way, so hard....). Compared to Suisha Gardens (baseline) ... I would say that it is a little more expensive than necessary. And they didn’t really provide amuse bouches....

So I would say, traditional, fresh fish, but little creativity in changing with the times...

(I personally know the manager of suisha, my kendo assistant coach, so I know he has been trying very hard to make it THE definitive Jap restaurant in Ottawa. He is doing a great job! But alas innovation is the new holy grail....)

And yes I have been here at Ichibei, many times before, for lunch and dinner, but not in the last couple of years or so.... My opinion has not changed and they have not improved. Only prices are slightly higher.

Will have more later on the other two parameters.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Foodies Sites and a Good Read

Now this is a site to visit for an interesting read about food and travel. (I am not a writer nor a food reviewer, so I can be sloppy in my comments, but they are all 'tongue in cheek')

Perhaps all those anal retentive folks on copyright laws, malaprops, puns and other things to do with language and its usage, can get an education on what it means to be a writer as well as a lover of food and life.

This is the context that my stuff should be read in!

And just for the record, right here, I have nothing against chinese chefs or cooks, as long as they can cook. Copying Thai, Italian, Indian or other cuisines and doing a bad job is what I would rail against as a 'place run by chinese'.... I am fully aware of Susur Lee and others as well as the funny ones like 'Wok with Yan' and 'Yan can cook', whom I do admire and have the utmost respect for. But stick with what you know.... (An average to good 'chinese' cook that has potential in Ottawa is the viet at 4 cuisines. Try them out.....)

That's the way I call them..... in all my blog notes here.....


Thursday, August 09, 2007


I do re visit restaurants and provide updates.... but I do not know how to set it up in the system such that it is by restaurant....

so check out, once more, the restaurants that you are interested in... for an update... like Jo Moon Ting.... etc. Karma karma in the indian section.....

I also find that 'by restaurant' gets more hits...

tell me if I am wrong...


Tuscon, Thruway and other pubs/eateries

2007 10 22.... add another one of those pub non-descript eateries to the list called Tucson on Bank at Hunt Club..... some interesting bands, and items on menu, but ingredients suck, so quality of output is so-so. Service, pretty well like all other pubs. The Fosters ads work on the way in....

Thruway Restaurant in Carleton Place & other family/pub restaurants

This story is really about asking the locals where to eat..... one of my cardinal rules, or pet peeves....; ask a chink where to eat chinese, a paki, Indian, a jap, Japanese... etc.

Actually that would be a paki..Pakistani... (there is no difference except for religion....) but I couldn't think of anything derogatory to say about Indians... except those crazy Sikhs.... the Singhs... that is... They are like the newfies to Canadians, as they are to the Indians.... the butt of all jokes.... the joke is that the turban retains heat.... Indians would love this one...

Anyway, if you are ever by Carleton Place this is where the locals eat.... It's a wonderful family restaurant with beer, vino and reasonably priced food, for large portions.... good service (Brodie was fast, efficient, friendly and just the right distance away....), like heart & crown (I'm thinking the new place on Preston, which I have also been) and other pub type places in Ottawa, beats eating at Macdonald's, Timmy's or the riverfest... the food really sucked at riverfest... and that was the reason I was down there....

Prices are $40 for dinner for one, not cheap, but average nowadays.... but I had 2 x 20oz drafts for only $10 before taxes and tips... and a rib steak dinner for $19. This included soup or salad, the steak was a decent cut and size... much like the ones I used to have at La Strada's for $36... a Delmonico rib steak... with great home fries... and veggies and mushrooms and ... well... you get the idea. Friends had fried chicken.. not bad, but good value... shrimp pasta, ... all good...

Sort of like Ruby's on Corner Gas... only the food and drink is more like Heart & Crown.... actually probably food is better cause the guy can cook.... and he buys & serves good ingredients. 6/10 for those who want a rating.

But I do play a lot of golf in the area and have friends... scots most of them... in the Perth ... Pike Lake areas ... so here's a place to eat if you're in the area... good family/pub place in the heart of Carleton place... 10432 Hwy 7.

UUUooohhhh... there is another.... on the same strip, but I have not tried... in the spirit of star wars....

Use the force.. Luke.... use the force....

This is where the locals eat.......


Sweet Basil, Anna's and Nokham's

Ottawa Thai Restaurants

I was asked recently what I thought of the Ottawa Thai restaurants scene and which was the best and the one I would go to…

I will put a little more meat around this piece, but initially the baseline will be:

Sweet Basil and Anna. Run by the same guy… forget his name… a multi syllable monstrosity like Visakhapatnam… (which is an Indian sea port by the way…) original owners of Siam Bistro and Siam Kitchen…. (I wouldn’t eat at these nowadays… as they are run by non-thai cooks…..maybe even chinese….) Tastes at Anna and SB, and I have never been to Thailand… for Ottawa and Canadian standards, probably the best, but way expensive than necessary. ‘It is food fit for a Thai king’. Think he had some royal connections or aspirations….. and also some involvement on the monopoly/restrictions of food and recipe exports from Thailand….. (think Anne DesB did a piece on them/this about 15 years ago…..)

Nokham’s and it now has a sister restaurant run by his daughter. ‘Noble Thai’ or snobby Thai… trying hard to be king, pretty traditional based on Anna and SB.… but way expensive again.

On the cheap side now… Bangkok Thai on Dalhousie. Peasant foods run by peasant Thais... very good value for just about pretty close to the taste of Anna and SB. I take all my friends there if I am buying.

And chinese thai... Royal Thai, also on Dal… owned by the same chinese guy as Palais Imperial and Mandarin Ogilvy. Another one of those chinese guys seeing the margins in Thai food….. Not too expensive, but I have heard the food is not very good… I have been and think it’s ok for what it is… chinese thai… not the Anna/SB standards. Cheap thai is better.

And the Anna and SB standards are unfortunately the only ones I know. I have had thai food in Toronto which was pitiful compared to Anna’s as well as on the east coast. Of course these are walk in’s with no prior knowledge or info… the worst way to visit a restaurant, but I thought I would be safe in Toronto! Wrong...

And of course this does not include those near Thais or Thai bistros that have relatively good food… like 4 cuisines, hot peppers etc… Like everyone has a pad thai, which is chow mien, essentially. I think the Loblaw’s one is pretty good….

The only others that I would say aren’t great are the green papaya’s, coriander’s, etc that I have tried, but not as memorable as you guessed it… Anna’s and SB. And prices are close to Nokham and Anna…so….

Reports from friends who have visited Thailand are that the place is as bad as they make it sound… cheap sex… and odd sex and child sex….; and it is really cheap for meals…. And street food is actually quite tasty… but… Guess you have to be a king to get food in Thailand….


Saturday, August 04, 2007



Had a German Fraulein as a friend once and she introduced me to this strange name for a white wine…, not being a white wine drinker at all back then. It’s in the past tense now of course, but I never did forget the experience...

Only recently did I find out that Gewürztraminer means a spicy white wine… and the German word for Gewurzt is spicy? Or is that the other way around?

Being such an un-spicy country… sauer being the taste of the kraut…. this is as spicy as it gets, and I wondered about how the two connected…. well it is German and it’s from the Alsace.

See for further info... the magic of the net…..

No wonder German food is so un-spicy…. Goes well with chinese food though…. Kind of a spicy, but not as spicy as Indian food level of spiciness I guess…. And goes with fatty foods… another chinese food anomaly….. Have the dryer Gerzt though.

Pinot Gris anyone….?


Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Asian Restaurant

Oh, No... Not another Chinese restaurant!

Yes, indeed, the less I want to write about them, the more I gravitate towards them. New Asian Restaurant at 258 Bank at Cooper.

Now a picture is worth a thousand words.... and there are lots of sites now with lovely pics. But do you need a thousand words to say something that is not worth saying? Pictures do lie.... as well. It’s like Stats, damn stats and lies.

Anyway, the point here is that the restaurant has some really nice pics in the front, but the food, well, it’s not quite as good. It’s not bad.... and I am here to sing the praises of this place beside the food..... Now that’s a twist, right? And Chinese food at that as well.

And so what’s so special about this place beside it being like any other greasy spoon with nice pics outside....

Had been meaning to try this place for some time, since it was close to where I worked before I started consulting. It opened around 4-5 years ago. And have been back twice since my recent visit.... It's one of those 'personable' restaurants (think Hino’s) that once you get to know the owner and cook, he can make up whatever you like and give you special treatment.... Food is not bad..., but convenience... and home cooking essentially...

They actually specialize in Sichuan Chinese (West). The food taste alright, but the cook is actually from Hebei (North) and if you get to know him... and I am not the first to say this apparently, he’ll cook up whatever you like. They have Italian food on the menu! The take out menu looks like any Cantonese (South) or Canadian Chinese place. Also they provided an interesting array of fruits for dessert... like an expensive hotel restaurant. The cook obviously has been around and has worked in different restaurants around town. Came from China 9 years ago to be with his family... wife is an engineer (came 13 years ago)....... beat that one for a curve.

But if nothing else, here is a chance of East meeting West in Ottawa and with very ‘personal’ service. Home cooking without cooking at home.

Prices are reasonable especially if you get specially prepared meals. Did not check out their washrooms, but not expecting much there. Presentation... excellent... very western... like Mekong, Ging Sing... etc.

‘Eclectic East meets West’ would be a good way to put it. But don’t expect fusion. Or its associated prices. And it’s right on what now is starting to be a restaurant strip...

Small format, so not conducive to large groups...

2007 08 02.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Anne DesBrisay's reviews of Courtyard, Jadeland, Mekong, Chu Shing and others

2007 09 07

One more dish that Jadeland makes that I have not been able to get anywhere in Ottawa, or for that matter in Canada, but I am sure if one knows in TO or Van, one could find it, is 'Minced pork steamed with salty preserved duck eggs'. It is one of those 'mom it the best' type dishes and there is a long story there about allergy to chicken eggs, but this will work, ... etc...

See, I don't hate chinese cooks, as long as they cook chinese food, or what they are good at....

Unfortunately, Ottawa is full of these 'specialty' restaurants where they can't seem to get it all right all the time...

Jadeland also does a good job of Back Bacon cooked with preserved vegetables, beggars chicken, although they call it salt baked chicken on the menu ... all of which are not seafood....

And Jade Tree Chicken, which is a de-boned sliced chicken with ham slices and chinese broccoli, if you see it, you will understand... presentation is all..., but they don't like to make it as it is time consuming and they need specialty ham. The last few times I have been there, they have just put sliced deli ham..... bad...., but the chicken and veggies with sauce, is still excellent. The price though is expensive, for a half chicken... $25... but this and Yangtze, in Ottawa, are the only two places that can make it... alas they should try to buy the real thick canned ham to make it!!!

They also put oyster sauce in all their beef stir fries , like Wok with Yan....

2007 08 24

Here's a kudos first to Anne DesB. She did a great review of the Courtyard restaurant in the Citizen Sunday the 19th instant. Funny and to the point. Only thing I would add is $100 pp before drinks, tax and tip is way expensive and let's hope the food is as enlightened as Anne makes it out to be. Also think history on Marc Lepine is that he cooked at the French embassy or something, but that would have been an interesting aside.

That being said, Chu Shing is on par with Jadeland in terms of cost/benefit for food tastes. They are both cheap. $20pp all in, including a beer, for dinner, is cheap in my book. Chu Shing is better though for large groups of 6 or more. Format. But service really needs work. That's cause the owner hires young girls/women from china right off the boat. Slave labour and not trained in the service of the masses. (Beckta would be just the diametrical opposite on this front.) Jadeland is way small and kitchen cannot handle a crowd, as was witnessed by myself many times over, but especially when I brought a group of 7 over one evening with reservations for dinner. Because it is so small, the service is of course relatively better. But essentially there is not much difference in the food of either place, Chu Shing being slightly better. Seafood at Jadeland is not great per DesB review!

Mekong has one of the most creative, innovative chinese/viet restaurateurs in Ottawa. Long history there and we go back a long way to the days when he was a waiter in Yang Shing in the '70s. The selling of art on the walls, the hiring of chefs to do decent western style chinese cooking are all his ideas. Firsts in Ottawa and probably around Canada. But the only really outstanding dishes at this place is the Hunan Beef. Which, and one of the chefs who left and is at Ging Sing, very few can do as well. It is by far the best in Ottawa and Ontario. I am sure that if one tried hard, one could find similar in Toronto and Vancouver. But it is nonpareil. And the fish is done quite nicely here as well, especially steamed or flash fried with asparagus or pea shots. But you know, that's about it.... The other stuff that Anne raves about are just middle of the road and can be found anywhere in Ottawa. Mekong is also expensive..., run you about $40pp all in with drinks....

And knowing Anne is such an icon, she wouldn't mind a few hits, especially since she knows so little about Asian food.

Wok flavour, go to Royal Treasure..... fried seafood included, they don't steam because it uses up a wok, so they are out of touch there....


Have to knock Anne DesBrisay's recent review of Mekong and an older one of Jadeland.... in context.... have to think of a smart way to say it... in the works...

quickly though.. she's way off the mark on both Mekong and Jadeland and like I have said here before... she may know French/European food, but her appreciation of everything else is limited to her ability to taste the ingredients... And one would hope that a cuisine is more than the sum of its parts... synergy they called it in the '80s... but it's been around a lot longer than that....


Monday, July 23, 2007

Anne Hardy's Where to Eat in Canada

And how does Anne Hardy's autochthonous guide (read seminal) compare to the Michelin guide? I should certainly have something to say!

Off hand... I would say that her three stars could possibly qualify for a one Michelin star.... quite accurately....

I like her guide... and I think that Canada as a place to eat is nowhere close to France.... but the two stars I went to in Bordeaux had their own bakery, winery and just about everything you'd want in a cuisine, let alone a restaurant.....

For all of those who travel frequently, like Drew, Alan, Alice et al, suggest you get a copy from the library.... for St Agathe, and other odd places.... proves my point that there aren't any really decent places to eat in Ottawa, and similarly in Montreal…. that on the East coast... Toronto is where it's at!

Choose the high end or the value stuff... low end... she can be quite critical, which is good.....


Papagus .... baited breath?

Papgus is gone... closed its doors and ..... 2007 10 22 So goes Greek 'food' in Ottawa.

Greek fest is on this week.... 2007 08 09.

Greek Food in Ottawa

The Greek festival, which comes up in the summer every year, seems to be serving the needs of Ottawans for what Greek food has to offer. Essentially, souvlaki (a shish kabob), salad with oil and vinegar, some filo pastry desserts like baklava, and lamb chops. Ouzo, bouzo and rice and potatoes.

Then there are the Greek restaurants.... Pilos in the East end seems to be a perennial favourite. Believe they moved here from Montreal.... where they have a little Greek town with a number of famous restaurants. Where you can bring your own vino. Au Vieux Duluth was a restaurant that immigrated from Montreal.. from the greek town area of the same name... but it did not survive in Ottawa's east end... says something about Pilos..... Then there is the Greek Souvlaki House on Prince of Wales at Baseline, which seems to be a favourite of the more parsimonious Greeks amongst us. Portions are huge, especially the potatoes and rice...and the prices are reasonable. One just has to know what one likes and should eat.

And then there’s Papagus’ Greek Taverna, which has been in Ottawa for donkey’s years. It is a popular spot for lunch, but it was one of those few occasions where a friend suggested that she liked Greek food, that I decided to give it a try for dinner. (Did anyone know that Mamma Theresa's was at this location before they moved to the present one).

I was suitably shocked at the prices. Greek food is not complex stuff, as described above. The variety was quite interesting though. They had a lamb stew in a filo shell; very similar to a beef wellington, except with filo and lamb (arnaki/lamb exochiko) ... you get the picture. It was quite interesting. At $18, including some rice and green beans vegetable, it was very interesting. And I had the beef and lamb souvlaki... with the same accoutrements and some potatoes. The 5 chunks of meat were relatively large, the beef being the better two pieces of the five. Requested medium rare, but came medium anyway. At $22 very expensive. And then we had hot dolmades ($7.50)... really interesting..., ouzo, some Apelis (house) white wine ($15 for ½ litre or $24 a bottle) and dessert (kadaifi, wonder if Gaddafi likes kadaifi?). Came to $120 for two. I would have to say that it was pretty expensive, for just plain old Greek food and wondered if Montreal was as expensive.

Service was essentially brusque, stoic and just short of rude (Sandy was his name... probably the only waiter needed for a silent Sunday night to a mostly empty restaurant). Flambé cheese with ‘ooupa’ at next table was interesting, and aside from Socrates, Plato and some of the great philosophers and story tellers, I would ask the rhetorical question of... do Greeks really know how to cook? And do they care?

May you live in interesting times...

2007 07 23


Ottawa Chamber Music Festival & Prime Rib Roast

‘If music be the food of love... play on... give me excess of it, that the appetite may sicken and so die’..... In context this is dangerous, but superficially.... it's fun...

Actually I am reading Hemingway... for whom the bell tolls...

The Ottawa Chamberfest is more than just chamber music... it is classical as well... and for all of those who like classical music... here's an idea for a special treat for that special night out.....

If you are looking for roast beef, sorry... eh, prime rib roast... why don't you try the pre theater special at Fridays.... seating before 6pm, $29.75 for a 4 course meal….. soup or salad, prime rib Friday's cut, (maple syrup) crème caramel and then tea/coffee/herbal. According to my rules, that should bring you to $120 plus 30% or $150.... Should be pretty good.... Not cheap, but you can tell me about the quality of the rib roast at that price; and at least you can have some decent reds with the rare roast.... Then you can take her out to the chamber fest for an 8pm show... at the Dominion Chalmers Church, which is air-conditioned.... or one of the other concerts at another church... you’ll have to check the fest’s schedule…

Angela Hewitt was on tonight and she was just this side of outstanding!!!! Tuesday is the Moscow string quart doing Beethoven. Wednesday night is the Gryphon Trio doing Mozart and Thursday is the shanghai quart doing Beethoven again....

Would be special for her birthday, especially if she likes classical music...

And if you like other alternatives for a decent roast beef.... Mooney's Bay was not bad and so was Rideau Carleton Raceway, but you have to be there pretty early...6pm is good... to get decent rare roast beef.... Then there is the Keg at Maplelawn...haven't tried that one yet; and of course if you're a golfer... the ClubLinks course at Kanata Lakes for their weekend roast beef dinner... pretty fantastic, but you need a membership and you need to be there early. Then there’s The Mill…. a long lost icon of Ottawa prime rib roasts….

Other than that... I am afraid that there are no decent prime rib roast places in Ottawa... not saying that any of these are really as good as.... you fill in the blanks….. The bell tolls for a place that can make a decent prime rib roast in Ottawa! I am taking reservations.... hahaha

Hemingway would have eaten at La Botin and roast pork! That guy was really into Spain….

2007 07 23

Friday, July 20, 2007

Caffe Mio

Caffe Mio on Wellington West

Another one of those restaurants that is crying out to be tried. In a nutshell, it’s like the 4th avenue wine bar, except the food is much better here, but the wine is not quite there.

Bill was $65, all in for a light snack for dinner, 07 07 19 after 8pm. So very expensive. But the food is quite good and if you have a small appetite, it’s probably a neat place to have meals at odd hours. Decor was modern, service was alright and food.... we had their garlic shrimp with prosciutto appetiser for $12. Very nicely done, especially the prosciutto, sort of used like bacon bits. Dinner steak pizza special for $13... if you like thin crust and chucks of meat on your pizza, then it is fine. I thought it was very fine. Organic Baby Greens ($6).... not bad... better at the old location of Junipers, not that I am a big fan of that spot, especially their new Otto’s location.

The white wine, a chardonnay by Lulu B ($6.75) was quite wonderful. The two reds, a house Italian valpola ($4.95) and a pinot noir by Lulu B ($7.50) ranged from watery to drinkable. The pinot was definitely not ‘full bodied’. I make wine better. The 4th ave wine bar was definitely better.

If we had eaten regularly and drank more, I would say that it would be closer to $120 for two... not an immodest amount for a casual bistro dinner out... just too expensive, value for dollar.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Yangtse, Chu Shing, et al....

Chinese Food in Ottawa

Thought about this too late... but might do a more comprehensive piece on chink food in Ottawa.

Pieces on individual chinese restaurants are spread out all over this blog....

In summary though, chinese food in Ottawa is very average to low in quality and high in price... Oligopolistic price increases led by the larger oligarchs like Yangtze have made eating chinese food as expensive as European food…. And the customers in Ottawa have a large burden to bear for this... they should be much fussier about eating authentic, traditional and well priced chinese food…. We do live in a knowledge society? At least that’s the buzz-word these days… Vote with your feet… for such a politico city….

And the weather is not conducive to some of the better chefs from Hong Kong or China (or even Toronto or Vancouver) ever wanting to settle in a place like this… (The really good cooks also don’t like Montréal much because of the political situation with the PQ… chinese are high avoidance people…) unless there were some real attractions… perhaps like a higher price… but when the food sucks and the prices are high… something is wrong…..

But this is not a spot for economics or political debates… just food and taste and value…

Other Asian foods, like Thai, Korean and Japanese are already overpriced… and there really aren’t any real Vietnamese restaurants other than fast food and Pho…

Karma, Ceylonta & Haveli's

Little India in Ottawa

2007 10 22..... Karma Karma is gone, closed and presumably the cook has gone somewhere else...

2007 08 09....

Yes, I have been to Karma Karma on Bank Street and it is OK... that's a big OK.... very limited stuff, but the taste is good... the prices are high... but they get the lunch crowd and the chef is not that friendly till you get to know him.... service is sporadic and if you consider it is a fast food indian type place,.... well it's kinda expensive... , but the food taste good. The eggplant, cauliflower, spinach (sag), and beef and lamb curries are good... the nans are good... the so....? Did not look great.... The pickle... pretty bad... what else do you need to know before you try... it ain't paradise in India... but it's not bad... try Moni Mahal on Laurier if you want variety in buffet... and Haveli's for traditional chef from India type cooking...

and there is a lot more coming....

And look on this site for Goan stuff.....

Celyonta: was not impressed.... portions too huge for tradition... not really that great.... Lived in Indian during teenage years for 8 years... so I know! Better in good places in Toronto.....

Piece Under Construction.

Am working on a piece for East Indian Restaurants in Ottawa..... and this would include Indian, Pakistani, Bangla Deshi, Sri Lankan, Goan, South Indian… blah blah blah… Indian sub-continent or East Asian…. Whatever…

Rather than do individual pieces on each restaurant and you can go to for info on that... I think it is more appropriate here to do more generic pieces.

And since I lived in India for all of and more of my teenage years... I would consider myself an expert in this area...

so hope you guys are looking forward to it...

Any feedback.... Try and leave a name, I generally ignore anonymous feedback…..

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Suisha Gardens, Genji and Takara

Japanese Food in Ottawa….

Being able to claim some Japanese ancestry on my mother’s side… and mistaken for being one when I walked into Yakitori House… if you remember that restaurant many years ago on Rideau…, I can claim some knowledge of Japanese food and eating….

There is more to Japanese food than sushi! (And ‘presentation’, which is the oft quoted anecdote when the food sucks…). Much much more… the invention of sushi as you might know was that the vinegar-ed rice was put onto the raw fish to keep it fresh… as in pickling… and the rice was usually thrown away originally, before eating the fish… The national dish of Japan is sukiyaki… not sushi… Sushi to the japanese is like dim sum to the chinese, or tapas to spaniards….. snack food….

The problem with many of the Japanese restaurants in Ottawa is that they are run by Chinese folks… that’s not a bad thing necessarily, unless they don’t have a Japanese sushi chef…. Then it’s a bad thing… as in fresh fish… the purchasing function comes seriously into play here…. and like some martial arts that are kept as secrets... I am sure that it is extremely difficult to be in a position to learn to recognize and buy fresh fish…. as they come in off the plane here in Ottawa… That’s one reason the Japanese always say Suisha Gardens is the best jap restaurant in Ottawa... because they have jap chefs… at least for sushi for sure… and the story of Festival Japan is that the east indian maitre d’, stole some chefs from Suisha and went on to form Festival Japan….

All of the places since those halcyon days have been fast food Jap places…. (as in ‘sushi plus’…), except many years ago there was a place in the market… (Taste of Japan, I think it was called… but there is a recent establishment in the west end now with that same name… I have not been to the new one…so cannot comment…).This old place in the market (where empire grill is now...) was indeed very up market, very fancy, very stylish, run by a japanese gentlemen.... went there with my ex in a suit and dress… (me in suit and she in dress); and got food poisoned from the grilled fish (shioyaki)….which tasted excellent by the way… but through a process of elimination we figured it was that. Story there was they went back to Japan… but obviously, making a go of it on the margins… like the chinese do so well…. was much harder for the japanese…. At least in the restaurant business …. Which was way before this trend of the chinese finally figuring out that the margins on Jap food was much greater than chinese food.

Besides sukiyaki, there is yakitori (skewers), domburi (rice bowls with meat on top), ramen (noodles with meat on top), tempura (deep fried foods called agemono as a group)… nabemono (one pot cooking) of which sukiyaki is the fried version and yosenabe and shabu shabu are the boiled versions, similar to the Chinese fondues….

And then there are different kinds of sushi and sashimi as well…. As in maki sushi, nigiri sushi…. Hand rolls... foot rolls… blah, blah, blah… that’s when we start to talk presentation….

With that in context… here are my comments on Genji… a very popular, but in my opinion a so-so Japanese restaurant in Ottawa

The only Jap restaurant I would recommend in Ottawa is Suisha Gardens…. for the food… not service, not presentation…. But also for the venue and atmosphere… very traditional Japanese…. All the japs go there… The fish is fresh… But there are others… which have since closed because they can’t compete with the chinks…

Genji… on Canada Day….

My test for sushi is to order Toro (tuna belly), then Uni (sea urchin roe), but when they don't have fresh Tai (snapper).... I start to wonder...

The night I was there they only had Maguro (tuna and a very poor quality one at that), Himachi (yellow tail) and Saki (Salmon).... By the way, Salmon is a recent western phenom for sushi as in teppanyaki.... The japs don’t eat it, why should we…? Salmon also has the highest bacteria content of all raw fish consumed in the world…(that nice pic with the orange-y colours is salmon).

The sushi chef and cooks are chinese.... sorry I wouldn't try fugu (blowfish) here.... (cute pic found on wiki of fugu, for those who may never try …).

On the positive side this is a great value restaurant for the price of what we got in terms of their packaged dinners for one or two; miso soup is good, hot stuff not bad... but fish is not good... I had their seared tuna, which was essentially tasteless…..

Presentation great, service great, prices great... very good value…. but not raw fish... or even slightly cooked fish... think the fish is just not fresh enough....something to do with the chefs, I’ll wager..... And their tempura surprise called Medusa sucked! The melange of veggies in the deep fry came out to taste like deep fried....

Interesting thing in this place is the Jap/sushi Pizza (see pic) and something else that was unusually… modern fusion… sushi sandwiches I think it was…. But did not try….

And Takara in the market:

Takara has been around a long time as one of the favorites in the market area... I have been there countless times…but it is run by chinese... not japs, and the sushi is ....well so so ... (their eel, unagi, is terrible…!!!)

I think it is more the market rah-rah and atmosphere that spills over from Kinki's... which is another Jap restaurant run by chinese ... you know Stephen Vardy worked at Kinki's....

For really good sushi... one must have a jap chef (not only the knife action…, but also the purchasing function…) ... and Suisha Gardens and Festival Japan are the only two traditional places... (latter being run by an east indian who stole the chefs from Suisha's) There was one in the Tunney's Pasture area, run by jap women, but they have since turned viet....

Ichiban is the other one that I can think of ... and I have not tried Totoya yet.... that are actually run by Japanese.

As you know, I am chinese by the way, in most parts... so it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the taste of the food....

2007 07 03

Royal Treasure

Royal Treasure………….

Suppose I should add something to this restaurant besides the Hot & Sour Soup...

I go there everyday for lunch and sometimes for dinner...

Service sucks (too hyper!!!), cleanliness so so, prices... too high, but portions are enormous...! they make you take out... I have tried to make them reduce prices and portions... but they are a little 'thick'...

But the H&S soup is #1 in Canada.... think he stole the recipe from another cook... and the seafood dishes are excellent..... as is the 'wok flavour' for those orientals who know what that means... For those who don’t, it means the ability to transfer some ‘mi’ to the food by using the heat and the fire and the taste of wok cooking…. Only in restaurants, as the chinese would say… “If you can make it at home… eat at home…”

It is small and crowded... so I am loathed to make it more so....

Szechwan really sucks, but Ottawa doesn't know Szechwan food...

My kids will not eat in this restaurant! They are very Canadian…. This place is too dirty… long story there…

2007 08 01. Finally found out where the cook/owner got the recipe for the Hot & Sour Soup. The kids would/could not tell me, but I finally got it out of the co-owner/wife. It came from an old cook who worked at Peking Restaurant. Now, I think this restaurant is gone now.... but this would explain the inconsistency in the soup. There is a slow attrition here... The cook/co-owner is kind of moody too.... understatement here.... and aside from this secret and the 'wok flavour', the food at this place is so-so. They also don't do steamed fish, as this involves using up the wok and they only have tsk, tsk, tsk... And they don't do congee, even though it is on the menu. And they don't know how to adapt to changing requests from customers!

But they have enough business to keep them happy and not wanting more....

Friday, June 29, 2007

Miga and Jade Restaurants

Korean-Japanese Restaurants

Miga Restaurant.

You know, somehow I recognized the owner of this place. I suppose if you’ve been in Ottawa as long as I have, and eaten at as many restaurants, even though these Koreans all look the same, they start to look the same…

Anyway, I didn’t confirm, but I am sure he was the previous owner of Seoul House. And his kids have grown and started to help.

Lunch was $50 all in for two…That’s pretty expensive in my book, especially for a Korean greasy spoon. Would have been much cheaper at Arum’s, but then my son, who I went with... the sushi fiend, liked the taste at this place better than Arum. And I must say he has more delicate taste than I.

For a place that calls itself Mi Ga, which loosely translated is The House of Taste (or Mi), the miso soup was insipid! I added salt to it! But then I am rough at the edges…. (Mi Ga is in chinese of course on the store front... that may be because the ancient learned scripts of Jap, Chink, Kor, Viet are all the same.... or something else is suspect here...)

Then we thought we would order two lunch specials, but before that, assuming the portions were small, we thought we would order a soft shell crab appetizer to share ($11.95!). The soft-shell crab was OK to interesting at best. Looked nice, but suspect it was not thawed out properly before deep frying. Smelled fishy. It was a nice crab as in before freezing as you could see the central roe… but for two bites, it was expensive at that price.

Then we had the bulkoki lunch and the sashimi domburi lunch. Presentation was excellent. Explains a lot of the pics from ottawafoodies. But the taste while being better than Arum was OK. Pretty hard to make minced raw fish taste good. You have to sub with quantity as in Steak Tartare… as opposed to the Koreans that fill with veggies… finely sliced up of course.. Their kimchi was not very good….Arum’s is better...much.... Taste was essentially flat, not spicy. But then I am rough at the edges, right… The other veggies were nice, but nothing to write home about. The beef had a nice taste, my son says better than Arum’s, but Arum’s is in deep trouble because their sizzling plates don’t even sizzle! And they are just down the road

Service was ok... with tea for two, it came to $25 pp for lunch, the portions were small, and I am still hungry…presentation is just not enough and prices are still from the old days of Seoul House... expensive…..

Would I go back... if in the mood for expensive Korean greasy spoon… maybe… but there’s Kwon’s, Seoul House and more…. And for the sushi… my son’s reply was … I would go to all you can eat… it’s a lot cheaper and well…. He’s the expert on sushi….

I sell no beer before it's time......

Jade Restaurant at Laurier W and Elgin 07 07 20.

Another one of those KJ Restaurants, but this one with a twist. It is in an office tower downtown and is in the basement of the building, so it has really odd working hours, essentially open for lunch and therefore also for an early dinner or pick up to take home.

Been recommended by friends and other office workers and civil servants, even with some advice on take home after work... So I had to go... and check it out,.... today for lunch. They have advertised lunch specials for $9.99 and as I walk in, it reminds me of Hino’s, except in the basement of a building open for lunch only. The cook is a couple, a Caucasian that talked about moving his place to Preston and an oriental woman doing the sushi and helping when it gets busy. The catering part looked like something from Bento’s. They also had a waitress who was actually quite good. Restaurant is more jap than Kori.

With a bill of $15 all in, but no booze, but jap tea... I would say that it is certainly an alternative downtown for lunch.... I don’t know if the limited repertoire would hurt on Preston... And that would be the biggest criticism of this place. Very limited menu and portions are not big. The tempura was small shrimps.... bad idea... the chopsticks were metal and I didn’t like that. They didn’t have sushi soy sauce. But the green stuff... wasabi.... was mild and quite rich tasting.... (jap chili sauce)

This has to be compared with Genji, Miga and Ichiban as an alternative for lunch, as they are all downtown. It is not as good in presentation as Miga, but the miso soup is tastier. They didn’t have I don’t know about how Korean it was.... And their fish... well, I was not impressed... worse variety than Genji! And generally I would prefer Genji over this place, as Genji has at least a larger variety of things to eat...

All in all, if someone asked me for a place to have a fast and reasonably priced lunch, I would say that this place is OK, but I would not go back on my own... too many other choices downtown. I don’t think you can call this a Korean or a Japanese restaurant... maybe a new varietal... KJ greasy spoon.....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

May's Garden Restaurant

This is a picture I had a while ago for their sweet and sour fish, which is an authentic Northern style dish. (Actually I think it's originally from Szechwan province as with all sweet and sour dishes). In any event, they do this as well as any other place in fact probably the best... and it's been a long time since I have had it in Toronto that is as good or better.

This is not really a southern chinese style restaurant (Cantonese). The cook specializes in Northern style cooking (Peking Duck, fondues, breads, thick noodles, dumplings…).... and is well, not bad.... probably the best in Ottawa... except for the dumplings... which used to be the best at Northern 2, which by the way has had a change in ownership and there are really no decent places for dumplings and noodles, northern style, in Ottawa now.

This place has reasonably good northern style dishes, like Peking duck, the fish, Chinese fondue, etc.... Hunan Beef is better at Mekong and now Ging Shing. ‘Pork neck BBQ’ a southern dish…also Ging Shing.

Their dumplings and noodle soups are average... Kong Pow chicken is also a spicy Szechwan dish that’s available and not bad here. Haven’t had it as good as HK anywhere in Canada. And they don’t kong pow everything…

In Ottawa a lot of Szechwan dishes are mistaken for northern style dishes… Szechwan is in the west… and not all sweet and sour red and spicy!!!... Smoked duck is a Szechwanese dishes and it is nothing like anything made in Canada!

The restaurant is not the cleanest around….so if that bothers… don’t bother… Cook/chef/owner was one of those mainlanders that emigrated on a cook’s visa from China…..somewhere… and well….. we don’t accept chinese doctors’ licenses here!

2007 06 24.

Jo Moon Ting....... Final Resting Place

2007 08 24.

This place is closed! Just goes to show how useful these web sites are in supporting restaurants. Customers will vote with their feet... Back to Cafe Orient.

The location must be jinxed!!!

Back to Viet for late night meals as the only game in town.

2007 08 09.

Latest intel from folks in the restaurant industry in Ottawa and Toronto is that congee is a big thing in Toronto these days and there are several restaurants in the north eastern parts of Steele and 400 that specialize in congee. The variety is suppose to be astounding and the taste much better than Jo Moon Ting. So much for good congee in Ottawa...

Names of these restaurant all have queen in them, like queenie, queen's congee and stuff like that.


Jo Moon Ting.... 2007 07 03...

I am just a sucker for punishment, aren't I? Went there again tonight for their after hours half portions at half price, specials... Kung Pow Chicken $3.99... pretty bad... XO sauce fried Pork $5.99... so so... prices were reasonable but the chef for this part of the menu has definitely left the house... (heard one of the two main chefs had gone back to Toronto).

The place is too small anyways to support that kind of a format... I hate crowded restaurants... Cafe Orient was three quarters empty! and this place was the other end of the spectrum... because they have half the number of seats!

Jo Moon Ting…. The last time….. 2007 06 30.

The latest on this place that is different from the Café Orient is that it is open till 3am… Hope he has the clientèle! Ottawa is pretty dead after 7pm. And I had their roast pork and must say, and others agree, that it is the best in Ottawa. It is not suckling pig, but they use a younger pig with the suckling pig marinade before cooking and that makes a huge difference…. Much better than Double Happiness, which is a rip off place from my perspective…. Their suckling pig is not as good as Jo’s regular roast pig….

Most of the cognoscenti agree that the wonton noodles are better at Orient and many of the customers that migrated to try the new place in town have returned to the fold….

Also the BBQ chef is still here from Tor., but the other chef has returned to Toronto… presumably leaving the recipes for the XO fried noodle dishes to sous in Ottawa. So if anyone is venturing to try their regular dishes other than fast food …. it might be too late…… shame…

I certainly hope they make a go of it… it good to have an alternative to Café Orient for Chinese greasy spoon fast food…..

Revisited piece:

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and having done my groceries for the week, thought I would bike down to Chinatown and try out Jo Moon Ting, the new congee restaurant on the block…Somerset & Rochester block that is, which is supposed to have a great wonton noodle soup. Or rather it’s a five-ton noodle soup… bad old Chinese joke!

Anyway, it’s at the old Pacific Village and was a congee/noodle place with suckling pig before this latest transformation. I got there for noon and was lucky to get a seat. The seating has not changed since the previous Chinese and then Viet restaurants, so it is essentially a 30-40 seat restaurant, with one sizable table for 8. The décor is basically the same, and is not really suited for singles or doubles, or large groups greater than 6, during rush periods. The restaurant was full of Chinese people. A good sign for sure, but it was noon on Sunday. And Café Orient was full already… as this is just down the road from there.

The service was erratic and very rushed as the waitress was unused to the crowds. The owner was pretty understanding, especially if you spoke Cantonese to him. But they did get some orders wrong and if this bothers… then don’t bother…

The wonton noodle soup was good, but not as good as Café Orient’s. It just didn’t have the right soup, consistency, taste and au dent-ness as the bench-mark cafe. But it was very good! Probably as good as anything in Ottawa or ‘off the street’ in Toronto. Price point was a little high though, at $5+. The interesting twist here is that they will make ‘pork’ wontons if you’d like, but you have to ask. When I got in, the flustered waitress was so naïve that she asked if I wanted pork or shrimp and I said, ‘really, you have pork wontons?’. The manager/owner quickly interceded… it’s a rather ‘closed quarters’ type of place and if you’re claustrophobic... skip this place… He had to step in and say that ordinarily, all wonton soup is shrimp unless there is a specific request…. Then they will make the pork…. Great for folks who don’t like, or is allergic to shrimp!!!

No need for pictures as chinese fast food looks all the same….., actually in Toronto, they now have as in HK, dim sum which is shaped like birds and piggies, etc… so much one can do with har gaw and shui mai…..! These were pork wontons in the pic though and the “dried fried beef noodles” was reportedly good.

Now their specialty is congee, so I had to compare with my fav from Orient…and that was ‘assorted meats’… which is not for everyone as there is liver, tripe, intestines…etc… I found that the congee was actually better than café orient’s! The liver was as consistent... which would mean spongy and chewy, the intestines were not as nice (smaller and dryer pieces), but the tripe was pretty chewy-good as well, and the taste of the congee was supposed to be special… And indeed this shall certainly be an alternative to Café Orient.

In fact when I was here, the place was constantly filled and refilling with people … Chinese…not Caucasians, though. It was Sunday lunch and there was a lot of overflow from café orient, I am sure… (The main dishes being eaten by another table of six did not look great….!)

But back to the congee….they also had a number of specialty congees that are not available anywhere in Ottawa…. Like goeduck, clams, lobster (be loathed to try that, having to pay cash….) and well, I think this is a great addition to Ottawa, for that kind of food. Not everyone likes congee though, but as you know the Chinese eat this stuff for breakfast and brunch. I eat it when I am sick, so it’s like chicken soup for me….

I also asked if they had suckling pig, of course… my favorite…and they said yes. And I believe they will serve in the restaurant as well, but I did not see it on the menu.

This brings me to the point of the menu. It tries to be more than just a wonton/congee/noodle and roast meats type of place, like many that you find in Toronto’s Dundas and Spadina area….. It actually has a full menu. The evolution of café orient was that they were specialist in wonton noodle and congee and expanded to a fuller menu, with dishes and ‘one-dish’ meals. Whereas this place is starting out trying to be a full restaurant that has wonton, congee, etc specialties.

I wish them well of course, but I doubt very much that there will be a market for such a small format restaurant with so few seats and specializing in meats and noodles, to develop a clientele for dinners like Yangtze and Chu Shing…. Which means better try their other dishes now, before, if the chef hasn’t already left for Toronto, they remove the stuff from the menu? There is also Ging Shing further west on Somerset that is very good and has a chef from Mekong, who knows how to do Hunan Beef and ‘special young BBQ pork’… and the decor is better….

Anyway, I shall certainly make another trip for their ‘eat in’ suckling pig. And if there is company maybe their other dishes, but not for their décor, service, or wonton noodles. And will probably venture only in non-rush hours times, like weekday lunches and evenings, and weekend evenings…. Café Orient is pretty dead by 7pm at night…all nights….

2007 06 24 Jean Baptist Day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fourth Avenue Wine Bar

Fourth Avenue Wine Bar & Café, at 107 Fourth @ Bank

This is another one of those places in the Glebe that needs to be tried out… and so I did. I must say, I have not been to a wine bar, but suspect that the feel and intent is similar to a tapas bar in Spain. This one was interesting in that it was nicely laid out. It had a great selection of wines. Nice metallic euro-feel about the place, bar and all. Since it provided that kind of ambiance…. You know, drink wine and snack on something…even though we arrive at 7:30pm after a long work day and was ready for dinner, we decided to have a couple of glasses of vino and some apps.

We ended up trying a white, Righetti pinot grigio and a Spanish red, Juan Gil (both $8). I particularly liked the red. Then we tried a couple of reds, an Omrah Shiraz (Australian) ($10.50) and a Bogle merlot (Californian) ($10). Both good, but not as nice as the Spanish red and more expensive at that.

For snacks and food in general, the value and tastes were disappointing. We tried the Portobello calvados…OK and expensive at $9. Deep fried Brie…. great if you like cheese and sweet cheery sauce. And a prosciutto plate, which was just ham from the deli… Their appetizers were OK and definitely not at a tapas/dim sum standard. We also had a beef kebab dinner, the meat was nicely curried, but the mushrooms were dry. One shish each. The rice had dried fruits in it and was cold… if that’s your thing... great... I hated it. And the beans were green, but hard and waxy and way undercooked. And $2 for bread.

Service was fast and efficient….no problems there… wines… great…. just the food was pretty much below par.

Bill was $45 a person all in, but I was hungry and had to eat something else later. Disappointing as with all the restaurants in the Glebe.

2007 06 22.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Foodies websites

An interesting website to visit is

Monday, June 18, 2007


By the way, for those who want my comments on individual restaurants in Ottawa, plus other people's comments, visit My alias is 'LiveToEat'.

Here I shall try to be more thoughtful and loquacious; and put more of a story behind the food, restaurants, evolution and culture behind the dishes. Everything in context, right?

And perhaps also include the reasons for my biases....

2007 06 18.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Jo Moon Ting, God forbid we talk chinese food...

Jo Moon Ting or that thing in Ottawa...... ;-)

Walked down to the Italian Ferrari drive-by & festival on Preston and had lunch at May’s Garden… hadn’t been there for a long time (2 years). Probably the only authentic northern style chinese place in Ottawa… Still full of chinese people. Finally walked past this Jo Moon Ting restaurant and realized that this was the place Ashley was talking about!

This is the old Pacific Village....which I considered the best Viet place in Ottawa. Ate there at least once a week for about ten to twelve years. Sometimes, up to five times a week! When they closed, they didn’t even let me know…. Don’t know about those viets….Before that it was a Caribbean restaurant. And since then it has been through many transformations. At one time (2004) it was the only place in Ottawa and also probably Toronto, where you could get chinese suckling pig!!! The chef/cook has since returned to Toronto. Don't know the full story, but I have found a place in Toronto where it can be eaten without being pre-ordered. (The Spanish also have suckling pig, cochinillo; one of Hemingway’s favourites…and the Portuguese have Leitau……geographically controlled to Coimbra, … so much for breaking racial barriers….). The last permutation was a Viet place that was not too bad, forget the name.

Must say I have not tried it, but if the wonton noodles is better than Cafe Orient.... I would be very surprised if they don’t get a hugh following. Cafe Orient is known to be the best place for wonton noodles in Ottawa... And aside for the price points, I think it's as good as anything anywhere else in the world. HongKong included....

The prices sound good though. Just to compare, I had wonton noodles in Toronto for $3.95.

Their specialty is Congee though… the Jo is congee… moon ting is a quiet corner…

2007 06 16.

The Mysteries of the Pho Bo Ga and the Pho Bo Ga La's

New Pho Bo Ga La with the blue sign and the brown wood Buddha is on the north side of Somerset…. is in fact the PBGLa than MingD is talking about. There is also one on the south side of the street further west of Bronson with a blue sign… this is the ‘old’ PBGLa…and it’s been around a long time and I have never been too impressed by it. It has also gone through many reincarnations thru the last 20 years and I found the food wanting.

The New PBGLa is the one I went to try Bun Bo below and is the one I was not too impressed with their rice dishes…… talk about too many viet places…..

Didn't know there was a 'new' PBGLa. (761-763 Somerset W?)

Must be a dynasty like the PBG1, 2 3 and Springroll House.

PBG1 had the greatest soup, but has deteriorated recently. Springroll has a great pork chop on rice, but the soup's ok. Seems they may have lost the PBG1 soup secret to someone else. Since I know the original owner, must ask what happened. Unless someone else knows?

The soup at 'original' PBGLa was ok, but restaurant & things seem to be saying that the soup is 'better' here.

After Pacific Village and then PBG1, I'd have to go backwards in memory and think that the Golden Turtle place has the best soup stock after this. I have been to quite a few viet soup places since then though.

2007 06 16.

Prime 360

Have to say that it had the best rib steak I have ever had in Ottawa, nicely marbled; or for that matter anywhere else, including Alberta, where I think they have the best T-bones in the world.

My friend had a nice sirloin as well, but she had dessert! Mistake, it translated to a muffin with cream sauce, thin sauce at that as well… I think I read somewhere, ‘don’t go for the dessert, but their steaks are great…’. I liked them better than Hy’s etc…. for value though, Nate’s had a decent rib steak and a whole lot cheaper….

As if they cared anyways, lots of clientele on a week night… mostly business suits.

Would I go back…if on a business expense and eating steak only... in fact only the rib steak…?

200 06 14.

Have been on and this is a site to check out. So is

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cambodian & Vietnamese

Vietnamese .... still trying.....

Was at the recommended Bun Bo Hue place on Somerset, Pho Bo Ga La to try out their Bun Bo ($10 for a bowl of medium, including tax/tip, for lunch). Somehow, I thought the write ups by MinhD were about a pork noodle soup, but this was beef. At least the ‘covering’ was beef tendons. The noodles were the best part…au dent. Great… (Au dent is in any language, the way to do noodles….) The soup was ok and the stuff on top is pretty well reproducible at home. (Family in Toronto have said that the viet soups, the secret, are better in Ottawa than Toronto. Must be project 2000….). Would I have it again there….no, but I tried it.

Are there any recommendations for beef stew with noodles? Forget the name in Vietnamese. I will try Pho Bo Ga La for that as well, but have not been able to find anything of the calibre of Pacific Village’s… now gone…mother retired; so have not been able to find it anywhere. Have tried a number of places on Somerset, but none really authentic… well I have never been to Vietnam, but from the viets I have spoken with, include the original owner of Mekong, Pacific Village’s was the best.

When Pac Village folded, I turned to New Mee Fong (at it’s new location, the old one on Somerset being too small….story there as well). Was a regular there for the longest time, enjoying their rice dishes, especially the one with steak. Until they raised the prices sometime late last year and early this year. Their noodle soup is average, but with the price increase…’next gen’ running it now, I think it’s overpriced. Mostly local civil servants going there for lunch... as with PhoBoGaLa… Always crowded and uneven service…. But then who eats viet food for service….? It’s like a Chinese greasy spoon…

Does anyone have a place that has really good Vietnamese rice dishes?


Phnom Penh

There are two of these, one in Mechanicsville (noodle house) and the other in Kanata...big difference...different owners as well...., the one in Kanata is suppose to suck big time……

I have never been to the one in Kanata; there is also one that closed on Carling near Woodroffe with the same name...

But I have been to the one downtown many times....Somerset in Mechanicsville. It was pretty good. I have never had Cambodian food before and the owners are chui chow chinese, but the dishes are quite different from the viets. I would say I found their stuff interesting, but don't go back regularly.

Very limited menu though.... family run, sisters and mother in the kitchen type of place.

I had warned them of the confusion when I was more regular, but they just shrugged...

2007 06 11.