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.