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.