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Ottawa Restaurant Recommendations


Jinmyo
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Maggie, I rather suspect any opening will be months away. I am getting mixed feelings about Ottawa and hope, for Stephen's sake, that the climate is ripe for whatever he is planning. I think it's very difficult and therefore very risky to open a restaurant that's far better than whatever an area now supports. I had hoped to hear more about his project before he left New York, but I didn't get back to Eleven Madison Park where he was working, nor did the couple who I had hoped would have pumped him for more information.

I also suspect I may be more dependant on you guys to keep me informed than I am able to inform you. I imagine Stephen will have his hands full and should devote his energies to publicizing the place locally rather than informing us in NY.

Robert Buxbaum

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This guy John Taylor at Domus is a very good chef. The restaurant has service problems and I dislike that it's basically in the middle of a kitchenware store, but all the food I had there was good -- as in good by big city standards -- and a couple of items were tremendous. He does a dish of halibut paired with a Lake Ontario fish cake that's out of this world, and his vegetables are some of the only ones I had in Canada that hit the kinds of high notes you get at Toque! Not that Domus is half the restaurant Toque! is but there are hints of that sort of excellence in some of the dishes. I think if you want to look at product-driven chefs in Canada, Taylor is right up there.

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Not that Domus is half the restaurant Toque! is but there are hints of that sort of excellence in some of the dishes. I think if you want to look at product-driven chefs in Canada, Taylor is right up there.

I think that Toque! is unique in Canada, and even in Montreal, there is not more than a handful of restaurants that are "half the restaurant that Toque! is".

I like Domus, and I even like the fact that is is adjacent to a good kitchen store of the same name, but it's not the only show in town. There are several other places (such as Juniper, Zingaro, Les Fougeres, Laurier sur Montcalm, Bistro 1908) that offer creative, product-driven cuisine, and that compare favourably with what you found at Domus. Plus, none of them are trying to sell you egg timers as you leave :raz: .

Are you guys talking about the Henri Burger restaurant? Wasn't that considered the top restaurant in the area? If so, is it still?

It's actually Cafe Henry [pronounced and spelled as in "King" rather than "Roi"] Burger [as in "King" too!], and it is still around in Gatineau [as in Hull]. Once upon a long time ago, it was Madame Burger's, and it wasn't the top restaurant, it was the ONLY restaurant. The bad old days. It is now a Grande Dame sort of place, with Chef Robert Bourassa [as in ex-Premier, but not so much] at the helm for several years now. The menu is classical French, with an impressive wine list. I think it holds its own, but I also think that it has more stiff competition among "high-end" restaurants in the region, such as Le Baccara at the Casino in Gatineau, and Signatures by Le Cordon Bleu Paris in Ottawa.

The colors should be lovely now "up the Gatineau."

You should hit them at their peak; they've just started to change this week. Enjoy!

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Actually, as much as I adore Toque! I think there are plenty of restaurants in town that close to equal Toque! and many, many that are half as good.

Let's not forget, the last time Gourmet came to Montreal, they placed La Chronique ahead of Toque! :shock: Also, many of the chefs who worked under Normand Laprise, such as Ian Perreault of Area , are setting up shop around town.

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I think Jinmyo is a curmudgeon.   :angry:

Sorry, Gourmando. :sad:

As for Signatures, I've not eaten there. It's located in a renovated ckub on Laurier near Stratchcona Park? I remember the menu looked promising although my companion thought "chlorophyll foam" not a particularly appealing term. Still, we had a nice talk about breaking down spinach to obtain the chlorophyll.

Why don't you write a report on their cuisine some time?

ediot:

Took out some injudicious comments about the dreaded Domus as a location for John Taylor (whom I hope will soon move on to better things).

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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No sweat off me. Every conversation needs balance, and maybe I'm a tad too optimistic about our surroundings in Ottawa. :wacko:

I haven't eaten at Signatures in about a year. It used to be Le Cercle Universitaire, a private club which went bankrupt. The building (an old mansion) has been beautifully renovated, and the food, service, and surroundings were all equally impressive, and on the level of Michelin-starred restaurants in France. My main recollection of the dishes was the delicate sea bass en croute, and the whole roast veal loin that was presented at the table before being carved and served. Here is the bulk of a review that I posted on another board at the time:

Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Signatures in Ottawa. The Cordon Bleu Paris cooking school (as I understand it, the only location in North America) has moved to the former location of Le Cercle Universitaire, once a lavish private club. They have lovingly redecorated this beautiful old mansion, and have opened Signatures, which is a formal French restaurant in the traditional style. Two restauranteur friends were with us, and they agreed that the school's students will benefit immeasurably from the experience of working in a restaurant kitchen while they train. We unfortunately were rushed that evening, but this is a place that deserves to be the evening's event. The food and service were both splendid, from the scallop soup to the perfect rack of lamb, and sea bass en croute. My wife had roast veal, the whole of which was brought to the table and presented prior to her portion being expertly carved and returned under the requisite silver dome, along with the other mains. The wine list was a pleasant surprise, with excellent selections from around the world, and many wines in the $30-$40 range (although plenty of $300 bottles adorned the list as well). So many French restaurants ignore the world's bounty in favour of an all-Gaul wine list, that it was refreshing so see such open minds at work.

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my recommendation for ottawa:

ceylonta, something like 400 somerset west. sri lankan food, it won the war on drugs for me. while in ottawa during the last three or four weeks, i had a hard time finding a place that i would call good. i tried mash, maxwells, café paradiso, and empire grill, as well as a few other places, but none really struck me as highest quality. ceylonta was the best for me, speaking of quality vs. price. oh well. theres always montreal...

ribo.

"Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting.... the bell... bing... 'moray" -John Daker

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  • 4 weeks later...

I did have lunch at The Urban Pear three weeks back. I had been up all night at the General with my dad, or worrying at home with Mum, so I have forgotten a lot. Most, in fact, so I cannot pretend that this is a fair review.

The room is long, narrow, bright , attractive. Felt cool, but that may have been because it is painted pear green. They take the pear thing very seriously...pears with everthing.

The sevice was polite but faintly chilly.

I had the fritata with pear(!)and caramelized onions. Really intelligent and delicious. My friend liked the cheddar and chutney sammy. A cheese lover, she had the cheese plate for dessert...local stuff, first rate. Pear garnish.

The mesclun salad was pretty and tasty.

Something that annoyed me was stinginess with the bread. Why do restaurants do this?

I figure it cost about $18 U.S, including a glass of B.C. Sancerre and **seriously** one of the best cups of coffee I've had in ages.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Talked to my mother yesterday. She received a call from Le Baccara last week. She's off the waiting list and has scored a table for six for New Year's Eve. She called for reservations Jan.3, 2002! Now some of the original guests can't go, so all I can do is hope for 1)a job 2)a job that will give me ten days off over the holidays. :sad:

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I tried the Urban Pear at lunch last week, and had the same frittata as Maggiethecat. Beautiful, lively flavours! I do agree that the "pear" theme is a bit over the top, and I thought that the lunch menu was pretty slim on choice. There was a very nice selection of wines, all available by the glass (which is great). Everything I tasted was very high quality, and I would wager that it would be difficult to dine at that level for $18US including wine anywhere in the continental 48.

(By the way, I asked for more bread and had no problem getting more :cool: )

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  • 2 months later...

Hello Jin and Lesley,

I think Ottawa, the Ottawa valley, and Outaouais region should be liberated from the Toronto posting region.

Although the Toronto Maple Leaves, and Blue Jays claim The Ottawa Valley as their territory,

I reject this classification. I reject the Maple Leaves.

Toronto is 4.5 hours away by car. Montreal is 2.

Ottawa has some excellent quality lamb, and produce, some even on the Ontario side.

Although most of the better restaurants are on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river it is still part of the same community. Maple syrup is abundant and inexpesive, and the application of the food handleing laws is in evidence.

It is a good cool winter and there is nothing better than going for a skate and then downing a warm spicy melt in your mouth beaver tail. MMMM.

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The Toronto Maple Leaves? Huh?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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The Toronto Maple Leaves?  Huh?

The Maple Leaves

Yes, dearest Anna. Non-Toronto fans insist on spelling it correctly! :biggrin: But "The Leaves" just doesn't have the good hockey thump that "The Leafs" does.

Go Habs.

On topic: When my Ottawa parents go out to eat, they cross the river. But we were in Ottawa at Christmas, and a cook can buy really food raw materials, in my experience.

And in summer, when the markets's open, it'salmost as good as having ones own kitchen garden.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I'll say it again: For a region of less than a million people, Ottawa-Gatineau does very well, thank-you. It's not Montreal, but then neither is anywhere else. Yes, there are some execrable places, but if you know where to go, you can dine very well at a fraction of the cost in any U.S. city.

I also agree with maggiethecat with regard to the availability of good raw ingredients for home cooks. While I love to blast down to the Atwater or Jean Talon markets in Montreal, I don't always have the time, the weather is often crappy for driving, and it is not always necessary, especially when the Byward Market blossoms in summer.

Jinmyo lives here, and I respect his opinions, even though they differ from mine. Those who base their scorn on hearsay, however... :angry:

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Most "recommended" restaurants I've been to in Ottawa were of school-project caliber, that is, they try very hard and you really want to encourage them but they don't quite pull it off. The exception: L'Orée du Bois which is 20 minutes out of town.

Many years ago, Le Métro was excellent. But then something went wrong when the owner decided to pay more attention to his ventures in Cuba... not too sure about the story there.

Chez Jean-Pierre and Henri Burger are both closed.

A Food TV exec was telling me about an up and coming new Mexican chef at some new hotel restaurant. Jinmyo, do you know anything about that?

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Aix, could it be Rene Rodriguez at the ARC lounge?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I'm sure that Jinmyo is correct about Rene Rodriguez. I had a superb lunch at the Arc Lounge a couple of weeks ago.

Chez Jean Pierre has closed, but Cafe Henry Burger is still open (they had a fire a few months back, but remained open).

Aix, from the restaurants that you've identified, it sounds to me like it has been awhile since you were in the area. Ever tried Domus? Les Fougeres? Laurier sur Montcalm? Juniper?

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I've tried Les Fougères. I can't say exactly why but it left me lukewarm. There were service flaws etc. It's been a while. I keep meaning to try Domus but I'm not usually in town long enough to visit all the spots that I want to check out. Plus the weather in Ottawa will deter me from doing just about anything...

Jin, I guess it must be Rodriguez, thanks. From what I hear, he's the only one in the city who dares to venture outside of the typical bistro and cheap fusion fare that is so prevalent in the city at the moment. I'd love to hear from anyone who's dined there and who might remember the menu.

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Gourmando, I read a review of Arc Lounge that mentioned their membership policy. Is that still in effect? If so, what does it involve? The review intimated that the restaurant was trying to give off an exclusive vibe. Did you feel that?

Aix, what restaurants did you try and not like?

Jinmyo, still haven't found a good place to eat in Ottawa? Do you really never eat out??

Ottawa is definitely hit and miss but I also think our dire reputation on this board is getting out of hand. :smile:

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Jinmyo, still haven't found a good place to eat in Ottawa? Do you really never eat out??

Not any more. But don't mind me. In Toronto I'd probably just go to Susur's or Canoe or a few others. In Vancouver, West (or whatever they're calling Chef Hawksworth's place now). And so on.

I'm a tough old hag. :laugh:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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