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Ottawa Restaurant Recommendations


Jinmyo
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My wife and I spent the weekend in Ottawa for the National Capital Marathon (we ran the 5K race and both set new personal bests!). I had been looking forward to the weekend for a long time, because not only had we reserved a table at Beckta, but my employers had prepaid the entire meal as a thank-you for some overtime work I had done. Normally, I feel terribly guilty spending money at restaurants so this was a huge relief.

Though I wasn't really worried, the amount of hype and good press Beckta has received was a little daunting. Could they live up to my expectations? Well, the short answer is yes! The long answer follows:

My wife is a very conservative eater, and to a lesser extent, so am I, but I wanted to try something new, and so for an appetizer I ordered the Pan Seared Quebec Foie Gras ($16). She ordered the Local Teenage Lettuces ($10). The foie gras, served with Ontario rhubarb chutney and a few potato chips (!) was interesting, though I found it a bit too salty. The chutney helped, though. My wife's salad, which she allowed me to try, was sprinkled with delicious spiced pecans.

I should mention that I work in the wine business and had been attracted by Beckta's great wine list, with a good selection of wines by the glass. This was important to me since my wife doesn't drink. I also appreciated the two different sizes available (3 oz. and 6 oz.), which allowed me to sample a number of wines. I began the meal with a 3 oz. glass of the "Steve's Blend" Riesling 2000 ($4), which Steve Beckta creates in association with Ontario's Cave Spring Cellars. It was a nice refreshing way to start the meal. I followed it with a 3 oz. glass of the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($4), which was delicious with the appetizer.

For the main course, I was sorely tempted to order the lamb, but was frightened by the presence of olives, so I took the safe route and ordered the Beef Tenderloin ($34). Served with Raclette Cheese-Mashed Potatoes, Charred Tomato Relish, Haricots Verts, Fresh Horseradish and Roasted Garlic Bordelaise, it was perfectly prepared. The green beans were tiny and perfect and crisp and more flavourful than any I've had before. My wife had the same thing, and though she orders her beef well-done, it wasn't dried out at all. My wine choice was the Minervois "Grande Reserve" Domaine Pujol 2001, first a 3 oz. glass ($5), and then, my choice confirmed, a full 6 oz. glass ($10). This is a delicous Rhône wine, mostly Syrah, that was very low in tannins and delicious on its own as well as with the beef.

My wife had been anticipating dessert from the time we sat down, her eyes eagerly following the plates as they were dispatched to the tables around us, and so she ordered the signature dessert, "Steve's Gone Bananas" ($11), which consisted of bananas prepared several different ways. Caramelized Banana Bavaroise, Banana Gelato, Torched Banana and Banana Chip. It was more subtle than I expected, and I actually preferred it to what I ordered, the Molten Chocolate Fondant ($12), which was prepared to order and took 20 minutes. Bing Cherry Sauce, Gold Leaf and Home-Made Rocher were just a little too sweet for my tooth, but my wife enjoyed it! Accompanying our dessert were first a 2 oz. glass of Sauternes Château Partarrie 1999 ($8), which was nicely acidic, and then a 2 oz. glass of our local Cave Spring "Indian Summer" Late Harvest Riesling 2000 ($8), which seemed just a little cloying with the chocolate fondant, but which I've enjoyed on its own previously.

After some coffee, my wife declared solemnly that this was the best meal she had ever eaten. I haven't even mentioned the fabulous service. Discreet, transparent, but friendly and knowledgeable, the team of servers put us at ease and answered any questions we had. There were other small touches like the caramelized butter offered as a choice with the bread selection, and the dainty chocolates served just before the bill arrived. As well, the foie gras mousse and pear jelly served on crackers that arrived within minutes after we were seated. All in all, just a fabulous evening, and one that I hope to repeat again soon, even if I have to pay for it myself!

P.S. Also dining at Beckta that night were Diana Krall and her band.

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