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MinhD

Chef from Beckta's favourite Ottawa restos..

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Hi;

I listen to CBC Radio (Ottawa) on the drive in to work and earlier this week they had a Montreal restaurant critic on who pretty much blasted Ottawa for its lack of quality restaurants and food compared to Montreal. All this stemming from her poor experience at what I guess was Papagus (where she didn't actually even EAT the food :wacko:) and in the Byward Market on Canada Day, (not exactly the right day to be looking for fine dining without reservations). :blink: But I digress...

As a follow-up to that piece, they had the chef from Beckta and Stella on the next day to respond to the criticisms... and at the end of their comments, the chef from Beckta listed off a few of their favorite restaurants in Ottawa, tried to remember them, but was driving, anybody have the complete list?

The few I remember are:

- Ginzu (Sushi on Slater, surprised he didn't pick Kinki...)

- Ahora (Mexican on Dalhousie)

- New Mee Fung (Vietnamese on booth)

- Stella Astoria (Italian in the market)

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I am that "critc" and I'll tell you it must be a slow news week because that story has been blown WAY out of proportion.

That said, it's a mystery to me why some of Ottawa's best restaurants were closed that night.

As for not eating the food in the restaurant I went to, I couldn't. The restaurant looked awful on the outside and was just as dark and dingy on the inside. Life is too short to dine in a restaurant that depressing, especially on a beautiful sunny night. And don't forget, the place came HIGHLY recommended by several people at my hotel.

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<begin rant>

You know, even if you didn't intend to come across that way (as you actually mentioned in your interview)... for me, it still sounded exactly like the complaints of another navel gazing, overly proud "Montrealer" showing off how great Montreal is by criticizing another city.

Don't get me wrong, I like Montreal (and its restaurants), but I find it odd how many of my friends and family from there have this obsession to tell all visitors how *great* their city is compared to every other city in Canada, not a problem in itself, but unfortunately it's oftentimes done by criticizing/ridiculing the other city, as if that somehow elevates your own. Maybe its part of a city training program or something... :biggrin:

I love Ottawa, but I have no issue complimenting other cities and if I need to make a case for Ottawa, it will be on its own merits and not by pointing out or comparing what it does "better" then its neighbors.

<end rant>

That said, Ottawa is a relatively sleepy, civil servant city and I think comparing its fine dining options with Montreal/Toronto is a futile exercise. Not to say that there aren't great restaurants here, but there's just going to be a lot fewer options then in some other major cities.

PS: Comparing Papagus with Milos is just wrong, different stratospheres wrong. Papagus is like a greek version of Kelsey's or Milestones and is definitely NOT fine dining. Your hotel staff were misinformed.

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I am that "critc" and I'll tell you it must be a slow news week because that story has been blown WAY out of proportion.

That said, it's a mystery to me why some of Ottawa's best restaurants were closed that night.

As for not eating the food in the restaurant I went to, I couldn't. The restaurant looked awful on the outside and was just as dark and dingy on the inside. Life is too short to dine in a restaurant that depressing, especially on a beautiful sunny night. And don't forget, the place came HIGHLY recommended by several people at my hotel.

I agree that this story is much larger than it should have been, but you seem to be in conflict with your own work,

"I first scanned Centretown, only to discover two of the best restaurants, Beckta and the 222 Lyon Tapas Bar, had closed for the day (smart move)."

Why is the "smart move" a "mystery"?

To be complaining about wait times on a day that literally transforms the city is as absurd as comparing the food scene in Ottawa to Montreal. I think we can agree this was an unfair test of what the city offers.

Next time check here before asking the concierge.

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That said, it's a mystery to me why some of Ottawa's best restaurants were closed that night.

And don't forget, the place came HIGHLY recommended by several people at my hotel.

As for the first statement, fine dining is not in demand on Canada Day. People want to get in and out quickly, and mediocre restaurants will put on an easier menu with limited choices and charge more money than usual for it. Anyone from Ottawa knows not to eat in a restaurant that day. I work at Boulanger Francais on Murray Street . As well as the bakery we have a small restaurant in the back and Canada Day is one of the 4 days a year that we are closed. Why?

We have limited storage and a small staff so we would be working extra hard just to sell out of product at 10:30 or 11:00 am. The owner doesn't want the staff to have to deal with drunk rowdy people etc. Also we only get four days a year when the entire staff have the day off.

Canada Day is more hassle than profit unless you make your money from beer sales or you sell fast food.

As for the second statement, I think you need to make some friends in Ottawa :biggrin:


If only I'd worn looser pants....

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I just got back from yet another fun-filled trip to Ottawa (I was actually taking a pastry course at Le Cordon Bleu; I highly recommend it!). I ate at Beckta and it was as good as ever, as was the fancy resto in the casino (name escapes me). Signatures, the fine dining restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu is meant to be good too (especially if you love foie), and Domus in the market is always seasonal and delish. A couple of other choices in the market are Eighteen (but it's been a while since I ate there) and an interesting boite called either Black Cat or Fat Cat; they're doing a cute take on molecular gastronomy, and by cute I mean they have you sniff a squeezebottle of, say, coffee beans with your dessert. And then they take it from you when the guy at the next table needs to sniff it with his dessert. Adorable.

But yes, smaller population, so less choice. And I think every restaurant should be closed on Canada Day so people can swim and watch fireworks and BBQ.

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"And I think every restaurant should be closed on Canada Day so people can swim and watch fireworks and BBQ. "

I wholeheartedly agree...


"nil illigitimum carborundum"

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Amy, was it Cafe Henry Burger?

Saddly, Henry Burger is closed... :sad: Has been for almost a year now I think.

The casino restaurant, the fancy one anyway, is Le Baccara. They also have a buffet restaurant, but I don't think that's the one she was referring to.

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I am that "critc" and I'll tell you it must be a slow news week because that story has been blown WAY out of proportion.

That said, it's a mystery to me why some of Ottawa's best restaurants were closed that night.

As for not eating the food in the restaurant I went to, I couldn't. The restaurant looked awful on the outside and was just as dark and dingy on the inside. Life is too short to dine in a restaurant that depressing, especially on a beautiful sunny night. And don't forget, the place came HIGHLY recommended by several people at my hotel.

Hi Lesley,

I agree that the response to your story has really gone out of proportion. You were just sharing that restaurant incident you had on Canada Day. However, in addition to Beckta, I assume that you must have heard other restaurants in Ottawa from your food critic friends or read some of the critic review written by Anne Desbrisay.

You could have gone to Chateau Laurier, Westin, Marriott to enjoy a safe hotel dinner on that day. Canada Day is the most busy day in Ottawa. Our co-op student from Toronto went to a famous restaurant in the Byward Market with his girl friend on Canada Day. The meal wasn't good either. He told me it was expensive and not worth the money. But he did try some other restaurants in Ottawa and was very pleased with quite a few.

I believe that you have listened to CBC's Ottawa Morning interview with Chef Stephen Vardy. You gave a good review of Beckta in the past, so I assume that you will trust his recommendation.

Here is the list of Ottawa restauarnts recommended by Beckta's Chef Vardy (not in particular order):

Domus Cafe (87 Murray street, Byward market)

Ambiente (18 Beechwood Ave.)

Luxe Bistro (47 York Street)

The Manx pub (370 Elgin St)

Seafood: The Whalesbone Oyster House (430 Bank Street)

Fine Dining: Signatures (453 Laurier Avenue East)

Fine Dining: Baccara, at the Casino du Lac Leamy

Mexican: Ahora (307 Dalhousie Street, Byward Market)

Caffe Ventuno–Il Negozio Nicastro, Westboro

Italian: Cafe Spiga (271 Dalhousie St, (At Murray)

French Cuisine: Les Tartuffes (in Gatineau)

Vietnamese: New Mee Fung (350 Booth Street)

Japanese & Sushi: Genji (175 Lisgar Street, at Elgin)

I tried Signatures, Baccara, Ahora, Les Tartuffes, New Mee Fung and Genji before. The food there are very good. But every restaurant has its different characteristic and its specialty food. No restaurant can be perfect. I can always be able to pick few faults for criticism.

Lesley, I hope that you can come to Ottawa again and try the above list of restaurants and provide your fair review so that you can compare with the top-notch restaurants in Montreal.


Edited by AshleyW (log)

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Amy, was it Cafe Henry Burger?

Saddly, Henry Burger is closed... :sad: Has been for almost a year now I think.

The casino restaurant, the fancy one anyway, is Le Baccara. They also have a buffet restaurant, but I don't think that's the one she was referring to.

Yes, it was Le Baccara. I've been there twice, once for a tasting menu, the other, a la carte, and found everything to be lovely both times.

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The Manx is a good pub.

As for good restos in Ottawa, well, there's Beckta.


"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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From the list, tried Genji last week-end and Ahora yesterday.

Genji was great, they had unfortunately ran out of Uni :sad:, but the rest of the nigiri sushi I ordered was very good, presentation was so-so, could do without the plastic mock palm leaf separators, but the fish was fresh and the rice was good. The decor of the place was nice too.

Ahora on the other hand... really wasn't too impressed with it. I like the hole in the wall atmosphere, even the self serve gimmick for placing your order was fun, but I found the food itself was very mediocre to my tastes. We were 5 and everyone ordered something different, so I was able to sample different dishes and still nothing stood out at all. Everyone else seems to like it and claim it to be "authentic" Mexican cuisine, so maybe I just don't like authentic Mexican food and prefer the bastardized north American stuff (excluding taco bell). No distinct flavors, everything was kind of a mush of cumin, some form of tortillas, salsa and sour cream.

Next up... we're on the waiting list for Beckta and want to try Cafe Domus this week-end. :cool:

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MinhD,

This is good that your group will try out the list of restaurants one by one. Would love to read your comments about other restaurants on the list. You know, going out to eat is very time consuming. Sometimes I just don't have the time to dine out. (A little thing called work always got in the way.)

A small request: After you have tried out the list of restaurants, will you kindly rate each restaurant and re-arrange the order? The restaurant receiving the higher rating (say 10 is the higher score) will be the #1 and so on. This will give me some idea of the restaurant I should visit first. I tried few of the restaurants in the list already before I heard about the list.


Edited by AshleyW (log)

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Hi;

It's been a while. but wanted to wait until I had a few updates before posting.

Since my last update, went to New Mee Fung and to Stella.

For Mee Fung, being Vietnamese, I was already very, VERY familiar with it, but decided to go back to get the latest view on the food and to look at it with a more critical eye. Overall, I'd have to agree that it's probably the *best* Vietnamese restaurant in Ottawa, although that's not saying much since there's not too much competition in this area for the title. (Pho restaurants not withstanding).

** Legal Disclaimer **

My mom would argue (and she does) that what Mee Fung serves up isn't *traditional* Vietnamese fare, but more of a Chinese influenced cuisine that's not truly representative of the food.

** End Disclaimer **

That said, the food is generally very good. The decor is pretty standard, definitely not pretentious by any means. The menu may seem daunting at first, but if you look carefully, (the appetizers aside); it's actually just 4 types of dishes with countless combinations of beef/pork/chicken and/or seafood.

The four types are soups, a rice dish with any of the aforementioned meats, a *dry* rice noodle dish (by dry I mean no broth), again with any of the aforementioned meats and finally a rice paper dish, again with the various combinations on the meats/seafood.

I have tried all the types of dishes and they’re all pretty good, can’t really go wrong with any of them. I’d probably suggest the dry rice noodle dish with chicken and/or spring rolls to someone unfamiliar with Asian cuisine. Where they really shine is in the appetizers, they’re all awesome and I have had entire meals with nothing but appetizers a few times.

Last recommendation would be to avoid chicken in any soup… they don’t always give you the expected, but more expensive to them, breast cut and you sometimes get more questionable cuts – not a problem if you don’t mind chewy dark meat, but…

On to Stella in the market. I went for lunch, as per the recommendation from this great <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060825.rmresto0828/BNStory/specialROBmagazine/">article</a>'>http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060825.rmresto0828/BNStory/specialROBmagazine/">article</a> (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060825.rmresto0828/BNStory/specialROBmagazine/), lunch being a good way to discover a new restaurant, the costs are lower, you get to taste the same food from the same kitchen as the evening service and you don’t *have* to order alcohol/wine.

The ambience and décor of the restaurant is really nice, very slick, modern look you would expect for an “it” downtown restaurant. You can tell it was designed for and geared towards the relatively young, attractive crowd with a few dollars to spend.

For the food itself, I think this restaurant is labelling itself as an upscale Italian restaurant serving “modern Italian food” (whatever that means) and as such, I wasn’t impressed with the food at all. We ordered a group seafood appetizer ($19), that was basically a double portion of fried calamari with 3 shrimps and a few deep fried clams thrown in. I had Bolognese pasta; the other people had a calamari salad and a grilled lemon something chicken. If someone would have served me this food in a run of the mill restaurant, not even an Italian restaurant, I would have said it’s ok, fine really. However, I’m of the opinion that I will rate and judge food based on what type of restaurant it is, so if you’re going to charge me $16 for spaghetti and meatballs for lunch, I kinda expect the pasta to be fresh and the sauce to be good – which wasn’t the case for either. At $18, I don’t expect an overcooked, under seasoned, half chicken sitting on two or three pieces of Italian broccoli.

So all in all, I’d have to say I was disappointed by the experience and I think for roughly the same price, you can get much better fare in a number of restaurants in little Italy down on Preston (La Roma for example).

It’s like Roger Ebert said about movies, if someone asks you if Robocop was good, the expectation is that you judge if it’s good compared to say a Terminator or Rambo movie, not with Citizen Kane or Forrest Gump.

I will, for the sake of some objectivity, give it another shot down the road, but I won’t be holding my breath until then.

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