Month: January 2012

Review: Henry Chung’s Hunan Style Chinese Cookbook

By Henry W.S. Chung



ISBN 10: 0517533251 / 0-517-53325-1 
ISBN 13: 9780517533253
Publisher: Harmony Books
Publication Date: 1978

 I picked a copy of this book up at a second hand bookstore in Ottawa and when I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is autographed by the author himself. The autograph, accompanied by the author’s personal Chinese seal, is prefaced with wishes of ‘Happy eating’ to a person named ‘Greg Lowder’. The signature is dated 1985 (7 years later than the publication date) so it doesn’t look like this book was a copy purchased at a ‘book-signing’ promotion. I can’t help speculating about who this Mr. Lowder might be, or how this signed edition ended up in a second hand bookstore … an estate-sale, maybe? Continue reading “Review: Henry Chung’s Hunan Style Chinese Cookbook”

Review: Al’s Steakhouse, Ottawa

327 Elgin St., Ottawa, Ontario – (613) 233-7111 – Website

Date of Visit: February 5, 2011

Ambience and Service

Al’s is plain but tastefully decorated and well laid out. I attended on a Wednesday night and the place was full to the point of being a bit too crowded. I was given a small table near the front of the restaurant and close to the front doors. This had a nice view of Elgin St. but was uncomfortably close to a very high staff and patron traffic area. I would very much have preferred to have been seated somewhere else. Continue reading “Review: Al’s Steakhouse, Ottawa”

Foodstuff: Patak’s Chilli Pickle

In a recent post about Patak’s Hot Curry Paste I mentioned this Chilli Pickle and I am featuring it here, not only because it is a special favourite of my wife’s but because I recently used it in a recipe that I will be posting very soon.

The ingredients on the label list Chilli, vinegar and ‘spices’ but they do specify mustard as being one of the spices used. You can actually see little grains and partial grains in the pickle paste and there is a definite mustard bite in the aroma. I am not sure, but I fancy I can also taste the slight maple-warmth of fenugreek seed in there as well. Heat-wise, I would say that the chillies used are a bit higher on the Scoville scale than Jalapeño’s and, with the added spiciness of mustard, this product has good fieriness to it without being numbing hot. Continue reading “Foodstuff: Patak’s Chilli Pickle”

Review: Chu Shing Restaurant, Ottawa

691 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON, (613) 233-8818

Date of Visit: February 4, 2011

Ambience and Service

Chu Shing is a very spacious and high-ceilinged room on the second floor of the building it occupies. The décor is fairly plain and unremarkable. I arrived alone at 11am or so and the there were about 10 tables of various sizes that were occupied while the majority were empty. The place was beginning to fill as I was leaving and one could see that it was going to be a fairly hectic and noisy place when the lunchtime service really got going.

Although there is an a la Carte menu, lunch at this place seems to be mainly cart service dim sum. The cart servers were of average of friendliness and help for this type of restaurant and there were a number other individuals who escorted me to my table, brought me beverages and cleared away clutter as it accumulated. On the whole, the service was quick and efficient and I was never left unduly waiting for anything. It was a bit hard tell whether he service would remain as good during busier periods  but I certainly had no complaints through my meal. Continue reading “Review: Chu Shing Restaurant, Ottawa”

Urbanspoon Rocks!

Readers will notice that I have just added a link to a great restaurant review site on my blogroll. I have been visiting Urbanspoon for far longer than I have been blogging and I highly recommend it.

Many restaurant review sites are limited to a particular area but Urbanspoon covers a lot of major cities. I also find that there is generally a lot more information about various restaurants than is common and more of the reviews give decent in-depth coverage rather than simple one-liners. I have relied on the site to pick decent places to eat several times before going on trips.

Best of all, from my perspective, Urbanspoon allows links to reviews in blogs like this one and I have a number of posts linked there now … More will come I hope!


Review: Hy’s Steakhouse – Ottawa

170 Queen Street, Ottawa – (613) 234-4545 – Webpage

Date of visit: February 4, 2011

Ambience and Service

Hy’s is very ornately decorated and furnished and is perhaps best described as theatrically grand.  It has an imposingly high- ceilinged Grand-Salon sort of dining room with a separate barroom and cloakroom. I did not go into the bar area but it looked to be fairly nicely appointed from the outside. The nicest feature of the dining room is a sort of glass gazebo, which houses an impressive kettledrum shaped grill. Patrons seated nearby to the structure can watch different cuts of meat being expertly, and even flamboyantly, grilled to order. I was at a one of the tables closest to the grill gazebo but my location also in a high traffic area right beside the main kitchen doors. This definitely detracted from my dining pleasure to a noticeable degree. Although the room is large and was seated almost to capacity, I recall that there was no intrusive ‘dull-roar’ of conversation or any service related noises. I also have no recollection of any irritating background music or muzak. Continue reading “Review: Hy’s Steakhouse – Ottawa”

Tindora Masala with Peanuts and Chili

In a recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post, I introduced an item, common in Indian cookery but new to me, called Tindora. I searched for and found quite a few Tindora recipes and was inspired to try the above dish which is something of an amalgam of a few of them but otherwise a unique creation. Although the flavours are quite unmistakably Indian in character, the cooking style is more in the nature of a Chinese stir-fry. I love Indian food but I find that vegetables are often cooked far too well for my taste so, in this dish, I flash-fried things very quickly to preserve the fresh taste and crunchy mouthfeel of the Tindora. The term ‘masala’, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, is commonly used in Indian cookery to refer to a spice blend and I will be dealing it with masalas at greater length in future posts. Continue reading “Tindora Masala with Peanuts and Chili”

Review: May’s Garden Restaurant – Ottawa

122 Preston (at Somerset St. W.), Ottawa , (613) 234-6437

Date of Visit: February 1, 2011

Ambience and Service

The restaurant is quite small and homey but decidedly shabby and of dubious cleanliness. The cleanliness issue was not to the point of causing health concerns or anything but the place did seem a bit run-down. I was seated and had my orders taken by a young girl who was competent enough but seemed nervous and quite shy. The dishes I ordered were then brought by an older woman who was friendly and very helpful in answering questions. Overall, the service was quick, efficient and friendly. Continue reading “Review: May’s Garden Restaurant – Ottawa”

Review : Jadeland Restaurant – Ottawa

625 Somerset Street West, (613) 233-0204, Webpage

Date of Visit: August 18, 2011

Ambience and Service

August 19, 2011:  This is a very small place holding about 50 people. It was almost full when I arrived near 1pm and I was unfortunate enough to be seated at a table right near the door, which I dislike. Luckily, the lunchtime rush had slowed a bit by the time I got to the place so I wasn’t bothered by too much traffic around my table. The service overall was adequate, if a bit rushed and perfunctory, but I noted that there were only two servers covering a pretty good size crowd so I suppose I can’t complain too much in that regard. The interior is a bit plain but not uncomfortable and it seemed to be reasonably clean. The menu is fairly extensive but doesn’t contain a lot that can’t easily be found in countless other Chinese restaurants. The sign out front states that Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine but, really, most of what on offer is more Cantonese in character with just a nod to Sichuan.

 (*Note: The menu link above is to the takeout menu only, the regular menu is better) Continue reading “Review : Jadeland Restaurant – Ottawa”