41 York Street Ottawa 613-789-7559 Website
Date of Visit: July 24, 2012
I first visited this place some four or five years ago. I don’t have any specific bad memories of that visit but I also can’t remember a single dish I ate either, so I would have to mark that occasion down as being unmemorable at best. On this visit to the capital I decided to give the place another try but, while it made more of an impression on me this time, it was, sadly, not a particularly favorable one…
Ambience and Service
As it was fairly warm I decided to sit outside. I was inside only long enough to snap a quick photo but it seemed to me that the place would hold fifty or sixty people. It looks comfortable enough, but I can’t really recall if it changed much from my last visit.
The patio seats 24 people and overlooks a fairly quiet section of Byward Market with a nice view of the Parliament Clock tower. I arrived at around 6:30pm and it was almost empty. A few other people arrived during the course of my meal but a breeze arose and there was even a little rain so most of the people who came went inside.
The service, for the most part, was generally efficient and quick but it was friendly only in a polite sort of way. I was a little annoyed at being asked to sit at a tiny table for two rather than the larger one I wanted as it was clearly a slow night and very few seemed to want to sit on the patio. I was also a rather taken aback when the waitress declined to lend me a pen on the basis that she didn’t have many and if she gave them to patrons they would disappear. I can’t say that I was actively insulted by this but it did rather make me wonder if they were having a bizarre rash of diners making off with the writing implements. Either way, I have to say that on the whole, the character of the service did little to make one feel genuinely welcomed.
Now, I really should have known better that to order oysters in July, but there were three different types on offer (available as a selection of two or four each) and I, very unwisely, decided to give them a try. Sadly, as it turned out, the best I can say about the experience is that I am glad I ordered just the platter of a half-dozen rather than a dozen.
The types on offer were ‘Sea Angels’ from B.C., ‘St. Simone’, from New Brunswick, and a type I have never heard of before called ‘Prince’ which, I was told, came from P.E.I. Of the lot, only the latter were even remotely good but, even there, they lacked the nice sharp brininess that PEI oysters usually have and would have been very poor except for some rather nice cucumber and lettuce notes. The ‘St. Simone’s’ were only a pale shadow of their usual quality, being flat and uninteresting with an unpleasant metallic quality, while the ‘Sea Angels’ (usually delectably sweet) were quite simply the absolutely worst oyster I have ever put in my mouth. If all three types had been poor quality due to lack of freshness I would have immediately sent them back but, as it was, I could only really berate myself for stupidly eating oysters at the absolute worst time of the year. This offering rates only a 1 out of 5.
Octopus and scallop sashimi
Well, this was plated very nicely, I suppose, but beyond that the dish was mediocre at best. The quality of the scallop was actually very good, with buttery flesh and a nice sweet taste, but the garnish of Capelin and Flying fish roe, added an unpleasant jarring note. It was pretty, but more thought needs to be given to taste rather than just presentation. The Octopus was not the highest quality and was not cut that well. It was a bit stringy and the lime sections that had been used to present the slices really did nothing to help the taste. I rated this at a 2 out of 5.
Escolar (Butterfish) and Red Snapper Sashimi
The Escolar (the large white chunks in the foreground) had a spongy, slightly fibrous texture that made think it had possibly been frozen and then inexpertly thawed. The taste had a slight tang to it that was rather unusual, but the undertone had a very ‘meaty’ quality reminiscent of Beef Tartare that I wasn’t sure I liked. I don’t usually bother with Wasabi, ginger or soy when I eat Sashimi but I tried a little Wasabi with this and it didn’t improve it much.
The Red Snapper was cut quite nicely (except for one slightly ragged piece) and it seemed fairly fresh. However, it had a bit of that slightly earthy taste that some freshwater fish have and, again, I wasn’t sure I liked it much. To be fair though, I think that is just an issue of personal taste rather than quality and I gave the whole dish (which was nicely presented) a rating of 3 out of 5.
It is a real pity that the squid they used in this dish was considerably less than fresh because the execution of the dish was otherwise excellent. The batter was so thin as to be translucent and was fried to a crisp perfection. The seasoning would probably be a bit salty for some but I liked it and would have really enjoyed the dish but for the freshness issue. The sauce it came with was described as ‘Wasabi Lime’ blend and, unfortunately, I did not like it all. I like lime with some things, not with others, and in this case the combination just didn’t appeal. I would never take off rating points for a mere personal dislike of course but, all in all, I could only rate this whole dish at a 2 out of 5.
I probably would be a bit more charitable in my review of the service and ambience of this place if the food had been better. Unfortunately, Kinki is one of those restaurants that has clearly fallen in to the trap of focusing on the visual presentation of its dishes to the exclusion of almost everything else. It is not enough to merely create dishes that look good the plate, or sound exciting on the menu; the chef needs to be more diligent in selecting his ingredients and some real thought needs to be given what tastes work well with each other. I am afraid that, after my first unmemorable visit, and this disappointing one, I will not be going back any time soon.