Review: Ken’s Japanese Restaurant
217 Rideau St., Ottawa – 613-860-6788 – Website
Date of Visit: December 4, 2012
I had planned to visit Ken’s on a previous trip to Ottawa but events conspired against that happening and it was not until this most recent excursion that I was able to finally make it. My visit was was, as I had anticipated after viewing their website and reading a few reviews, not terribly special but still a fairly enjoyable experience nonetheless…
Ambience and Service
Ken’s is not terribly big, seating about 40 patrons or so and it was filled to about half capacity over the Tuesday lunch hour when I visited. It is quite plain inside and, though a little shabby, is generally clean except for the washrooms, which, I have to say, were not very nice at all. Indeed, I could feel a nasty stickiness on the soles of my shoes after leaving the restroom that didn’t bear thinking about at all.
I was served immediately upon being settled and the dishes I ordered all came rather promptly. There was a bit of a mix-up with one item I selected, but it appeared to have been nothing more than an honest misunderstanding and it was rectified immediately. My main waitress spoke excellent English and was very friendly whilst another who served me had a bit of difficulty understanding my requests.
Miso soup – This was fairly straightforward and consisted of strips of seaweed (wakame possibly) in a standard dashi stock flavored with miso, and accompanied by sliced white mushroom, tiny cubes of tofu and sliced scallion. It was generally tasty, with a nice light miso flavor, but I rather think the dashi was prepared from bouillon granules rather than konbu and bonito flakes. It wasn’t bad, but nothing terribly special either, and I gave it a 3 out of 5.
Octopus with Vinegar – This appetizer plate consisted of very thin slices of cooked octopus piled around a mound of shredded daikon and garnished with tobiko (or flying-fish roe) and shredded scallion greens. The dressing was a light vinegar blended with sesame oil and I think I could also detect a faint taste of hot pepper in there somewhere. It was a very tasty dressing but it was way too much for the delicate and nicely textured octopus flesh and I really could taste little but the sauce ingredients. The flying fish roe, garnish was pleasantly sweet (it can often be tasteless) but it was not enough to save a dish that really lacked finesse. I could only give it a rating of 2 out of 5.
Grilled Squid – This was a very substantial appetizer plate consisting of grilled squid tentacles in a sweetish sauce with a generous amount of garlic and sesame seed. When it arrived, it gave off the lovely aromas of the grill and was very tasty indeed. I am not sure of the composition of the sauce, and I forgot to ask, but it tasted very much like Eel (or Kabayaki) sauce and worked very nicely indeed. The only flaw in the execution was that the tentacles (generally quite tough at the best of times) were a little undercooked and he thicker ones were a bit difficult to chew. But for that flaw, this would have been a perfect dish and I rated it at a 4 out of 5.
Ken’s offers an all you can eat menu alongside the regular one and, along with the rather tacky table coverings and the shabby surroundings, it seems that the owners cannot decide whether to be a cheapo, quick lunch type of place or something more high-end. I enjoyed the food and I fancy this could be quite a good restaurant if they paid more attention to maintenance (particularly in the washrooms), but they seem to fall a bit short, unfortunately. In all, despite some of the shortcomings, the service was good, the dishes enjoyable and, on the whole, I felt I got my money’s worth out of the place…