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Notable Nosh: Mussel Sashimi

Mussel Sashimi

I probably wouldn’t normally feature something so plain and simple in a ‘Notable Nosh’ posting, but this method of serving mussels was so delicious it left me smacking my forehead for never having thought of serving them this way myself.

When I saw ‘Mussel Sashimi’ on the menu at Ken’s Japanese Restaurant in Ottawa, I assumed that I would be getting raw shellfish. However, although sashimi does generally involve uncooked fish, a few items (notably octopus, for one) are first cooked before being served cold. Mussels could easily be enjoyed raw, of course, but serving them this way, as a cooked, cold appetizer was a bit of a revelation to me.

I am not sure how Ken’s prepared these but my first guess would be that they were very quickly steamed. Whatever seasoning was included in the steaming liquid was very light and about all I can suggest was that there may have been a dash of rice wine added to help infuse the delicate meat with just a touch of additional sweetness. Surprisingly, there was no ‘liquor’ on the shells beneath the flesh, but the mussels were delightfully plump and extremely succulent. I am not sure, but it is also possible that the mussels may even have been poached in a subtly flavored liquid and then left to marinate in the same for a time before serving.

In any event, although I love mussels and steam them regularly, I have yet to serve them cold and this little appetizer I tried has inspired me to play around with the basic theme. I may be stuck with using cooked, frozen mussels at first as the fresh article only shows up here a few times a year, but that will be interesting too. The main challenge will be to avoid getting too heavy-handed with seasonings as subtlety is definitely the key here, but I am already thinking of some Asian and Mediterranean twists on the idea. Posts will be forthcoming…

Review: Café Spiga

271 Dalhousie St., Ottawa – (613) 241-4381 – Website

Spiga 1

Date of Visit: March 13, 2013

I have tried to visit Spiga on a couple of different trips to Ottawa but something has always intervened and made it impossible. Just recently, however, I managed to get there for lunch and I enjoyed the pleasant house wine and a couple of very interesting dishes… Read more

Notable Nosh: Honey White Gourd Drink (蜂蜜冬瓜茶)

White Gourd Drink 1

As I was leaving a grocery store in Ottawa’s Chinatown recently, I happened to spy this interesting beverage in a cooler by the door and couldn’t resist giving it a try…

Although the English name of the main ingredient is ‘white gourd’ the Chinese characters translate as ‘Honey Winter Melon Tea’. The word ‘melon’ suggests a very sweet, succulent fruit in English, of course, but in Chinese, the term incorporates a far wider range of produce (a cucumber is a ‘yellow melon’, for example). I have yet to cook with the winter melon (I haven’t seen them in stores this far north), but they appear quite often in a number of Chinese dishes (soups and stir-fries especially) and are very much a savory, rather than sweet ingredient.

The ingredients for this Taiwanese product appear on the can as: Water, White Gourd, Sugar, Honey, and Caramel Flavor. On tasting, it however, I got no sense that I was drinking the juice of a vegetable . Indeed, the dominant taste was a blend of honey, caramel and, for some unaccountable reason, a slight hint of the overly rich synthetic hazelnut flavor one encounters in some commercial coffee blends. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much as there was no acidity to balance out the rather thick sweetness, and it wasn’t a drink that I can imagine being all that refreshing on a hot day. I won’t bother buying it again, I don’t think, but, hey… if you don’t try these things, how will you ever know?

Anyway, on a related note, about an hour after buying this drink, I happened to come across some actual winter melon in the produce section of another store not far away. If my travel plans permitted it, I would have happily bought one or two as this was the first time I have ever seen them outside of a restaurant and I would love to give them a try in my own kitchen. Next trip to Ottawa, perhaps…

 

 

 

Review: Whalesbone Restaurant

430 Bank St., Ottawa – (613) 231-8569 – Website

Whalesbone 1

Date of Visit: March 13, 2013

Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply not only maintains a retail seafood outlet that supplies oysters and other maritime delicacies to restaurants around Ottawa, it also operates a very nice little restaurant (the ‘Oyster House’) downtown on Bank street. I visited there for dinner one evening a couple of years ago and, on my last trip to the city, I made a reservation for lunch. The current lunch menu, as opposed to the dinner menu, is a bit limited, consisting of two sorts of salad, fish and chips, chowder or a steamed mussels, but that didn’t matter to me as I was going for the oysters…

Read more

Master Sauce Cookery Part 2: Red-cooked Pork Hocks

Pork Hocks 1

This experiment will be the first use of the Chinese ‘Master Sauce’ I posted about a short while ago. I have very much wanted to reproduce the ‘Pig Trotter’ I featured in a ‘Notable Noshings’ article back in December but, since pig’s feet are not generally available in these parts, I have substituted the much more common hocks. As I mentioned in the ‘Pig’s Trotter’ post, the featured dish that I enjoyed at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa is a good example of the Chinese culinary technique known as ‘red-cooking’ in which foodstuffs are slowly braised in a soy-sauce based medium (hence giving the requisite ‘red’ color). As the master sauce I prepared essentially fits this criteria, I thought it would be perfect for today’s experiment… Read more

Notable Nosh: Edamame

Edamame 1

Edamame, for those unfamiliar, are young green soybeans that are often steamed or boiled and then seasoned before being eaten, frequently as a snack or appetizer. They have been a staple on Japanese restaurant menus in the west for quite a few years now (and the odd Chinese restaurant too), but they are also being increasingly more common in non-Asian restaurants, even being included as appetizers in pubs and the like. So far, though, I have only eaten them in Japanese restaurants.

The ones pictured above were served to me in Ottawa recently and were tossed in butter and then coarse salt before coming to the table. Butter may not sound typically Japanese but, in fact, it is not that uncommon in the cuisine any longer and it certainly does go with the beans. I am not sure if the ones I had on this occasion were steamed or boiled but they were just a little underdone and not quite as tender as others I have had… Read more

Review: Brothers Beer Bistro

366 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa – 613-695-6300 – Website

Brothers Bistro 1

Date of Visit: March 13, 2013

 Brother’s Beer Bistro attracted me initially after I saw a grilled octopus entrée on their online-menu. When I visited the place recently, however, I was disappointed to discover that the offering had been discontinued a few weeks earlier and I almost went elsewhere. I didn’t, as it happened, and, though the meal I ended up having wasn’t exactly spectacular, by any means, I still enjoyed a pretty nice evening… Read more

Chili Cumin Jumbo Shrimp

Chili Cumin Shrimp 1

After sampling several Northern Chinese BBQ dishes at the Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant in Ottawa some time ago, I tried reproducing one of their offerings and posted it as Grilled Squid with Chili and Cumin. The restaurant also does shrimp grilled the same basic way (which I didn’t try, but mean to rectify sometime), and I thought I would give it a try at home first. I am departing from the general method used by the restaurant (they dust with ground dried chili, cumin and sesame seeds), and instead used a chili paste that is first slightly sweetened… Read more

Review: Must Wine Bar

41 William St  Ottawa – (613) 680-3107 – Website

Must 1

Date of Visit: March 12, 2013

Must Wine Bar is a tiny little establishment that is just a few doors down from Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro which I generally visit when in the capital. I have passed by the place many times, and even perused their posted many a few times, but it was only on my last trip south that I gave it a try. On the whole, I was very happy that I did… Read more

Notable Nosh: Grilled Sanma

Sanma 1

When I ate at Ken’s Japanese Restaurant in Ottawa last December, there were several items on the menu that I wanted to try but just couldn’t manage on that occasion. On my most recent visit to the capital, however, I rectified that situation and the offering that most interested me was the fish appetizer identified as ‘Grilled Sanma’ … Read more

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