271 Dalhousie St., Ottawa – (613) 241-4381 – Website
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…
Ambience and Service
Café Spiga has around 15 tables, or so, one of which is sequestered in a very pleasant and cozy private dining area. The décor is a nicely balanced fusion of stone, chrome, and wood and the place is comfortable and just dark enough to be relaxing. There were only a few tables occupied during my visit, but there were enough patrons that the sole waitress was kept quite busy. She was very friendly and efficient and I rather got the impression that she might be one of the owners as she seemed to be take genuine pleasure from my compliments on the food.
The washrooms in Spiga are downstairs and, when I visited, I got to see their wine cellar, which is fairly decently stocked. The restaurant was advertising a dinner special which offers one’s choice appetizer, entrée and desert for two at the price of $60.00 and includes a bottle of a Portuguese wine called Lello, which is a Douro varietal and is available as a red or white. I took this to be the house wine and I tried a glass of the red, finding it very pleasant. It was nicely dry with damson and plum qualities and a faint hint of salty leather I liked. I generally prefer a red that is a bit more full-bodied but I made the note that this would be worth buying for the table at home sometime.
The menu at Spiga is a balance of Portuguese and Italian. There are quite a number of dishes I would have like to have tried but, in this visit, I limited myself to a couple of selections from the appetizer list:
Grilled Octopus with Portuguese Vinaigrette – This dish was excellent, although I am not sure where the vinaigrette came into the picture. There was mayonnaise based dressing on the side that was flavored with lime and black pepper and, while this was not especially exciting, there were also some Italian style pickles consisting of cauliflower, celery and olives that provided a nice acidic counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the dish. The octopus was nicely grilled and served in a spicy, reddish oil with purple onion and was extremely tender. I actually prefer a little more chewiness to octopus (this was really fork tender) but that is really just a matter of personal preference and I though the dish deserved a rating of 4 out of 5.
Chourico Flambe – This was a very interesting and novel item. It was a Portuguese sausage served on an unusual grill-topped earthen dish whose bottom was filled with salted brandy that was set alight before being served. Usually, flaming alcohol burns out very quickly but this kept on going, cooking and charring the sausage beautifully until I blew out the flames in order to eat.
The sausage itself was not really like any Chorizo I have ever had (either Spanish or Mexican). On the exterior, it resembled a frankfurter or knackwurst in appearance, even down to the thickness of the skin, but, aside from a slight smokiness in taste, the resemblance ended there. As you can see, the texture is a mix of very thick chunks of meat and fat and the flavor, to my mind, was like a very nicely cured ham with a decent jolt of spicy paprika. Dipped in the remaining apple-like brandy, it was delicious and I gave it a 4 out of 5.
Café Spiga is well worth a visit and I really enjoyed the novel delicacies I sampled. There are a good number of other dishes available that I would like to try and I will definitely return on subsequent trips to the capital. I rate it at a decent 4 out of 5.