717 Somerset St West, Ottawa – Website
Date of Visit: January, 2016
So Good Restaurant lies just at the point where Somerset Street West begins to slope down towards Preston. I have passed by it many times and thought I should try it sometime but a friend recently recommended it to me and, as it turned out, her praise was well-founded…
By the way, for those interested in such things, the restaurant sign gives the name, in English, as ‘So Good’ and specifies they serve Canadian, Thai, Vietnamese, Sichuan, and Cantonese cuisine. The Chinese character name, however, reads 好運中西美食 (hǎoyùn zhōngxī měishí). This simply indicates that ‘Western Chinese Fine Food’ is on offer, and the name actually translates as ‘Good Luck’ rather than ‘So Good’.
Ambience and Service
The interior of the restaurant rather matches the outside, which is to say that it doesn’t immediately impress you. The place is very small (seating 30 would be a stretch, I think) and there is an eclectic collection of different chairs and tables which are all rather beaten up. There is also a fair amount of clutter to the place, giving it a sort of ‘lived in’ look, but it is also noticeably clean and bright. In fact, although being somewhat shabby, it is, at the same time homey and pleasantly comfortable.
The waitress who served me was very pleasant and friendly and she rather impressed me in one particular. When I selected the ‘Bon Bon Chicken’ from the appetizer menu she grimaced and gave a little shrug indicating that this might not be a good choice. Now, I have found, in Chinese restaurants, that this often means the server doesn’t think that the dish is one that will appeal to western tastes or sensibilities, typically because it contains an Asian delicacy, Ducks Feet or Pig Ears, for instance, which are not much appreciated in the west. I ordered the dish anyway, however and there was nothing odd or exotic about it, being plain chicken and cucumber in a rather mild sauce. Accordingly, I think she was just being honest and conveying her opinion that the selection was not one of the restaurant’s better offerings. I disagreed with her assessment of the dish, as it happened, but I appreciated her good faith attempt to advise me.
By the way, the online menu for the place is not exactly the same as the one I was handed when I was seated. I can’t tell if there are more or less dishes on one as opposed to the other, but the physical menu is organized a bit differently and gives the Chinese Character names for the various selections. There are also specials listed on the wall boards and, as is often the case, the Chinese and English names are not direct translations. The rather pedestrian sounding ‘Shrimp in Tomato Sauce’, for instance, is rendered in Chinese characters as ‘Dry-fried Shrimp’, which indicates the particular cooking style.
Seafood soup – This was simple but very good. The soup contained mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, shrimp, squid, and crabstick and the base, which I am fairly certain was chicken stock, was delicate and flavorful. It contained a little scallion but there was no garlic or ginger that I could taste, although I thought I detected a faint hint of coriander in a few spoonful’s. I rated this at 4 out of 5.
Bon Bon Chicken – This is the selection my server tried to caution me against but I tried it anyway as it is rather a classic in Sichuan cuisine and I have not had it before. It is composed of warm, poached chicken shreds atop matchsticks of cucumber, dressed with a brown sauce composed of Sweet Bean Paste, possibly blended with a little Hoisin. It is supposed to be a ‘chili hot’ dish (as indicated on the menu) but there was only a fairly mild heat in the aftertaste. I enjoyed it, though, and rated it at 4 out of 5.
Hunan Dumplings in Hot Sauce – These were 12 very nicely formed boiled pork dumplings. The filling was delicately seasoned, juicy and meaty, and very tasty. My only disappointment was that the sauce was the same as on the Bon Bon Chicken and I was expecting something a little different. Again, it was not particularly hot (as advertised) but I added a little of the Sriracha Sauce that is supplied on the table and the result was excellent. I gave these a 5 out of 5.
So Good restaurant is a little shabby in appearance but they provide good food at very reasonable prices. I intend to go again sometime and sample some of their entrees. I rate it overall at a respectable 4 out of 5.