Review: Genji, Ottawa
175 Lisgar St., Ottawa – Website
Date of Visit: January, 2016
Genji is a very small place on Lisgar street, just off Elgin, and it is not a place I would have walked past or otherwise noticed had I not come across it while searching the Internet for places to eat near the hotel where I was staying. I tried it out for supper one evening and, though my meal wasn’t great, it was interesting enough to make me glad I went…
The restaurant seats about 60 or so and has a very minimalist décor. Aside from a couple of pictures, the chic light fittings are really the only decorative features and the place only just manages to avoid being cold in a Spartan sort of way. The service was generally polite and efficient although the dishes I ordered seemed to come quite slowly given that only a few tables were occupied during my visit. It wasn’t until I had been there a while that I saw a fair number of people coming to pick-up take-out orders so I gather the kitchen was quite busy despite the low number of seated diners.
As soon as I was seated, I was served with a small dish of Edamame to nibble on as I decided on my order. Genji is not specifically a sushi joint but they do have a small sushi bar and the menu is very heavy on Maki offerings. There are some nice appetizers, a few grilled entrees, and a fair few noodle selections too. The place is fully licensed and they have a goodly number of Saki brands, all of which, I noted, are very expensive indeed.
Kani Salad – This consisted of King crab, seaweed and cucumber and fish egg with a sesame dressing. At first, I thought the crab was the fake crab stick variety (it looked and tasted quite like it could have been) but the texture was different and I also found a bit of cartilage in the salad. The fish roe was too delicately flavored for this dish (it really only added a bit of visual appeal), but the seaweed worked very nicely. The sesame dressing was quite nice but I found that I really wanted something a little tangier and, while I generally enjoyed the dish as a whole, I only rated it at a 3 out of 5.
Hotate Yaki – This was described as grilled scallop slices in a spicy mayonnaise with fish egg and I ordered it as it sounded quite unusual. It turned out to be fairly nice except for two things: First, the chef somehow managed to leave the dish so that it was quite hot in some spots and almost cold in others (the scallops were warmish but also still translucent in places). Secondly, I found the mayonnaise a little too sweet for my taste and its flavor almost overwhelmed the delicate scallop taste. I thought the concept here was good but that the execution needs tweaking. I gave it a 3 out of 5.
Medusa Tempura – I am not sure what Medusa signifies in the name but the fact that this consisted of chopped vegetables and seafood fried in tempura batter pretty much made this a variety of the tempura style known as Kakiage. Here, the chef formed small flat fritters and then stacked them in an attractive pyramid that made for a nice presentation. Unfortunately, the visual appeal was all that this dish had going for it. I would be hard-pressed to identify any of the ingredients as all I could taste was the batter, which was not especially crispy. Again, this was a nice idea that just failed in practice and I could only rate it a 2 out of 5.
In terms of service and meal quality, I might have been tempted to give a poor overall rating to Genji but they deserve recognition for innovative effort and I rather suspect that I may just have been unlucky with the specific choices I made. Possibly the chef was having a bad night as well. In any event, I rather wish I had sampled some of their Sushi and Sashimi offerings to see how they made out with those. I gave Genji a 3 out of 5.