Review: Big Easy’s, Ottawa
228 Preston Street. Ottawa – Website
Date of Visit: January, 2016
Big Easy’s is on Preston Street in the ‘Little Italy’ district of Ottawa. I had made a specific decision to visit the place in advance of my last visit to the Capital, largely due to the lure of their raw oyster bar. I went there for lunch one day and had not only a nice selection of oysters but a few other small dishes and a very pleasant time as well…
The restaurant is divided into a bar and dining area by a low, part-glass partition but, in fact, you can eat and drink on both sides. The décor is quite trendy with high tables in the bar and booths and low tables beyond the partition. The theme, as exemplified by the pictures on the wall is jazz a la New Orleans. The bar is well-stocked with a modest selection of single malt Scotches available and there is also a pretty good wine cellar, with many being available by the glass.
The outside marquee advertises the place as offering steak and seafood but, as the name of the restaurant suggests, the menu leans heavily toward Cajun. There are several Louisiana classics, like Jambalaya and Etouffe, and once can choose a number of plates (salmon, ahi, or catfish) done in the Cajun ‘Blackened’ style. My server was very friendly and, within a few minutes of her bringing me a beer, I had her shucking my first selection of oysters.
In addition to the standard horseradish and lemon, the raw oysters at Big Easy’s are served with a number of condiments, towit: Standard cocktail sauce, Scotch Bonnet, Wine Vinegar, and Ginger citrus dressing. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I never adulterate fresh oysters (even with lemon juice) but I did give the Ginger Citrus dressing a taste and it was very nice.
The bar listed four different oysters for sale but, sadly one of those listed (one I have not tried before) was unavailable that day. I have only taken one picture of the oysters (as they all looked pretty much the same being all from PEI) and the three I did try were as follows:
Freeland Creek Oysters – These were medium large with a medium deep cup. They were quite briny at start but a nice sweetness developed halfway through and was quite pronounced at the end. There were nice grassy notes and just a touch of cucumber. I rated them at 4 out 5.
Pickle Point – These were the smallest ones I tried and the initial brininess married very nicely with a moderate sweetness. The strong cucumber notes near the end were very pleasant and I also gave these a 4 out of 5.
Lucky Lime – The cup of these oysters was very shallow, although they had quite a wide diameter. The briny taste coupled with a strong meaty umami flavor and both the cucumber notes and sweetness were muted. They were still delicious and also worth a 4 out of 5.
Calamari – The squid was available either as standard ‘crispy’ (battered and fried) or ‘garlic pan-roasted’, with both being served with remoulade. I went with the latter. The flesh was well-cooked but not unfortunately only the tentacles had any real flavor. The sauce was nice and spicy hot, with good garlic and a herby notes, and the Remoulade was excellent. It appears to have made with a little turmeric, or perhaps a dash of curry powder, and was one of best I have had. Despite the squid being less than top quality, I though this effort was worth a 4 out of 5.
Blackened Shrimp Po’boy – This sandwich included sautéed red onion, lettuce, tomato and aioli, and I ordered mine with sweet potato fries. Unfortunately, it was not great. The shrimp were spice, but definitely not blackened, and there were too few of them in comparison to the rest of the filling, especially the lettuce. The fries, and the spicy aioli alongside, were great, however, and, in part due to this, I gave the entire effort a 3 out of 5.
It’s a shame my Po’boy (a Louisiana classic) was not that great but I really enjoyed my meal. The place is very pleasant, the service was good, and nothing was overly expensive. I would go again if I lived nearby. Rating: 4 out of 5.