Lunch at Play, Food & Wine

Play, Food and Wine is one of my favorite restaurants in Ottawa and many dishes I have enjoyed there have been featured in posts here at one time or another. On my most recent visit, I went with a companion in the early afternoon and we sampled three of the dishes from the lunch menu. One was decent enough, one was outstanding, and the third… very surprisingly for this particular restaurant … was nothing short of awful. For a more particular description of all three, read on…

Duck Skewers – These were served on a bed of carrot and cucumber slaw with a light soy dressing which was visually attractive, and pleasant enough to the taste, but otherwise not especially exciting. As for the duck itself, I had very much been looking forward to trying this after seeing it online, but I wasn’t terribly pleased with it. The meat was grilled very nicely, being tender, sweet, and not overly seasoned, but it had a slightly bloody, liver-like taste that I sometimes encounter in duck and which I suspect has something to do with the diet of the bird rather than anything in the cooking process. I can’t fault the Play, Food & Wine kitchen in this case… it is just unfortunate that I did not like the end result on this particular occasion.

 

Grilled Halloumi – I enjoyed another Grilled Halloumi here at Play, Food & Wine a little over a year earlier and it was on the strength of this that I urged my dinner companion to try the current rendition. Although I actually got to eat a good deal of hers, I was a bit disappointed I hadn’t chosen this for myself as it was every bit as good as the first time I had it here. This time, instead of being served over celeriac with pomegranate and date puree, the grilled squares of cheese were placed on a bed of crisp, yet tender zucchini shreds with Kalamata olives and peanuts. The zucchini may have been lightly macerated before being gently heated and it was very lightly seasoned with just a slight tang that possibly came from the olive brine. The cheese had that terrific ‘squeaky’ bit that Halloumi gets when grilled and the peanuts added an excellent textural counterpoint. This offering was really splendid indeed …

 

Ragu di Mara Linguine – Oh dear … I hate to slam a dish, especially when it was served in a restaurant that is so consistently very good, but something was very unfortunate about this item. The ‘mare’ aspect of the dish consisted of mussels, shrimp, cod and samphire, which sounds delicious but turned out to be far from it… the samphire, which I was looking forward to trying for the first time, was little more than miniscule green bits that were tasteless. The cod, also in tiny fragments was also tasteless, as were the shrimp, which I suspect were of the pre-cooked cocktail variety. The only substantial part of the dish with any flavour were the mussels but, tragically, the taste was of shellfish a bit past the peak of freshness… The ‘ragu’ sauce might have redeemed the whole thing somewhat but, quite honestly, this was like a cross between a boring squash puree, and that insipid tomato sauce you get in canned spaghetti… I would like to say that this was maybe an unfortunate rendering of a good dish on a bad day, but I think this offering was actually bad from conception and needs to be replaced with something else…

Anyway… I could probably rant on about the last unfortunate experience, and I probably could have let it color my general view of Play, Food & Wine, but even good restaurants come up with some poor dishes occasionally, and this one won’t stop me from going back. On the whole, I enjoyed my meal …

 

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