Posted in Restaurants

Review: Khao Thai – Ottawa

103 Murray Street, Ottawa – Website

Khao Thai 1

Date of Visit: March, 2019

I was planning to visit this place on the first night of a recent trip to Ottawa, but I arrived late and, after a gruelling flight, had no enthusiasm for venturing out on the town. The following day, my lunch plans got changed when the restaurant I wanted to visit turned out to be closed and so I kept walking a little further and ended up at Khao Thai. Their lunch menu is not as extensive as the dinner version but I pretty ended up having what I would have ordered anyway and I very much enjoyed it. I was very glad that I didn’t miss out on this place as it turned out to be well worth the visit… Continue reading “Review: Khao Thai – Ottawa”

Posted in Wine

Wine: Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009

Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009

About seven or eight months ago, I began something of a virtual tour of the Bordeaux wine-making region. I say ‘virtual’ because, being several thousand miles away, I am restricted to just tasting the wines as I find them locally, but I have managed, thus far, to work my way through quite a few of the locales that feature in the Bordeaux naming control system.

I am not going to attempt a thorough explanation of the regional naming regime that exists in Bordeaux, as it is really quite complex, but will rather limit myself to saying that, generally, you can divide the wine-making regions into three separate areas… first, the so-called ‘Left-Bank’, being the western side of the Gironde Estuary and Garonne River, then the ‘Right-Bank’, which is to the east of the estuary and the Dordogne River, and final the ‘Entre-Deux-Mers’ region, which covers the area in between.

In Bordeaux, almost all the wines produced are blends and, on the Left-Bank, the red wines are blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon predominates, with some mix of Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot being included as well. Today’s selection is a Left-Bank red from the Haut-Medoc AOC, and is a simple blend comprised of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 42% Merlot.

The wine is full-bodied and quite dry with a mere 2.7 grams of sugar per liter. It has a nice smooth mouthfeel with moderate acidity and fairly robust tannins. On the nose, the fruit is quite muted with some blackcurrant and a little cherry, along with notes of forest floor, dried grass and a faint floral quality. The palate is a little fruitier with plum and sour red cherry, and there are very nice woody notes of oak and cedar with some leather, dark toast and aromatic spices in the finish. Overall, it was very interesting, nicely rounded and pretty decent value at $29.95 from SAQ in Montreal.

Posted in General

Meal Excursion: Dinner at E18teen

18-1 Outside

I first reviewed the Ottawa restaurant, E18teen, some six or seven years ago and I have, a number of times, written about excellent dishes I have had there since then. Recently, however, I visited for dinner and had an experience that was not as good as usual. One dish I just happened not to like all that much, but another one, unusually for E18teen, was just not that well executed… Continue reading “Meal Excursion: Dinner at E18teen”

Posted in Recipes

Shrimp and Pork Balls

Shrimp and Pork Balls 1

Today, I am going to show you a couple of little dishes made with the same basic  ‘dumpling filling’ mix I made for my Shrimp and Pork Stuffed Mushrooms  a while ago. As I mentioned in that post, the combination of shrimp and pork is one of my most favorite dumpling fillings but I wanted to use it in a few non-dumpling applications as well. The stuffed mushrooms were first but then I used the remainder of the mix to make some ‘balls’ that I almost think of as ‘dumplings without wrappers’ … Continue reading “Shrimp and Pork Balls”

Posted in General

Meal Excursion: Chu Shing Dim Sum

Chu Shing 1

I first visited the Chu Shing Restaurant for Dim Sum on a visit to Ottawa some eight years ago. Last year, I tried to make a second visit for lunch but the place was so packed I gave up on the idea and it was only on my most recent trip to the capital that I was able to sample their dim sum once again. This trip was on a Tuesday afternoon so the place was not too busy, and the cart service (which can pretty slow in some places) was bringing around delicacies more quickly than I could eat them … Continue reading “Meal Excursion: Chu Shing Dim Sum”

Posted in Wine

Wine: Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Those with a passing familiarity of Italian wines will tend to think of Chianti when the name Tuscany comes up (or perhaps one of the ‘Super Tuscans’), but a slightly lesser known, but just as prestigious,  group of wines from the region are those from the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita).

Like the Chianti’s the Brunello di Montalcinoi wines are based on the Sangiovese grape but, here,  the DOCG rules require that only Sangiovese be used.  Now, while I very much enjoy a good Chianti, and wouldn’t want to make any blanket comparisons, I have to say that this particular bottle has trumped any of the Chianti’s I have had thus far …

A certain level of quality was probably only to be expected given the almost $50 price tag, but one can easily be disappointed with a relatively expensive wine and that certainly wasn’t the case here. After I had sampled it, I read a few reviews and saw that several people recommended that the wine be decanted for at least a couple of hours and served slightly chilled. My sample was at a cool room temperature, and I only let it breather for about 30 minutes or so in a decanter, but I don’t think I lost much thereby.

The nose is very pleasant with raspberry and cherry for fruit, along with notes of strawberry jam, cream, cedar and vanilla, and some faint floral highlights. It is full-bodies, with a smooth, almost creamy texture, and a moderately high acidity, robust tannins, and a nice long finish. On the palate, the floral component is much more pronounced and the fruit tends to the sour red variety with a slightly unusual apple-cider quality towards the end. There is some spice and a slightly resinous woody effect that rounds out the other qualities nicely.

A few critics have suggested that a few more years will improve this vintage (and I can’t really do much more than guess on that point) but I felt this was a very nicely complex and interesting wine. It might be a bit tannic for some tastes, and probably suited only for pairing with very hearty dishes, but it makes a very different sipping wine if you are going to splurge just a little bit…

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: The Surf Clam

Surf Clam 1

I have come across ‘Surf Clam’ on many Japanese restaurant menus but, on the few times I have tried to order it in the past, it always seemed to be out of season, or otherwise unavailable. In any event, back this past December, I tried it, not once but twice, in two different restaurants in Ottawa. All I could think was that it was a shame I had not managed to try them before as they were probably the nicest clam type I have ever had…

I really cannot tell you exactly what species constitutes ‘surf clam’ for culinary purposes as the information I was able to find was quite confusing. It may well be that there are more than one species, including one that is fished offshore from Bedford, Nova Scotia.    The inset in the above picture shows one such species (Spisula sachalinensis) and I have included it to give you an idea of the part of the clam that is used.

The sashimi and sushi you see pictured above was served to me at Wasabi, where they identified on the menu as ‘Orange Clam’ and ‘Hokegai’, the latter apparently and in-house spelling of the more common ‘Hokkigai’. Surf Clam seems to be the most common English name, but one also encounters ‘Red Clam’, and ‘Sea Clam’.

What I like about the Wasabi version, was the presentation. As you can see, the edible portion of the clam (apparently called either the ‘foot’ or the ‘tongue’) is ‘butterflied’. It is simple pressed almost flat on the plate for the sashimi version, but is made into a pretty little conical ‘hat’ for the sushi. His is quite unique and different from the way it was cut at my next port-of-call… Continue reading “Notable Nosh: The Surf Clam”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Ingredient: Instant Dashi Powder

Instant Dashi 1

Some years ago, I wrote a post featuring the Japanese soup stock known as Dashi. In that post, I mentioned that Dashi could be a simple mushroom stock, or a stock made using just the seaweed called Kombu, or, more commonly, a more complex stock combining Kombu and the dried, smoky tuna known as Katsuobushi

Anyway, in my Katsuobushi post (see the above link), I showed several varieties of the proper fish product and one the ‘instant’ powdered versions. I was, it must be said, a bit scathing of the latter, indicating that it wasn’t, for several reasons, as good as the ‘real’ thing, but, while that is generally true, the same can be said for homemade chicken stock versus one made using bouillon cubes or extract. One uses homemade if that is practical but, sometimes, especially if only a little stock is needed, using an ‘instant’ substitute is perfectly acceptable…

Today, I thought I would take a little more detailed and closer look at the basic product, and also do a bit of a comparison of a few different brands. There are literally scores and scores of different instant dashi products to be found but the ones you see pictured here are three of the bonito tuna based ones that I have most commonly come across in my part of the world… Continue reading “Ingredient: Instant Dashi Powder”

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Wasabi’s Unagi Taters

Wasabi's Unagi Taters

Dear, Oh dearie me… this little offering was… just… sad…

Normally, a dish or meal is featured as a ‘Notable Nosh’ dish because it was either very good, or otherwise interesting in some way, but, unfortunately, that was not the case here… I love the Japanese Restaurant, Wasabi, down in Ottawa’s Byward Market, not just because they usually have top notch food, but also because, sometimes, they can be innovative in clever and tasty ways. Occasionally, though, or at least a couple of times in my experience, they have managed some truly frightful boners. Their ‘Unagi Taters’ which I tried just before this past Christmas, were, I regret to say, boners in the first degree

The menu introduced ‘Unagi Taters’ as: Miso herb croquettes with unagi (eel), cheese, and chives.

Sounds sorta interesting doesn’t it?

Let’s unpack ….

To get the full idea of the croquette, imagine a dollop of cold, unseasoned and mashed potato that is pressed flat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. You may well imagine that the result would be somewhat flavorless and with an unpleasant texture, and… you would be right. Had these ‘croquettes’ included the advertised herbs or miso, the additions might have saved them. As it was, however, they were nowhere in evidence; Not merely added insufficiently, mind you … but completely absent.

The Unagi was the only thing that added any sort of decent flavor here… Unfortunately, it may be that the chef was having a bad night or something, but only two of my four ‘taters’ managed to have any eel put atop them, and in both cases, the amount was not quite enough to be described as ‘stingy’. The final insult to the otherwise decent fish came with the addition of the cheese.

The cheese, and I swear this is true, was actually squares of processed cheese that were added to the ‘taters’ before being popped under the grill. This might have been alright except that the grilling wasn’t even long enough to properly melt the cheese (much less toast it to make it flavorful) and so there it remained as cold, and plastic-like, as it usually is. Sadly, this is not a dish that was poorly executed, it wasn’t even well-conceived to begin with.

Well… in all fairness to Wasabi, despite my little diatribe here, I love the place and will continue to eat there when I come to town. But guys … for heaven’s sake, retire this one from the menu and, for future innovations, if it comes to mind that processed cheese with fish might be a good idea then … NO, NO, and .. NO!!

 

 

Posted in Wine

Wine: A Vertical Tasting

Vertical Tasting 1

Today’s wine post will depart from the usual by sampling not one but three wines. Back when I did some reorganizing of my blog, I announced that, henceforth, I would only be reviewing wines that I thought were excellent, or otherwise particularly special. Neither of those things really apply to the see wines you see pictured above, however, and the reason that they are featured today is because I embarked on something that I have not done before and conducted what is known as a ‘vertical tasting’…

For those unfamiliar, wine tastings can come in different… well, flavors, as it were. In a regular old, run-of-the-mill variety, a group of people will come together and taste and evaluate a wide range of different wines. In what is known as a ‘horizontal tasting’ wines of a particular type, and of the same vintage, will be sampled and compared, but each wine will be from a different winery. I n a ‘vertical tasting’, however, the same type of wine will be tasted, but it will be different vintages from the same winery.

Anyway, for my ‘private vertical tasting, I had the three bottles you can see pictured above. All are Spanish, produced by Bodegas Navalon, in the Valdepeñas DO (Designation of Origin), they are all 100 percent Tempranillo grape and the three separate vintages I had were 2012, 2009 and 2007.

Now, I am not going to go into great deal of detail on their respective characteristics, especially, as I said above, none struck me as particularly noteworthy. All had a little sour cherry dominating, with mild tannins, and light floral notes, but what was interesting to me, from a vertical tasting perspective, was being able to see the acidity go from being brash to something more mellow and rounded with ageing. It was also possible to discern the texture going from hard-edged to much smoother, and see the complexity develop over time.

Some vertical tastings I have read about have investigated a dozen or more vintages from a single winery, which sounds like either a great way to see the evolution of a wine, or at the very least get cheerfully hammered. I would very much like to organize one where a sequential set of vintages could be sampled over 5 years or, more…. There was only me for this tasting of just three vintage… with more wines  I am going to have to dragoon a group of appreciative friends to assist me 😊