This lunch dish I had at Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa marked another first for me… this time, it was the Indonesian fermented soy bean cake known as Tempeh. I have read about it many times, but this was the first time I had ever seen it in a restaurant, or anywhere else.

The menu described the tempeh as being served with pear kimchi, mushrooms, and almond oil. The mushrooms, which were the ‘oyster’ type, also came with green beans and pea shoots (not mentioned on the menu) and, together, these formed a bed for the tempeh. I am not sure where the almond oil came into the picture as I could neither see nor taste anything along those lines and I suppose it may not have been used on this occasion. The pear kimchi, of which more in a moment, was the little amber pools you see at the edges of the vegetables.

The pieces of tempeh, as you can see, rather have the appearance of granola bars and, indeed, this is very much what the cake was like. It was much softer in texture than granola, but with a similar contrast of consistencies, and the taste was a lot like light toast with hints of nuts. Many people are cautious around anything fermented as such things are often very strongly flavored but this was very mild and inoffensive, and I would say that very few will take a strong dislike to it.

The tempeh was dry to the point that it needed a little something and this was where the pear kimchi came in… I had to enquire as to what exactly it was, and I was told that it was a puree of spiced, fermented pear. It tasted, in my opinion, a bit like miso to which a little garlic and chili had been added. It was excellent and a really well-chosen accompaniment to the tempeh.

My only criticism of my experience with this dish was that it had lingered a little too long between the kitchen and my table and was almost cold. For the tempeh, the beans, and the pea shoots this did not matter too much but it rather spoiled my enjoyment of the mushrooms a little. Still, that was only a minor flaw and I was very pleased to give tempeh a try. I may also try turning my hand to fermenting pears myself …

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… Read More →

The Hong Kong Express opened at 242 Rideau Street sometime within the last two years and happens to be located very close to the hotel I always stay at in the capital. On my last visit, I didn’t feel like going very far and so I stopped in for light lunch…Read More →

One of my greatest pleasures is being able to try foods that I have never had before. Until a recent visit to Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa this spring, I have never encountered sturgeon in any shape or form before and even the ‘caviar’ I have had has been from some other sort of fish (and thus not proper ‘caviar’ in the eyes of many). Accordingly, I was quite excited to see the actual fish appearing as an item on the menu and I was unable to forego the opportunity to give it a try…

The fish itself was served atop a bed of lentil salad incorporating pickled yucca and teardrop peppers. It was topped with toasted, coarsely-chopped almonds and pea shoots, and olive tapenade was added to the plate in three little pools.

To be honest, I didn’t think the tapenade added anything, and I didn’t like the lentil salad bed either in taste or texture. I don’t care for lentils all that much to begin with, and there was nothing about this salad or its other ingredients that really changed my mind. That being said though, neither of the ‘enhancements’ here spoiled my enjoyment of the sturgeon at all, thankfully…

The flesh of the fish was very nicely grilled and succulent. The texture was quite firm, yet still ‘flake-able’, much like cod, and the flavor was slightly sweet, and even somewhat chicken-like. It did not have the pronounced ‘fishy’ taste that some people find a bit overpowering in seafood and, in all, I was reminded very much of Monkfish in taste, if not in texture. Anyway, I doubt I shall be eating sturgeon very frequently in the future, as it is a bit pricey, but I very much enjoyed my introductory experience…

Wine Pairing: 2017 Pearce & Predhomme Chenin Blanc [South Africa]

When I was a kid growing up in Britain, Scotch Eggs would often put in an appearance at picnics or on cold buffets, but, on this side of the pond, they seem less well known and are only infrequently encountered. Basically, the idea is that a boiled egg is wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried or baked. In my house, when I was young, my mother deep-fried them, as best as I recall, and she always hard-boiled the eggs first.

A while back, I had an opportunity to visit ‘The Clarendon Tavern’ in Ottawa’s Byward Market for the first time. I was able to sample a number of beers I had not had before, and also tried their version of Scotch eggs, which has been given a spicy twist with chorizo and other seasonings in the sausage wrap.

The specialty was served with some very nice bread and butter pickles, grainy mustard, and a salad of greens in a lovely dressing containing just a little lemon zest. There were also some finely shredded pickles in the greens and, while I could not identify them, I thought them a very nice addition. As for the egg itself, the coarse breadcrumb produced a very nice crust that was still nicely crisp and the chorizo sausage made a great change from the usual. There was also a slight ‘curry’ taste to the meat coating, and I could definitely detect cumin and coriander in the blend. Whatever it was, the result was a nice play on an old favorite and I would really like to experiment with the idea myself … maybe Quail eggs instead?

Kochin Kitchen opened up on Dalhousie Street in Ottawa’s Byward Market a few years back, and, while I did try to pop-in for lunch on a past visit to the city it was packed full already and I didn’t get a table. Recently, I made another attempt and, though the place was very busy once again, the service was very friendly and efficient and I enjoyed my meal. The place specializes in the food of southern India and they have a nice range of dishes, especially appetizers. I plan to go again on an upcoming visit to the capital a few weeks hence actually, but I am posting to day to share the very nice dishes I enjoyed on my introductory excursion to the place… Read More →

I had been meaning to visit this place on Ottawa’s Slater street for some time now and, though I finally made it with a mind to write a proper review of the place, I unfortunately did not arrive at the best time to do so. The restaurant opens for lunch but then closes quite early in the afternoon before opening again in the evening and I did not get there unto just a short time before the kitchen shut down. Still, I managed to sample a few of their fish selections, both as sashimi and sushi, and I will share them here now with a promise to return sometime for a more thorough report… Read More →

35 William Street, Ottawa – Website

Date of Visit: March, 2019

I have passed by Vittoria Trattoria scores of times while shopping in Ottawa’s Byward Market, and have long meant to stop in for a meal sometime. I finally did so on my most recent visit to the capital and ended up having a pretty enjoyable evening… Read More →

I have mentioned Ottawa’s Play, Food and Wine many times on this blog. It is a cross between a bistro and a wine bar and I like going there when I visit the city as they change their menu frequently and offer interesting pairing suggestions from their decent selection of wine. On my last visit in March, I enjoyed the Beef Carpaccio dish you see pictured above. I thought it worth featuring here as it was quite innovative in the ingredients used and was an interesting take on the usual presentation.  The dish was described on the menu as ‘Beef Carpaccio with jerk spice, jalapenos, greens and Comte’, which was sort of accurate, but also not quite what I received…

The beef itself appeared to me to be the same thin slices you can buy for Chinese Fondue or Hotpot from your local supermarket. I am not being critical in relaying that fact, indeed, the quality of the beef was excellent and I think I may borrow the idea for myself, sometime. There was a bit of a disappointment in that there was nothing remotely ‘jerk-like’ about the meat, and no hint of seasoning that suggested anything vaguely Jamaican… I think a little regular pepper was used, but there were no other aromatic dried spices that I could detect. Quite honestly, though, I didn’t miss it all that much and I think it is possible that the duty chef that evening may have simply forgotten add it.

There was also no actual Jalapenos on the plate, as such, but the vinaigrette for the mesclun greens did contain Jalapeno oil and the little spark of heat this added proved very nice. There was also some pickled Yuca included (which wasn’t mentioned in the description), and I liked that tart counterpoint to the rest of the dish. The other departure from the traditional that this Carpaccio made was that, instead of the usual shavings of Parmesan, or Romano, the cheese added atop the beef was a variety called ‘Comté’. I had to ask about this and it turns out that it is a French cow’s milk cheese (also known as Gruyère de Comté) produced in eastern France. It was, I though, something like a mild, slightly waxy cross between Swiss and Parmesan, and I like it very much.

As for the wine, the menu suggested a Agricola Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2017, which is a rose from Abruzzi in Italy. I tried it and it was quite dry and somewhat acidic, with nice notes of cherry, citrus, orange blossom and melon. I am not sure if I would particularly choose this to pair with the Carpaccio I had, but it went well enough and was a decent sipping wine in its own right. On the whole, I was pleased with the combination of experiences…

103 Murray Street, Ottawa – Website

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… Read More →