Grilled Haloumi at the PFW Restaurant in Ottawa
I love visiting the Play, Food & Wine Restaurant in Ottawa’s Byward Market district. Aside from being a lovely wine bar, they specialize in ‘Small Plate’ dishes rather than full meals, which is my favorite sort of dining experience. I have only had a few ‘fails’ there over the years, and the Grilled Haloumi Cheese you see above was most definitely not one of those.
Haloumi, for those unfamiliar, is a cheese from Cyprus that is made from both sheep and goat milk (cow’s milk is also included sometimes, I gather). It is mild in taste, but the feature that really makes it appealing for me is that it has a very high melting point and can thus be grilled or fried in all sorts of interesting ways.
This particular dish was described on the menu as being ‘Grilled Haloumi with Celeriac, Date Puree, Pomegranate and Hazelnut Oil’. You cannot see the Celeriac in the picture, but it was pickled and sliced thinly. The Pomegranate seeds added a nice visual touch but I found the texture a bit jarring and the taste, as with the Celeriac, was okay, but didn’t really add to the overall quality of dish.
The cheese however was excellent … When you bite into Halloumi, especially after being fried or grilled, it has a terrific texture. It is a bit like a cross between really firm tofu and Paneer, except it is even chewier and seems to ‘squeak’ when you bite into it. Here, the grilling was done very well and the charring added a terrific dimension to the mild flavor of the cheese itself.
I am not sure about the Hazelnut oil supposedly used here. Grilled Haloumi usually has a bit of a nutty taste, I find, and that was the case here. Beyond that, I am not sure what effect the oil was supposed to have had. It clearly didn’t negatively impact the dish, it also didn’t have enough effect to be memorable either.
The Date Puree was a very good addition and I thought that sweet fruitiness was a great counterpoint to the savory tastes. Other similar fruit preserves would also work well her, I would say, but, in any event, the overall effect was excellent and I enjoyed the Grilled Haloumi at PFW very much.