Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sesame Chicken and Rice Noodles with Miso Soup

I love my life. I can attribute that to my husband. I worked late tonight and when I got home not only had he walked the dog, he also made me dinner. My favorite kind of dinner. Basically anything with rice noodles is my favorite. This gorgeous bowl of noodles had sesame chicken, celery, julienned carrots, cucumber and lime. I'm full and my mouth is still watering.

Corner Bar and Grill

We stopped in here for a beer and dinner after a mountain bike ride on Sunday. I'd burned a lot of calories so I figured the Sunday special wouldn't do me any harm. I got the fish and chips and a Beau's Lug Tread lager. I had my choice of fries, mashed or salad, and went with the sweet potato fries. Although I absolutely adore mashed potatoes, that day I had a hankering for the sweet potato fries. Plus my husband ordered the mash, which meant I could bum a bite of his and at least try them. End result? I'm glad I went with the fries, the mashed weren't mashed enough – I like them whipped! The fish on the other hand, was perfect and not too greasy, which can happen a lot with fish and chips. The service, as it has been in my previous 2 visits, was great. And I really like the decor inside, simple and comfortable. They could however, change their music selection. Top 40's dance pop doesn't fit the bill. Overall though, a great time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oh Basil!

Most Vietnamese restaurants in Ottawa are very much the same, this one is no different. But unlike my regular spots, this one is close to my work, which is perfect for those lunchtime Vietnamese cravings I sometimes get. They are located at 1910 St Laurent Blvd. I first found out about this place through my colleagues, who, knowing I was a fan of Vietnamese food, brought me there for my birthday. So on the odd occasion I don't bring a lunch to work, I go there. I had my usual yesterday, rice paper shrimp rolls (or summer rolls as they call it) with peanut sauce and vermicelli with spring rolls. It was very good, and fresh. The noodles were a tad bit greasier than my usual places, but not as bad as some others i've tried. I would not say the service is fast for a lunchtime spot, but it's not terrible either. All in all, a pretty good little restaurant. The decor is nice and clean too.

Oh Basil! on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lobster Lobster Lobster

My husband and I are huge fans of seafood, especially lobster. We served lobster rolls at our wedding and decided to eat lobster every year for our anniversary afterward. The only catch, is that we can only eat as many lobster as the number of years we're married. Today was year 3. And we just ate about 12 years worth of lobster in these 3. They were massive!

Caribbean Flavours

If you love Caribbean food, or simply just want to eat as much food as possible for a really low price, you'll love Caribbean Flavours. The savory food at this quaint little restaurant is made with love and offers a unique taste experience in comparison to many restaurants. You can choose mild, medium or hot for most dishes, or go super hot with the Jerk flavoured foods. I started off with the Codfish Cakes with garlic mayo and spicy creole pepper sauce. For $9.95 I got 3 hearty fish cakes that were delicious. They weren't too fishy either, just perfect. Now, I could have stopped there, I was borderline full, but I had to try the Rotis. It's a thin crepe filled with curries, chickpeas, and your choice of meat. I had shrimp. This dish was $11.95 and did not include any sides. I could have upgraded to a platter for an additional $8, which would have included soup, veggies and rice. The rice would have been nice to help with the spiciness of the dish (I went with medium) but in no way would I have been able to finish it. I ate 1/3 of my roti and brought the rest home. The next day, I split the leftovers with my husband for lunch. I'll definitely be going again. The spiciness and heartiness of the meals would be wonderful on a cold winter day but are good anytime, especially if you've just finished burning a lot of calories and need to refuel. The only thing I dislike about this place is the location. It's on Carling Avenue in a sort of mini-mall type building in front of the new Canadian Tire. That alone will probably reduce the number of visits I make.

Caribbean Flavours on Urbanspoon

Maria Maria

I tried this drink for the first time at Bières et Compagnie in Montreal and loved it. I sent them an email afterward requesting the measurements of each ingredient but never received a reply. So I figured it out myself, and this has been our summer drink ever since. One ounce of port in a large glass with ice, then fill the remaining half with orange juice (no pulp) and the other half with Blanche de Chambly – in that order. A quick stir and VOILA! A delicious and refreshing drink. My husband hates port and is not a fan of Blanche but loves this drink. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Red Apron

If you live on your own, or are a single parent, a busy parent, a busy couple – ok just about anyone who likes to eat healthy and don't have time to cook, then you should check this place out. These women make delicious pre-made meals with many options available –from picking up just one meal to getting on their dinner club for regular delivery. I've eaten their meals a few times and each time has been scrumptious. Last night we had the Wine Braised “Kerr” Beef and Caramelized Onions with Sundried Tomato Orzo and not only was it flavourful, it was also very filling. The beef was tender and juicy and the orzo had a light tangy flavour. Their portion sizes are more than enough, we had the dinner for 2, added some carrots of our own and still had leftovers. The prices are very reasonable – for 2 of us the meal was $16. Why anyone who dislikes cooking would choose to cook over picking up their dinner there is beyond me. Just the cost of the ingredients would be at least that let alone the prep work involved – I know I won't take the time to caramelize my onions! If you have a chance to try their carrot cake, do it. My husband raved after trying a sample while he was picking up our meal (he's not normally a sweets person). I was upset that he didn't bring any home, i'll be going to get some this week guaranteed! The only downfall I've found with this place is their hours. I wish they were open later in the evening. I finish work at 5 but don't normally get out of there and home until 6:30 or 7 – which is why a place like this would be so perfect, but they close at 6 on weekdays. They are open on Saturdays until 2pm though. I guess, they have to have a life too!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


When Cam Kong closed I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. When I heard a new vietnamese restaurant was opening in it's place I suddenly had a bit of hope, until I tried it. In all fairness, my judgement was probably clouded by my obsession with Cam Kong. I picked out every little thing that was not the same, and I hated it as a result. I imagine it must be tough for a restaurant to open for the first time. It'll never be perfect. It's like a sitcom where the actors need time to build their character. A restaurant needs time to build it's menu. A perfect example is the Whalesbone. That place sucked the first time I went. But with some changes, like the addition of Steve Vardy, that place became one of my favorite places to eat on a regular basis. They built such a strong foundation with him, that they are doing just fine now without him.

Back to Fuschian. It's been over 6 months since I went for the first time and i'm really glad I did. I had a feeling it would be better this time. I saw the best description for this place in the newspaper clipping review of the restaurant they had on the wall: Fresh, hot, cheap, good. And it's exactly that. I had my usual rice paper shrimp rolls with peanut sauce, and vermicelli with spring rolls and meatballs. The meatballs were much better than the first time i'd had them there, and the rice paper rolls were room temperature, not freezing cold like the first time. The service was also very fast and extremely friendly. My entire meal, with tea (free) and tax came to $12.66 and it was more than worth it. I won't be waiting 6 months before my next visit again.

Fuschian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grilled Halibut with Zucchini Fritters

My husband never ceases to amaze me. We had another delicious meal tonight, all made from scratch. Grilled halibut and grilled fennel with scapes, zucchini fritters and homemade tzatziki.

Sushi Kan

My best friend raved about this place the first time she went. I'm sad it took me over a year to finally try it out – I have a tendency to get stuck in my centretown bubble. Lucky for me they just opened a restaurant near my work – my secondary bubble. The atmosphere is your typical chain restaurant setting, but you barely notice because all that's on your mind is that you're about to stuff your face with all you can eat sushi. It's unfortunate that the reputation of all you can eat joints usually means a lesser-quality food. If that is your view, think again. The food was fresh, delicious and best of all, an amazing value at $12.99. The menu consists of 150 items, with only 10 of those allocated to dinner only (mostly sashimi). We ate Fried Dumplings, Shrimp and Sweet Potato Tempura, Spicy and Crispy Salmon and White Tuna Rolls, Dynamite rolls, and so on. One thing I'd never tried before was the Sushi Pizza, it just didn't sound very appetizing. Well, I loved it. It was not at all what you would expect. You've got the choice of either Salmon or White Tuna (get the spicy) mixed with a thousand island dressing on a fried potato type pancake – yum! There were a couple of things I was a little disappointed with, the Seaweed Salad was served rolled inside nori with rice, one bite and it's gone. I prefer the actual salad on it's own. And the Dumpling Noodle soup wasn't very good, the broth was ok but the noodles weren't great. On the service side of things, a bit slow for a lunch hour crowd, but overall a great experience. I'll definitely be back.

Sushi Kan on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vietnamese Kitchen

Just finished my weekly usual. Next to lobster, rice paper shrimp rolls are one of my favorite foods. I eat at the Vietnamese Kitchen once a week. I started going there regularly in January when my previous weekly Vietnamese place closed down - Cam Kong. I had been going there for 5 years. I cried when they closed. My desktop picture at work is number 315 (springrolls and meatballs on vermicelli) - yes, i'm obsessed. Nothing has been able to replace them but the Vietnamese Kitchen has come close. The fact that they deliver makes it even better. My usual, A7 and V8 - rice paper shrimp rolls with peanut sauce and vermicelli with spring rolls have been consistently very good. The service is also really great.

The Vietnamese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Tip Jar

I've always found that service is parallel to the food experience. So i've decided to start a tip jar. I always tip 15% for good service. Great service I tip 20 or more. Less than good service will receive less than 15 or even nothing at all (this one was extremely hard to do the first time - but why should anyone pay for bad service?) There's nothing I hate more than discussing how terrible the service is over dinner. So I am going to give where it's deserved. 

When I receive less than 15% service, the difference will go into this jar. I'll keep track of this on my blog and the minute I get really great service, that person will receive the amount accumulated in the jar as well as their regular tip.

Steak and Blue Cheese Salad

Here's what we had for dinner tonight. My husband says his secret is putting a big chunk of blue cheese on top of the salad and then laying the sizzling steak on top of it.

La Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse

This isn't a restaurant but I have to put it on my blog because it's so good. I was out on a road ride and came across this place. The minute I walked in I was in heaven. They have virtually every kind of smoked fish I could think of. I felt like a little kid in a candy store. I ended up leaving with maple smoked salmon, smoked tuna, smoked trout, smoked mackerel and some deer and elk sausage. They even packaged it up nicely for me so that I could carry it in my backpack for my hour bike ride home and not worry about anything going bad. Everything I got was really good. The item that stood out for me the most was the Elk sausage - freakin' awesome! You have to try it.

The prices I found to be a bit higher than what you would pay in a grocery store, but given the fact they are local, it's definitely worth it.

Maxwell's Bistro

Ok, I know going out for breakfast in Ottawa is a challenge, especially between 11 and noon on a weekend. Unless you've got 3 hours to spare, you probably shouldn't do it at all. But sometimes, I just have to do it, and when I do, I eat toast before leaving the house so that I don't get antsy waiting for my food. Given that, I was in really good spirits on Sunday morning. The restaurant was packed so we decided to eat at the bar. It took between 45 minutes and an hour to get our food. That would have been fine given the circumstances, but the bartender would not take 2 seconds and say: “Hey guys, i'm really sorry about the wait, it's nuts in here.” Instead, she avoided eye contact with us the entire time and didn't offer to refill our coffee. The food on the other hand was good as usual, nothing to do back flips over but their brunch has been consistently good every time i've gone. This time I had the Eggs Toscana off their specials menu, it's like Eggs Benedict but with a few ingredients changed. What I loved the most was the amount of hollandaise sauce they put, it's just the right amount. Some places put 3 inches of thick, gross hollandaise sauce, I hate that. The freshly squeezed orange juice was also really good.

Cheshire Cat Pub

A friend of mine recommended I grab a bite to eat at this little gem during a road ride. I just got into road riding this year and did a 100k ride on Saturday. Mid way through, I was famished and just in time for lunch! They have a pretty regular pub fare menu but I would say the food is definitely better than any regular old spot. I had a hard time choosing between the Perogies and the Thai Chicken Wrap. Knowing I had to climb a hill afterward, I went with the wrap and made up the calories with sweet potato fries and chili sauce. YUMMY! In addition to great food, the service was perfect. The 2 girls working there were very friendly and extremely accommodating. If you're ever out in the Carp area, I highly recommend you stop in. They've got a wonderful little patio at the back, and if you don't have bug spray, they've got some for you!
The Cheshire Cat Pub on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Navarra by René Rodriguez

Ahhh, the inspiration restaurant. The reason I started this blog. The minute I walked in I knew we were in for a good night. I asked if they had room on their back patio for 3 and she immediately perked up with "Yes, of course!" I love when the staff is happy to have you there - unfortunately this does not happen enough in Ottawa.

Deanna was our server. I'm normally a red wine drinker, but my mother-in-law was with us and she prefers white. Deanna recommended the Albarino Martin Cobax, a dry, Spanish wine. I may now officially be a white wine drinker, this wine was delicious!

The evening just kept getting better, I ordered the Fazzoletti Pasta as my starter, this plate is to die for. Crispy pig cheek, goat cheese, peas cooked to perfection - if you do anything at all, go there and eat this. I also had the Street of San Sebastian Pinchos as a main - garlic prawns, chorizo in aoli, salt cod rilletes, all amazing. My husband had the Confit of Crispy Pork Belly, this dish melts in your mouth. My mother-in-law had the Roasted North Carolina Bass with lobster mushroom sauce - need I say more? Everyone raved about their meals and I have to say, they were all amazing because I tried each one of them.

I finished it all off with the Apple Crisp and a glass of sherry. I don't normally drink sherry, but I do drink port. They didn't have an LBV port, only the tawny, but Deanna recommended the sherry. I trust everything that woman says, she was knowledgeable and confident in all areas. I absolutely adored everything about this place and will be there again soon.

If you're curious about price, it's not cheap, but it's definitely worth what you are paying for. With tax, for the 3 of us, the cost was just under $200. The wine was $48 and the sherry was $10.

I will be figuring out a good rating system for my blog. Until then I'll go with the default stars and give this one 5 stars. In my opinion, price is worth 10%, atmosphere is 10%, service and food are each 40%. Sometimes the service can outweigh the food, especially if it's bad. I've enjoyed my evenings more with mediocre food and amazing service than with crap service and great food.

Navarra on Urbanspoon