Ottawa - Stella review
Overall a disappointing experience. Emphasis appears to be more on style than substance. Hopefully they read these boards and will improve. I desperately want more good restos in Ottawa!
Positive notes: Lovely room. We were greeted warmly and offered a choice of tables, including a booth for 6, when we were only 4 (more later). Shoe buffer outside the nicely-decorated washrooms a nice touch. Mostly attentive service. We ordered something from each section of the menu, and the meal was timed perfectly, which I know is not an easy feat in a busy kitchen. Separate billing arranged with a quick nod.
Negatives: In my opinion, these are some areas that could use improvement.
Hospitality details: Arriving on a cold, weekday night, I noticed most diners had their coats draped over their chairs. Ours were taken to a coat rack, but only after we asked if they had one. Strange for a high-er end resto in a winter capital. We should have taken the table for 6, as ours had so many things on it (8 very tall glasses, glass candle, glass vase for flower, s&p, etc) there wasn't room to place 4 menus and a wine list on the table. The servers at one point moved the accoutrements to the side of the table by my elbow, leaving a hole in the middle. Assuming this was an oversight, and not wanting to knock anything over (or burn myself on the candle), I shifted it back. Turns out they had done so to clear space for a breadboard with a loaf of bread and dipping oil. An attempt at style... but frustrating, as we couldn't reach around the very tall glasses and other glass things to cut the bread! We relegated the flower and candle to a neighbouring table. The floor tiles in the nicely decorated washroom were cracked, with the better part of a row missing right in the middle of the floor. My white dish (not a plate, not a bowl, not a pasta bowl) had gray scratches all over the rim... strange for a newer establishment.
Food: My companions pronounced their dishes ok, with one particularly enjoying his steak. I was underwhelmed by a calimari salad. The tentacles were fine, but the body tough and chewy. Mesclun was overwhelmed by way too much balsamic dressing (there was a lake in the bottom of the bowl), and so got limp and slimy quickly. Pasta in the salad was tough (and I prefer al dente), and appeared to have been cooked in advance. I detected one pine nut. I don't remember if there were supposed to be more, or if this was a stray. In any case, it was odd. In retrospect, I wish I had piped up and asked for my dish to be changed.
My partner and I had an entirely different experience at Stella last September. I do remember there being too much on the table itself, but that's a small detail. We had risotta fritters and calamari to start, which were quite fabulous and we followed with the tuna and spaghetti with meat balls. The mains were great as well! Wish I could give you more detail, but it was some time ago. I remember liking the meal so much that I e-mailed the owner/manager to tell him & found it odd that I did not receive a reply.
I've heared mixed reviews about Stella, but I'm happy to report that our experience was very good and we look forward to going back in the summer to sit on their terrace. After dinner we went for drinks at a really cool bar across the street that had "stone" in the name. Great service and friendly staff there as well.
As a booster of Ottawa restos in general, I'm happy to hear that others have had a more positive experience.