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Feb 13, 2010 10:22 AM

Ottawa recommendations

Hound from Boston coming to Ottawa for a week on business. Where should I be eating? I am especially interested in great Chinese, South East Asian or Japanese places. Any other shouldn't miss spots would also be appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. Murray St for chacuterie and local beer - Beaus. Play for chacuterie and wine. Jakes on Bronson for breakfast. You must must try to eat some local artisinal cheese from Quebec!!
    Hope you have time to go to the Byward Market. (nicastros).
    check out a great blog for local eats. He has an entry on the top 5 pho places to eat in ottawa.

    1. Ottawa is NOT the place for "great Chinese". If you want ethnic food, Lebanese would be a good bet:

      Lebanese people account for a larger share of the population of Ottawa than that of any other census metropolitan area across the country. (Stats Can)

      Many people seem to like Shawarma Palace on Rideau or Really Lebanese on Montreal Rd.:

      I like Istanbouli on Holland for their veggie pita wraps. It's very clean, food is fresh and prepared in small batches, and the family running it is super friendly. Can't vouch for the shawarma, as we're vegetarian. Good luck.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cyberveg

        While the shawarma is excellent, note that Really Lebanese's restaurant and the attitude of their staff is easily as tacky and obnoxious as the website. I recommend the experience at least once, but it is offputting to the point that sometimes my desire to avoid dealing with the staff outweighs my craving for really good shawarma.

        1. re: cyberveg

          Shawarma Palace's food is excellent. Fresh shaved shawarma rotisserie grilled meat and fresh tasty toppings on a pita. Wow was it good. Nothing fancy, but a great casual lunch.

          Shawarma Palace
          276 Ouellette Ave, Windsor, ON N9A1A5, CA

        2. I don't know what Boston's availability is in terms of Thai and Indian, but Ottawa has fantastic offerings for both, and a Sri Lankan restaurant that is amazing:

          Thai: Sweet Basil, Aiyara
          Indian: Taj Mahal, New Nupur
          Sri Lankan: Ceylonta

          There is also fairly good Ethiopian, with Horn of Africa, and lots of good Vietnamese places. I agree that it is not known for stellar Chinese food, and the Japanese is so-so: I'd wait until I visited Toronto or NYC for that.

          1. I don't like a lot of restos in Ottawa, but i actually like some of Ottawa's chinese offerings. My favourite, for what it's worth, is May's, at Somerset @ Preston. (closed Tuesdays). Great mapo tofu, and dumplings.
            Wouldn't recommend sushi in Ottawa. Best go to Montreal for that. Also think the Thai food is overpriced and underwhelming. (And I am huge fan of thai food).
            Favourite 2 restos you should eat at are: Wellington Gastropub, on Wellington (in between Holland and Island Park), and Navarra, on Murray Street. (Northern spanish food).
            I did not like my last visit to Murray Street, the bar/resto/chacuterie. Very underwhelming.
            Great place for burgers is Chez Lucien, also on Murray Street. Great pub, and they usually have specials too.
            Also on Murray, Domus is supposedly good but haven't been there for a few years (but what i do remember was good). Sweetgrass might also be worth a try.
            Haven't eaten there in a while but always liked Social as a standby. (on sussex)

            1. Ottawa isn't great for Chinese, South East Asian or Japanese.

              I do agree with Mouton Noir on the Wellington Gastropub and Domus but can't reccommend Chez Lucien for the burgers (I found them dry). For a truly unique approach, try Sweetgrass in the Byward Market. It's an aboriginal bistro and quite lovely.

              The Byward Market area is excellent : Murray Street, Navarra, Domus, Sweetgrass, PLAY. Any of these should provide you with an excellent meal.

              15 Replies
              1. re: ceebee1

                Absolutely disagree with ceebee1's broad generalization that all Chinese food bad in Ottawa. Not true whatsoever.
                I lived in Toronto for 12 years, and ate in chinatown once in a while, actually often -- i used to work near there -- and Ottawa chinese just as good as it is Toronto Chinatown.

                1. re: Mouton Noir

                  I definitely disagree that Ottawa isn't good for SE Asian. Ottawa has much better Thai food than most other cities I've been to.

                  I can't speak by comparison to Toronto's Chinese restaurants, as the vast majority of them use MSG, but I've found some pretty good Chinese and Canadian Chinese food in Ottawa. Veranda D'Or is a fabulous Chinese restaurant, and MSG free.

                  What Chinese restaurants in Ottawa do you like, if you don't mind my asking?

                  1. re: vorpal

                    Ben ben, on somerset, is the best chinese restaurant in Ottawa hands down.

                2. re: ceebee1


                  Agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation of the Wellington Gastropub. Unfortunately time has not permitted me to get out that way during my past two trips to town, the last one being just overnite this Thursday.

                  However, I did manage three visits to Play and I am very impressed. I had read some "iffy" reviews but I certainly did not experience that myself.

                  The first two times I ate downstairs but this past trip Stephen Beckta was good enough to get me a perch at the cooking bar upstairs as the downstairs was going to be taken over by a large group at 9:00 p.m..

                  I was very well taken care of by Sara and Chad

                  I had a number of the small plates and some very good wine.

                  I started with the pate grand pere served with pickled vegetables [$9] and a nice refreshing glass of cava [$9]. Good pate in the coarser style that I prefer rather that mousse like liverwurst texture.

                  I then had the rainbow trout served over lentils with sweet lemon rind [$13] This was outstanding fish. A thicker filet than I expected that was pan seared and melt in ones mouth texture. The lemon with the lentils was a nice touch. The wine recommended was a Konzelman pinot blanc but since I find their label a little too "germanic" sweet I tried a glass of orange accented malvasia bianca from Birchino in Monterrey CA [$11] which I thought worked well with the fish and citrus accents.

                  I then "gnawed" on some grilled quail [$13] with a glass of Syrah from Southbrook which was a pleasant surprise and up until then I had only had the framboise dessert wine from them.

                  I finished off the evening with their outstanding grilled hanger steak [$15] and I think....nite tends to get hazy when you are drinking and chatting with the staff and other guests...a glass of Carignan, Chateau La Bousade [$10].

                  Thank goodness for a refreshing walk back to the hotel to get me ready for sleep and a day of meetings. That two hour time difference when one flies from the west is great that evening but desperate when that wake up call goes the next morning [smile].

                  I certainly would recommend Play when dining solo as I was or with a group. The prices do add up but that is always the case I find with good wine and this style of dining like for exampe Stage in Victoria.

                  1. re: Bob Mac

                    The ByWard Market is a great place to seek out dining options in a centrally located place.

                    We just spent the week in Ottawa and thought we might have a challenge dining out with a small child.

                    I also highly recommend Play. Although it is not a restaurant that caters to families - they had absolutely no issue with us - as we were able to detach our car seat from the stroller.

                    I had the trout with lentils - they were absolutely amazing. The fish was moist and subtle. The fish sat atop of brown lentils (do not think they were du puy) scented with citrusy notes. I also had the beef tartare which was pleasant though I found the flavours abit unbalanced and the meat roughly hewned.

                    My in-laws both had the roasted carrot salad and the digby scallops and raved about both dishes.

                    We also managed a brunch at Benny's Bistro. I had the goat cheese frittata finished with truffle oil and my in-laws had the french toast and omelette. It was delicious.

                    I didn't eat there but foodie friends have highly recommended Wasabi. Not sure how authentic it is. It is also in the Market area.

                    1. re: Apple

                      Seeing how things change as fast as the seasons, I wanted to bump this up. We're going to Ottawa for 2 nights and was wondering if there is anything new and noteworthy not to be missed.

                      Our plan is to check out Wellington Gastropub, Benny's Bistro, Beckta and somehow get in a visit to Les Fourges. Anything else??

                      Thanks all.

                      226 Nepean St, Ottawa, ON K2P0B8, CA

                      Benny's Bistro
                      119 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M5, CA

                      1. re: millygirl

                        Great list. You may also want to pick up Pascale's ice cream. Friggin awesome stuff and superior to anything I've tried in Toronto so far.


                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                          Yum, passion fruit ice cream. Thanks SWS, I will definitely add it to the list.

                          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                            Thank you, thank you for bringing this to my attention! I was just thinking the other day about the fabulous ice cream I've had at Allium and Whalesbone, and had no idea it was made by the same person or was commercially available at one of my favourite stores (Thyme & Again). I know what I'll be chowing down on tomorrow! You are a godsend, SWS, although my waistline will owe you no favours :-).

                            1. re: vorpal

                              Oh yeah, Thyme and Again, that name has come up a few times. I must add it to the list. Maybe pick up some goodies for the trip home. Any suggestions Vorpal?

                              1. re: millygirl

                                T&A's flourless chocolate cake (it's not called that anymore, but I can't remember the new name - mention that you want the flourless one and they'll point you in the right direction) is quite possibly the most fabulous dessert I've ever had the privilege of eating, and certainly the best use of chocolate I've ever encountered: it's dense, rich, fudgey, and just the right level of sweetness. A friend and I were making dinner together one night with our significant others, and I bought one for us to all share for dessert. My friend and I decided to take a taste just to taste it fresh on a palate not yet polluted by a big, heavy meal. Anyways, dinner ended up being canceled after we both had our forks meet in the middle of that delectable cake five minutes later or so. It haunts my thoughts daily, begging me to sneak over and buy a slice.

                                They also sell Art-Is-In bread, which is required Ottawa eating. Their dynamite white loaf is good eats, but their similar looking loaf with fennel seeds and whole wheat is exquisite. If Thyme and Again has it, pick up a jar of their balsamic garlic jelly, and just rip pieces of the bread and dip liberally in the jelly: the combination of the two together transcends mere words.

                                Those are the only things I've had there that I claim are essential, but I haven't visited as many times as I'd like to and thus I haven't tried but a fraction of what they have available. My friend, who generally has good taste in food, sports a fairly expensive addiction for their zucchini cookies, which I have yet to try. Most of their homemade products in jars (jams, jellies, sauces, chocolate dips, etc) are very nice and worth checking out. Their pot pies are good, but I was spoiled by Toronto's Summerhill Market pot pies.

                                1. re: vorpal

                                  omg vorpal, your post is making me drool FOR EVERYTHING you mention. Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the info. I will put together a shopping list. Do you happen to know if they are open Sundays?

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    *grins*... They're a wonderful place, and I'm glad to introduce someone to them! They are open on Sundays from 10:00 - 5:00, and here's a link to their website:

                                    If you go and you don't mind, let me know what you think! I may sneak over there myself today for a chocolate cake fix!

                              2. re: vorpal

                                I know-her stuff is like ice cream on crack!

                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                  You can also get Pascale's ice cream directly from her at The Piggy Market on Winston in Westboro. She makes it there and the store, owned by Dave Neil and Warren Sutherland, has other fabulous goodies too - all local and artisan meats, honey, cheeses and locally grown and milled flours.
                                  Their sausages are great and I have also tried their jerk rotisserie chicken, which they roast daily and is delicious, but you have to order ahead.