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One Night in OTTAWA... Recommendations Please!

Staying one night at the Fairmont Laurier and while I'm entirely familiar with the city and visit often... I've never had a really good or memorable meal at any restaurant before.

I'll be down with my girlfriend and am open to any kind of cuisine really... cost is not so much a factor but neither a guideline as the focus is on a really fantastic meal, service, ambience, etc. I guess we're looking on the higher-end but again, that doesn't mean I need a super expensive formal restaurant, and at the same time, I'm willing to pay for a really great experience.

Only thing is that I would like to remain in the central downtown/market area and not stray too far. I should mention that I'm from Montreal and therefore, restos should be considered in comparison to the sort of alternative or equivalent we would experience in this city.

Some other guideline to help with suggestions: we could go for anything meat and fish heavy, Italian / pasta, seafood, French, etc.

Where would YOU recommend, and please keep in mind that ambiance and atmosphere are also a factor!

Merci!!

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  1. Should add that we'd also really love a great sushi restaurant, if such exists!

    I remember one near the Rideau Chapters I think, though I can't really recall if it was any good... it's been a couple of years already and my memory's not what it used to be!

    Lastly, any recs for a great cafe to sit outside and have a glass of wine or local ale?

    There was this courtyard bistro near the marketplace that I spent a lot of time at when I drove down for the 2007 OIAF... anyone know what it's called?

    Thanks!

    1. Btw, I figured out that courtyard is in fact the space shared by The Courtyard Restaurant, Black Tomato and Mamma Grazi's from a quick internet search. Are any of these restaurants worth trying? I think I ate at Black Tomato years back and was nothing too special, though I could be mistaken. This is the one with CDs everywhere (kinda tacky novelty theme)? Anyways, not what we're going for on our single night in town...

      3 Replies
      1. re: OliverB

        I'll bite.

        Ate last summer at the Black Tomato, also on a weekend stay at a nearby hotel. The quiet of the courtyard was good, but that was about the only thing that stood out about the experience. Oh, and the beer was somewhat local from what I remember.

        The rest was all very "foodservice" in quality and character. The meal I ordered was sold as something exotic (southeast asian- or caribean-inspired) and it turned out to be, well, bland. The servers were just okay, tho not entirely helpful or knowledgeable. What you would expect at a place geared toward tourists.

        Next time I'll head to the Keg in the Market.

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        Black Tomato
        11 George St, Ottawa, ON K1N8W5, CA

        1. re: neighborguy

          Sigh. I used to love the Black Tomato -- but it hasn't changed in 10 years.

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          Black Tomato
          11 George St, Ottawa, ON K1N8W5, CA

        2. re: OliverB

          The Courtyard Restaurant had a fire a few weeks ago and is still rebuilding.

          http://www.courtyardrestaurant.com/co...

        3. And lastly (I keep replying to my own posts!) how's e18ghteen?

          Also I thinkt he sushi place we ate it was Genji and if I recall I found it vastly overrated and nothing special. Is it worth revisiting as my girlfriend is crazy about sushi?

          1 Reply
          1. re: OliverB

            Last year we ate at Bekta, Atelier, and Fraser cafe. Of the three Fraser Cafe was by far the best. Atelier was quite simply a joke, I was starving mid way after seven courses, none were interesting or flavourful, and dumb ideas like turning nachos into a cheesecake dessert was just plain gross. Bekta put effort into creating an experience and the cheese course is stellar, but the flavours over all were muted. Fraser Cafe was casual but very well executed food with bright vibrant flavours.

          2. You might want to try Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro on Murray Street. Easy stroll from the Chateau. Ecelctic menu, great food, always something interesting - elk, venison, rabbit, wild boar. Seafood is good, too. Desserts better than average.

            WIne list adequate, but not outstanding, so if matching every course with the perfect wine is important, this place might not do it for you.

            Finally, the kitchen is always slow. They turn out great meals, but you will need to allow more time than you normally would for the kinds of dishes that you order. Make that a lot more time. The wait staff, on the other hand, are very accommodating and appear to have a real knowledge of where the food is sourced and how it's prepared. They are happy to describe any dish and to make recommendations based on your stated preferences.

            http://www.sweetgrassbistro.ca/

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            Sweetgrass
            108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

            Murray Street
            110 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Uncle Kullervo

              Sweetgrass is the place to go. I've been three times, and all three have been my best meals in Ottawa by a large margin.

              Don't bother with sushi here. We don't do it particularly well.

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              Sweetgrass
              108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

            2. Here are my favorites:

              First, Milestones is literally a stones' throw from Château Laurier, Eclectic menu, all types of fusion, creative dishes. The butternut squash ravioli is simple yet delightful. Salads are satisfying and surprising. Bellinis (think alcoholic slushies...) are amazing. Chic, modern amiance.

              Second, Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro. I will second the poster who said that the desserts are outstanding. You don't need to be a European tourist to try traditional native Canadian cuisine. Duck spring rolls sound exotic, but they just taste like VERY good spring rolls with a wonderful golden beet salad; delicious bison burgers for the non-adventurous; pickerel and potatoes was beautifully done, but nothing unusal or original. Wild boar was to DIE for. Melt-in-your-mouth tender, juicy and oh-so-tasty. As for their famous desserts, the Jamaican Rhum bread pudding is great, although my Jamaican boyfriend has yet to make one for me, so I don't know if the one from Sweetgrass was authentic. Next, the Hibiscus flower sorbet was incredibly wonderful; served with delightful delicate pineapple crisps. Rosemary crème brulée was a great surprise.

              Overall a YES.

              Now, I've tried ei8hteen (18 York st.) and, honestly, not that great. It has potential but it's not worth the high price. The steak was tough even though i asked for medium-rare. The corn ice cream with raspberry something (sorry, I don't remember the raspberry part other than that was good) was very odd, even for my wild palate. It really tasted like cold, creamy corn.

              Those three are rather upscale, in the somewhat higher price range. I would avoid pubs for food, as expected, I've never had a very good experience.

              As for a bistro for local brews, I'd suggest hopping over across the river to old Hull, literally a 5-minute drive, cab, or bus ride. There you will find Le Troquet, which has a nice selection of beers and wine, a patio and warm and cozy atmosphere. If you REALLY want the beer taster experience, drive 20 minutes to Aylmer, Qc to L'Autre Oeil. They seriously have every beer imaginable (hundreds!)

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              Sweetgrass
              108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA