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One Night in OTTAWA... Recommendations Please!

OliverB Aug 8, 2010 06:27 AM

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!


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    OliverB RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 06:37 AM

    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?


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      OliverB RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 06:46 AM

      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
        neighborguy RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 08:13 AM

        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.

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

        1. re: neighborguy
          piccola RE: neighborguy Aug 11, 2010 06:49 PM

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

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

        2. re: OliverB
          mikeb RE: OliverB Aug 9, 2010 07:00 PM

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


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          OliverB RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 06:51 AM

          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
            dubchild RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 08:25 AM

            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. u
            Uncle Kullervo RE: OliverB Aug 8, 2010 07:18 PM

            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.


            108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: Uncle Kullervo
              vorpal RE: Uncle Kullervo Aug 11, 2010 05:16 AM

              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.

              108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

            2. miss_habibi RE: OliverB Aug 10, 2010 08:46 AM

              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!)

              108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

              1. miss_habibi RE: OliverB Aug 10, 2010 08:49 AM

                Also, a tad lower priced than my other three suggestions are Stella Osteria and Blue Cactus. Still good quality with a creative menu. Both have a nice atmosphere and a creative menu, but Blue Cactus tends to get very crowded on weekends at night. Both very very nice choices. Luxe steakhouse is owned by the same owner, so I would assume that the quality is just as good there as well. Never tried Luxe though.

                Blue Cactus
                2 Byward Market Sq, Ottawa, ON K1N7A1, CA

                106 Victoria St, Toronto, ON M5C, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: miss_habibi
                  vorpal RE: miss_habibi Aug 11, 2010 05:18 AM

                  I totally agree with your Sweetgrass recommendation 100%, but I have to say a huge thumbs down to Blue Cactus. Indeed, it is the worst rated restaurant on the website OttawaFoodies by a huge margin. Avoid at all costs!

                  108 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M6, CA

                  Blue Cactus
                  2 Byward Market Sq, Ottawa, ON K1N7A1, CA

                  1. re: vorpal
                    miss_habibi RE: vorpal Sep 7, 2010 11:55 AM

                    I guess it's a personal taste thing. If you can go on a non-busy week night, i think it's worth a trip. I hate boring food and I love Blue Cactus. I do know other people who do like it and others who don't like it. So, to each their own :)

                    The other places mentioned are safer bets, for sure :)

                    Blue Cactus
                    2 Byward Market Sq, Ottawa, ON K1N7A1, CA

                2. t
                  theamanda RE: OliverB Aug 10, 2010 12:29 PM

                  I've found that Fratelli's is always a good bet...pasta is fantastic...homemade pizza's etc and the ambiance isn't bad either..we went to the Glebe location and had a wonderful time.


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                    woap RE: OliverB Aug 11, 2010 05:56 AM

                    This recommendation may not exactly fit what you were looking for but based solely on the food, we really enjoyed the Shawarma Palace (464 Rideau St.) when we visited Ottawa this year.

                    It is not the most comfortable place; there is usually adequate seating, but it can get very busy and the tables a little messy. You`ll have to line up to order and then find yourself a table. I guess the busy diner-type atmosphere made it an adventurous and fun experience for us.

                    But, the payoff is the amazing Chicken Shawarma dinner; a huge portion with servings of hummus and tzatziki as well as rice, potato, salad, pickle. Each item was fresh and the best we've tasted anywhere.

                    Shawarma Palace
                    464 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N5Z4, CA

                    Rideau Restaurant
                    7780 Becketts Landing Rd, Kemptville, ON K0G, CA

                    1. c
                      Chicas RE: OliverB Sep 7, 2010 08:21 PM

                      Aroma Meze (downtown location only) has excellent modern Greek food and a nice ambiance.
                      Navarra is one of the best restaurants in the market...upscale Spanish cuisine. Also the Murray Street restaurant is excellent. Social & Luxe have nice enough atmosphere, but food can be hit and miss.
                      I don't really understand why certain posters were recommending Milestones, a mediocre steak chain. Black Tomato/Mamma Grazi/Courtyard are all also mediocre restaurants in my book.
                      Wasabi is the best sushi in Ottawa, IMHO.

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

                      93 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N5M5, CA

                      1. c
                        chowyp RE: OliverB Sep 8, 2010 09:34 AM

                        I had a great evening at Murray St. Restaurant. We had the charcuterie and it was really fun, the server had great recommendations and it was fun to try some new things. The wine was really good as well - but the dessert really stole the show. We were there in April and sat out back on a beautiful heated patio. It's certainly on the pricey side but we had a great meal and a fun time.

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