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chef

Three New & Notable Ottawa Restaurants

By Joseph Mathieu

It seems like every time you turn around a new restaurant pops up in Ottawa. We aren’t talking about franchises, but unique eateries with their own personality. The newest additions to the city’s food scene are beautiful, interesting, and far from a flash in the pan. Here is a roundup of new and notable restaurants that opened in 2017.

The Albion Rooms’ Heritage Room

33 Nicholas St., 613-760-4771, thealbionrooms.com

Open every day 11 a.m. to late

An often-overlooked gem is hidden in plain sight at the base of the Novotel on Nicholas Street. The lounge chairs and low tables visible from the hotel lobby are only the tip of the iceberg of The Albion Rooms, which includes a polished bar with standing tables, a glass-walled charcuterie station, and a dining room. The restaurant’s newest addition is hidden in the back, called the Heritage Room and themed like a British gastro-pub. Its rounded booths, cozy corners, and satellite kitchen serve up a breakfast buffet every morning, and dinners on Wednesday to Saturday. The harvest table can be the buffet display or sit a 10-person party. The restaurant’s three pillars remain craft cocktails, local beers, and a farm-to-table menu, all of which are well worth exploring.

Tried & True (and something new): Mushrooms on toast ($14) and elk tartare ($15) are nice additions by head chef Jesse Bell, but you really should try the charcuterie board (from $10)

Photo by André Rozon

Sur-Lie

110 Murray St., 613-562-7244, surlierestaurant.ca

Open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m to 11 p.m.

If you have an interest in locally-inspired modern French cuisine, this is the place for you. Opened last February, sommelier Neil Gowe’s Sur-Lie offers elegant fine dining without the pretension. If you want to eat like the pros, try their $80 five-course tasting menu — and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. The menu is seasonal, made with fresh produce and game from the ByWard Market and the surrounding region, and always aims to bring in the best quality ingredients. Each plate is a piece of art that you are welcome to remix with your fork.

Pretty much omg: Local rabbit and fowl tartine ($18) for lunch goes a long way, and dinner is a win with the squash bisque ($10) and Québec fois gras torchon ($20)

Photo by Rémi Thériault

Citizen

207 Gilmour St., 613-422-6505, townlovesyou.com/citizen

Open Thursday to Monday, from 6 p.m. to late

First-timers will feel right at home in this casual wine and small plates nook. With dedicated staff, Citizen builds on the success of its big sister Town (296 Elgin St.) but is really a restaurant apart. Its wine list features bottles from around the world that pair well with menu items from all over the map — influences range from African to Spanish, and Italian to French. Something new (and meatless) by guest chef Mike Frank shows up on every Monday menu. Co-owner and chef Marc Doiron is comfortable creating new dishes for new wines, and the suggested dessert is a wonderful case in point. There are no beers on tap, but it’s hard to notice with such a generous selection of bottled beer from near and far. 

Love at first taste: Falafel and eggplant ($14) or the pork belly with mojito salad ($18), and definitely go for the concord grape tart ($12)

Kitchen Q & A: Chef Nuit Regular

The chef of Pai Northern Thai Kitchen shows off the diversity of Thailand’s cuisine at her newest restaurant, Kiin

Why open another restaurant after Pai’s success?

I wanted to introduce styles of Thai food that people in Toronto had yet to try, and to offer a variety of foods from across Thailand. There are southern dishes, dishes from the northeast, royal Thai cuisine and many others.

What’s your favourite dish to make at Kiin?

Right now it’s wing bean salad. It’s a dish that I make with tom yum paste: a chilli paste that I make from scratch. I went back to Thailand to eat lots of wing bean salads, to learn, and then I came back and made this dish.

What’s an ingredient unique to Kiin?

We use buffalo Thai basil. My mom used to cook with it when she made food like Kua Hang Gai for me and the neighbours. I tried to get the basil in Toronto, but no one sold it here, so I had to search for a supplier and order it in from Thailand.

Kiin is located at 326 Adelaide St. W., kiintoronto.com.

Hot Dining: Chef Talk

Chef Beth McWilliam of fresh cafe. Photo by Ian McCausland.

Fresh, locally inspired fare is the focus of Chef Beth McWilliam’s menu at Corydon Avenue hot spot fresh café. From the freshly squeezed juices to juicy bison and elk burgers to house-made hemp muesli, this vibrant daytime eatery has earned a loyal following for its sophisticated dishes and an unwavering commitment to using made-in-Manitoba ingredients. Tuck into the zippy butternut burger made with local squash and topped with refreshing house-made tomato chutney and garlic aïoli. 775 Corydon Ave, 221-5775.

Wherelist: Best New Restaurants 2009

Where editors from across the country have cast their ballots for the Best New Restaurants to open in Canada in 2009. From creative twists on traditional cuisines to stylish décors and high quality food for reasonable prices, these are the eateries you won’t want to miss from coast to coast.

Veneto Tapa Lounge, Victoria

Victoria’s best new restaurant takes traditional tapas to a whole new level. Led by chef Tod Bosence, the sophisticated, urban Veneto Tapa Lounge offers both a hip bar area and quieter dining room, ideal for enjoying Bosence’s creative dinner menu. Each entree is presented tapas style – those in the mood for beef, for example, will enjoy it three ways: veal ravioli with portabella mushroom ragout and roasted garlic cream sauce; marinated short rib with parmesan polenta cake; and New York strip roulade with spicy lobster stuffing and bordelaise sauce.

Cibo Trattoria, Vancouver

With London’s River Café alumnus Neil Taylor heading up the kitchen and ex-Lumiere general manager/sommelier Sebastien Le Goff in charge, it didn’t take long for Cibo to gain a solid reputation for its vibrant rustic Italian cuisine, thoroughly grounded in West Coast ingredients. Taylor’s dishes, which change by the week (if not the day), are constructed with uncomplicated—but wickedly exacting—flair.

Parker House Grill & Wine Bar, Calgary

Parker House is the kind of place where diners can experience high quality service, ambience and food, for a reasonable price tag. Chef Andrew Keen, known for his excellence in “forgotten fare,” has created a menu inspired by traditional New England comfort dishes with creative twists. For dinner, most entrees (with the exception of their steaks) sit in the mid-twenties range, while diners on a budget can try one of their thin-crust pizzas for as low as $12.88.

Creations Dining Room & Lounge, Sawridge Inn Edmonton South, Edmonton

Artful, delicious dining at Creations—the paint’s barely dry and the buzz is on for the eclectic Canadian fusion cuisine of Creations, the stunning new dining room and lounge in the atrium of the Sawridge Inn Edmonton South. Walls of fire, water, badlands hoodoos and a huge dreamcatcher treat the senses as menu items entice patrons to explore palate pleasers such as Sherried Beef Caprese.

Rustica Steakhouse, Canadian Rockies

Rustic has earned its place as one of the Canadian Rockies’ top restaurants for its elegant ‘mountain lodge’ atmosphere and uncompromising dedication to Canada Prime Beef. But it’s the cuisine of Caribbean-born Chef Stefan Mahon that keeps them coming back for more. Only the top 0.3% of beef in Canada earns Prime designation (a superior grade to AAA)—Stefan’s New York cuts, grand filet mignon and prime rib chops are prepared with a signature dry rub, seared under a 1500°F (815°C) broiler and presented on 500°F (260°C) plates with garlic butter.

Hermanos, Winnipeg

Winnipeggers are feeling the Latin heat thanks to the fiery flavours of South American cuisine at this year’s arrival of Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar. Set in a 5,500-square-foot warehouse in the Exchange District, fast lunches, tapas and mains are found on the mainly Argentinean- and Brazilian-influenced menu. The crispy fried empanadas are a must-try.

Raw Aura, Mississauga

Raw Aura, true to its name, offers a menu of entirely raw cuisine—the better to emphasize the natural and nourishing properties of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts. In an intimate yet airy space, friendly staff dish out delectably fresh fare including a “peace wrap” bursting with avocado, tomatoes, carrots, kale, sprouts and hummus, and zesty lo-mein featuring noodles made of zucchini and golden beets.

Loire, Toronto

Loire, a self-described “casual gourmet” spot, well-situated along increasingly foodie-friendly Harbord Street offers fresh, seasonal dishes that could include chili- and cornmeal-crusted Lake Erie whitefish, grilled New York striploin and a succulent beef or lamb burger on challah bread. This intimate restaurant effortlessly straddles the line between relaxed neighbourhood fave and boldface fine-dining destination.

Teca, Muskoka

Overlooking Lake Rosseau is Teca, a fine Italian restaurant located within the luxurious Rosseau Resort & Spa. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Muskoka Lakes, find this decidedly urban dining room and a centrally located open kitchen that dishes up authentic rustic Italian fare. Tuck into freshly made pasta—from papperdelle and gnocchi to spaghetti and meatballs—or thin crust pizza made in a wood-stone oven, as well as veal chops, fish, striploin and rack of lamb.

The Grand Pizzeria & Bar, Ottawa

Nestled on one of the most auspicious corners in Ottawa’s bustling ByWard Market, The Grand Pizzeria is a popular addition to the downtown dining scene. Built in the late 17th century, this enviable location once housed The Grand Hotel. Today, it’s home to the perfect pizza pie. Traditional Italian appetizers (antipasti, salads) make way for the main attraction: authentic Napoletana pizza. The dough is created and hand-pressed by Master Pizzaiolo Pasqualino Oliveri, who placed first in the 2004 European Pizza Championship, among other honours.

Pipa Restaurant & Bar, Halifax

Chef Luis Gaspar and partner Victoria Dunham Gaspar are longtime veterans of Halifax’s dining scene. And when they decided to embark on a project all their own, they saw a glaring omission in the city’s dining scene. Specializing in Portuguese cuisine, with rich, filling and full-flavoured dishes. Pipa is the only restaurant of its type in Halifax, specializing in Old World and Brazilian dishes such as Moqueca (fish stew) and Feijoada (a stew of meats and black beans). Seafood dishes abound, including fresh grilled sardines.