Friday, July 15, 2016

Fairouz (Review)

Next time you’re in the mood for Lebanese, forgo the usual shawarma and head to Ottawa’s newest Middle Eastern hot spot – Fairouz. Lola and I finally made it out to Fairouz, which is located in a lovely brick house along the Somerset Village strip.

First opened in the ‘90s, Fairouz has a long standing history in Ottawa. It initially set up shop on Elgin Street, and then moved to Somerset in 1993 until it eventually closed its doors in 2005. Now, over a decade later, Fairouz has returned to its Centretown location, but this time, re-invented and re-invigorated.

The restaurant itself is upscale, yet casual, with just the right amount of Middle Eastern flair. The large patio is also a bonus – perfect for enjoying great food while soaking up some rays.

The kitchen is run by Chef Walid El-Tawel, who previously worked at E18hteen on York Street before he left to pursue new ventures in Toronto. But now he’s back in Ottawa and once again showcasing his culinary skills!

Fairouz puts a deft, sophisticated spin on Middle Eastern food, and as per the current trend, their menu is designed for sharing and is divided between ‘Grazing’ and ‘Sharing’ plates. ‘Grazing’ is smaller, more tapas-like dishes, while ‘Sharing’ are larger portions.

As expected, we started off the meal with some dips and pita bread. We went with the Labneh and Babaganoush dips ($6 each), which were served with hot pita bread puffed up like pillows. We also added a side of assorted warm olives ($8). The dips were tasty, the bread was fresh and the olives were flavoursome.

Next up was the Spoon Salad ($12), an assortment of diced tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with pomegranates, herbs and sumac and aleppo pepper vinaigrette. The salad was light and very tasty and paired well with our other dishes.

From there, we went with the Monforte Halloumi ($13). Without fail, Lola and I always order Halloumi whenever it's on the menu. So clearly, as avid-Halloumi lovers, we had high expectations for this dish….and Chef El-Tawel did not disappoint. The Halloumi, which was paired with pistachios, apples and beet emulsion, was perfectly seared and was mouth-wateringly delicious.

Finally, we finished off the meal with the Fil Fil Kebab ($16) – a modern twist on the typical kebab sandwich. The Fil Fil was elegantly presented and topped with charred Cipollini, minted yogurt dressing and served on fresh lavash, a thin flatbread. This dish had a little kick to it and was definitely my favourite. The texture and flavour combinations worked extremely well!

Throughout the meal, we also enjoyed a delightful bottle of Lebanese red wine, specifically the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Becca Valley. Fairouz has an extensive wine list, as well as a wide selection of beers and spirits, with many creative Mediterranean-inspired drinks.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Fairouz, and we highly recommend it to other Ottawans! There’s tons of other tantalizing dishes on the menu, so we will have to return again soon!

Verdict: 9.5/10 - top quality Mediterranean eats and good service

Hours: Tuesday to Thursday 5:30pm - 10:30pm; Friday & Saturday 5:30pm - 11:00pm

Price: Grazing $8-$18; Sharing $28-$32

Fairouz, 353 Somerset Street, Ottawa, ON

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crust & Crate Public House (Review)

If you know me well, you know I love pizza, so it's a wonder why we waited so long to venture into the wonderful Crust and Crate at the newly revamped Lansdowne Park. I'm so glad we took the trip and have been back several times. 

From the moment we stepped inside, the vibe was funky, cool, casual and friendly. Come for a drink, appetizers, or for a filling meal. Their menu has the obligatory starters of chicken wings, calamari and tacos, but have added a few eye-catching items, such as sweet chili duck wings, duck confit poutine and Al Forno Meatballs. Their mains consist of salads, burgers, pizzas and a few pasta and straggling dishes (i.e fish and chips, lamb shank). They also have a creative cocktail menu and unique draft beer list.

We started our evening sipping a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and a nibble of Crispy Panko Calamari. We sipped our wine, took in the ambiance and chatted with some servers about the establishment and unique menu items.

Crispy Panko Calamari ($11)
We shared the Muay Thai Salmon Salad and the mix of sweet and spicy was tasty and perfectly paired with the smooth finish of our white wine. But....that was not at all. Of course we had to dive into the famous pizzas. Unfortunately we couldn't wait to bite into the perfectly crafted thin crust Al Forno style pizzas before remembering to take photos. Fortunately we were able to find them on the Crust and Crate Facebook page.

Muay Thai Salmon Salad ($16)
We tried two unique flavours - the first was the "You're Quacking me Up" which was topped with duck confit, roasted pears, red onion, goat cheese and sour cherries, and the second was the "Not Your Grandma's Garden" which was topped with garlicky rapini, zucchini, roasted peppers, dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, oregano and Kalamata olives. I love love loved these pizzas. The ingredients were so different and somewhat foreign to me on a pizza and that's why I loved them so much. The flavours just worked and I am so happy to be expanding my pizza palette.

You're Quacking Me Up ($15)
Not Your Grandma's Garden ($15)
Of course at this point we were unable to finish off with dessert or coffee, but we have been back since to enjoy a few draft beers and appetizers such as the Duck Confit Poutine and the Meatballs Al Forno, which were both amazing.

Next time you're wandering around Lansdowne wondering where to eat, go to Crust and Crate. You will enjoy it tremendously. Let us know what you think! Especially now that it's PATIO season!!!

Verdict: 8/10 - decent service, really cool ambiance, great pizza

Hours: Monday-Wednesday 11am-10pm; Thursday to Sunday 11am-12am

Price: Appetizers $8-$14; Salads $10-$14; Pizzas $11-$15; Mains $13-$25

Crust and Crate Public House, 105-325 Marche Way, Ottawa, ON
Landsdowne Park

The Rowan (Review)

This past long weekend, Lola and I ventured to the Rowan for a fabulous Sunday brunch after perusing the stands at the Lansdowne Farmer’s Market. Opened last summer, this modern British-inspired restaurant replaced the Zazaza pizzeria in the Glebe.

Sibling chefs Simon and Ross Fraser are the masterminds behind the Rowan, who are also known for their wildly popular brother restaurant, Fraser Café, located in New Edinburgh.

The Rowan is more casual than Fraser Café and has an artsy, yet inviting vibe, with soft green walls, creative lighting, moulded plastic seats and a huge wall mural of a rowan tree.

We felt very comfortable here and really enjoyed the chill ambiance, as well as the friendly and helpful staff.

The kitchen is run by chef de cuisine and Fraser Café alum Kyle Decan, who helps bring to life unexpected, yet familiar British dishes with simple, classic flavours and local ingredients.

During brunch, we both chose a different meal from their original one-page menu. I went with the Kedgeree and Lola opted for the English Back Bacon Sandwich.

The Kedgeree consisted of two poached eggs, curried vegetables, rice, chillies and yoghurt – a nice departure from the typical bacon and eggs. The ingredients were fresh and healthy and the portion size was perfect. The flavour combinations were also bang on, and it had a slight kick that got my day started off right!

Kedgeree ($14)
Lola’s sandwich was equally delicious, which was stuffed with fried egg, pickles, cheddar cheese and mouth-watering back bacon. Slaw and thick-cut chips balanced out this typical English-inspired dish.

English Back Bacon Sandwich ($16)
We were both quite satisfied with our choices and thoroughly enjoyed our experience at the Rowan. We will definitely return again, next time for lunch or dinner, whose menus look just as yummy as brunch!

Verdict: 9/10 – original menu with classic flavours; great service and vibe

Hours: Brunch - Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am to 2:00 pm; Lunch - Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:00 pm; Dinner - Monday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm; Sunday 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Price: Brunch/Lunch $8-24, Dinner $10-30

The Rowan, 915 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Pomeroy House (Review)

Last weekend, we ventured to the Pomeroy House, another new Ottawa hot spot located in the Glebe. Formerly known at the Segue, the restaurant was gutted, transformed and reopened under the new name in 2015. The exterior now boasts some major curb appeal, with large windows, distressed wood trim and bold lettering. Inside, the transition is just as spectacular. The decor and furnishings are rustic, yet sophisticated. When you first walk in, your eyes are drawn to a beautiful chandelier framed by a half-moon window at the back of the restaurant. You also can't help but notice the large bar that runs the length of the room, which is showcased by a contemporary light fixture and accent brick wall. Overall, the restaurant feels very cozy and inviting with its blue walls and padded banquettes.

While the former Segue may have received a complete overhaul, the menu format and some of its previous dishes survived the transformation. As before, Chef Richard Wilson's menu continues to be divided into four parts: bar snacks and apps, mids and mains. And as always, everything on the menu sounded delicious, and so our group decided to sample as many dishes as possible. But before we got to our food, we of course started out the evening with a nice bottle of Malbec. As we were enjoying our wine, we were delighted to be served two slices of bread each, along with a side of house made caramelized, savoury-sweet-herbed compound butter. anything better than free bread and fresh butter?! I think not.

Next up, for our apps, we all went with the Grilled Octopus. It sounded far too delicious to pass up. Fresh grilled octopus was served over a bed of cucumber salad, pepper jam and sunflower butter and topped with shiso. The octopus was elegantly served, but the portion was quite light. We definitely could have used more pieces of the perfectly tenderized and grilled octopus. But at least it was only our app and we had more dishes coming our way!

Grilled Octopus ($16)
For the next course, some of us chose to go with mids, while some of us went with mains. The mids were still a healthy portion, with just slightly less 'sides' and a few less ounces of meat. Amongst our group, we tried two mids: the Hot Chicken, which was spicy southern fried-style chicken propped on a cauliflower puree, served with kale and pickles, as well as the Baby Back Ribs, served with cheddar grits and slaw. The Chicken was crunchy and flavourful, while the Ribs were succulent and perfectly seasoned. 
Hot Chicken ($15)
For the mains, we tried the Beef Striploin, the Steelhead Trout and the Duck Breast. The Beef was served with stout and rutabaga mash, grilled King Eyngii mushrooms, carrots and topped with chimichurri sauce, while the Trout was perfectly paired with navy bean succotash and mussel and mushroom escabeche. And finally, the Duck was complimented by Shiitake mushrooms, broccolini, beets, hazelnuts and smoked Diable. While I didn't personally taste everything, my dining companions raved about these three dishes. It appears that all three mains were deeply satisfying and are highly recommended.

Beef Striploin ($33)
Steelhead Trout ($29)
Duck Breast ($34)
Although our waitress tempted us with their dessert menu, which featured sweet treats like Sticky Toffee Pudding, Coconut Creme Pie and Chocolate Pot de Creme, we were far too full to indulge. Next time, I will have to return and save room for the Sticky Toffee Pudding!

Overall, we had a great experience at the Pomeroy House. The service was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed and the food was delicious and sized and priced appropriately. Next time you're in the Glebe and you're looking for a great meal, check out one of Ottawa's top new won't be disappointed. And let me know if you try the Mushroom Ravioli...another decadent main that caught my eye!

Verdict: 9/10 – high calibre modern cuisine and friendly upbeat vibe

Hours: Sunday - 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm; closed on Mondays; Tuesday to Saturday - 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Price: Apps $10-20, Mids $15-20, Mains $26-33

The Pomeroy House, 749 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dining in Quebec City

Quebec City is a magical place. It has beauty, fashion, and European flare. The sites are historical and stunning and they leave you wanting more. I took my third trip to Quebec City recently and discovered a whole new world - their culinary mastery. The restaurants, bistros and pubs are to die for. Their chefs are culinary leaders challenging traditional cuisine in a beautiful and unique way. We of course stumbled upon a few gems that I couldn't wait to tell you about.

The "Hobbit Bistro" in the Saint-Jean area of old Quebec was our first stop for a late lunch after a long drive from Ottawa. The venue is small but cozy and inviting. The service was "ok" but I was half expecting it....

The food made up for the lacklustre service though. We shared a few items including the Beet Salad with goat cheese, apples and walnuts, the Steak Tartare and the Beef Burger. All were to die for. I even attempted recreating the Beet salad upon returning home, with little luck as the flavours were so rich and unique. We enjoyed a cafe au lait after our meal and sat and chatted with little pressure from the servers to continue on to another establishment.

The following night we made reservations at the highly regarded “Legende" by Taniere. They strive to stimulate all the senses with new discoveries. This venue was larger and packed with tables, but still had an inviting vibe. The service here was quite impeccable but somewhat expected with the expensive fare.

We started with a sharing board called "From the Fisherman", priced at $25, which consisted of the chef preparing his own creative seafood tasting board. It was divine and included smoked salmon, a seafood mousse with crostini and fiddleheads, clam chowder, mussels, and a few other delicacies. 

The entire menu is all about creating a sharing culture, so we decided to keep the tradition going and ordered a few more dishes to share. We went with the Kamouraska Guinea Fowl with gnocchi, oyster mushrooms and zucchini ($17), the Bison with pin confit potato, kale and bearnaise sauce ($16), and the Pork Belly with vegetable salad and sunflower seeds ($15). 

This was definitely a culinary experience that I will never forget. I appreciated the mix of unique and bold flavours and I even tried to incorporate some of them in my daily cooking (i.e. experimenting with oyster mushrooms). I would highly recommend Legende to anyone ready for a tasty experience.

The next day for brunch, as we strolled along Rue Saint-Jean, we stopped at "Les Freres de la Cote" to warm up and enjoy some more traditional French cuisine. We shared a medley of French Onion Soup, Steak Frites and Salmon Tartare. This establishment was a little more casual in nature, but we were still very impressed with the quality of the flavours in these more traditional dishes. It was a good stop between site seeing and shopping on a long cold day.

On our three day Quebec City excursion, we walked a lot and I only wished there were more meals in a day to discover more amazing local cuisine. Cool hot spots to hit are Rue Saint-Jean and La Grand Allee. You will not have trouble finding a mix of culinary delicacies, as well as pubs and clubs for nighttime entertainment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Datsun: Asian Plates & Bar (Review)

I finally got the chance to experience the culinary delight that is Datsun, which opened its doors last October. I had heard great things about this pan-Asian restaurant, including being recognized as one of the best new restaurants to try in Ottawa in 2015, and so I went into it with very high expectations. And for the first time in awhile, I was not disappointed. I loved everything about Datsun, from its trendy and contemporary decor to its sharable Asian small plates, unique cocktails and friendly service. Basically, everything was on point.

Matt Carmichael, Ottawa’s hottest chef and mastermind behind the taco eatery El Camino, has indeed done it again! Located right beside his taqueria on Elgin Street, Carmichael has once more proven his ability to be explosively successful. Even though both restaurants are located in similar spaces with almost identical take-out windows, Datsun couldn’t be more different. El Camino is rustic and dark with a raucous vibe, while Datsun is light, modern and screams what I like to call ‘simplistic cool’.

We went on a Wednesday night and it was packed. Despite the cold weather, every single seat was filled. Clearly, we came to the right place. We were seated near the front of the restaurant at a cafeteria style table fitted with swivel seats, sandwiched between fellow Ottawa foodies. I would have much preferred a regular chair or high stool, but I suppose the cafeteria seating added to the experience. 

Throughout the evening, our server was friendly and efficient, though not overly attentive. We were given the ‘new diner’ spiel and advised that the menu focuses on small plates intended to be shared amongst the table, tapas style. I quite enjoyed the fill-in-your-order paper menu, which I’ve grown accustomed to at most dim sum joints.

Now, I have to give you a heads-up that we were rather modest when it came to ordering. We decided to be reasonable and we only ordered 3 dishes to share. Looking back now, a party of two could easily share 4 to 6 dishes (depending on the plate). But we’ve learnt our lesson, and this just means that we will have to return again soon.

So for our three dishes, we went with the Crispy Chicken Steamed Buns (2 for $9), the Tuna Tartare ($15) and the Shrimp and Water Chestnut Dumplings ($10). Virtually everyone had told us beforehand that the steamed buns were a must-try (and they were not wrong).

The night started off with a bang when two perfectly cooked steamed buns wrapped around crispy fried chicken drizzled with ranch dressing and furiyake were presented to us. The combination of flavours and textures was out of this world. Hands down, this was my favourite dish of the evening.

Next up was the Tuna Tartare, which was topped with cream cheese and furiyake, and served with nori (seaweed sheets) and a side of wasabi. The best way to eat this dish was to place the tuna on a seaweed sheet, fold it over and enjoy it like a wrap! Again, this dish was mouth-wateringly delicious and really hit the spot.

Finally, eight flawless dumplings filled with chunks of shrimp, water chestnuts and soaked in soya sauce capped off our culinary experience. The dumplings were flavourful and cooked to perfection.

I have absolutely no complaints when it comes to any of the food. Everything was phenomenal, especially the steamed buns. If the other dishes on the menu are as good as these three dishes, then I can’t wait to return and try the rest! I definitely have my eye on one of the ramen bowls and the succulent pork belly steamed bun.

I’ve also heard that their cocktails are as much of a draw as the food. Unfortunately, we stuck to beer and wine (which was still great), so we didn’t try any of their unique cocktails. One of these days I may have to try the Datsun Flip ($22), an elaborate two-person cocktail served in a real coconut.

So in the end, Datsun is a tremendously fun restaurant with plenty of character, creative food, apparently great cocktails, and competitive prices (that's a plus)! One part well-made cocktails, one part comfort food, one part soy sauce and spice: it’s a recipe for success.

If you haven’t yet experienced Datsun, you better get going…your taste buds will thank you! But be prepared for a wait, as this new hot spot does not take reservations. So perhaps I will see you in line, as you can guarantee that I will be returning to sample everything on their menu, including more steamed buns of course!

Verdict: 10/10 – I loved the food and vibe! Datsun may just be one of my new favourite restaurants.

Hours: Monday to Saturday - 5:30 pm to late; Take-out window also open from noon to 2:30 pm from Monday to Saturday (closed on Sundays)

Price: small plates $9-$20

Datsun, 380 Elgin Street, Unit B, Ottawa, ON

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Kiev Cake (Recipe)

In honour of Lola’s Ukrainian roots, we celebrated Ukrainian Christmas together this weekend. Lola and her mother slaved away in the kitchen and served us a gourmet Ukrainian meal with a twist. It consisted of an assortment of cheese and smoked salmon to start, followed by beet and goat cheese salad, deconstructed cabbage rolls, roasted carrots and stuffed pork tenderloin. Everything was absolutely delicious, but my favourite was by far the deconstructed cabbage rolls!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll remember that I spent some time in Kiev in 2013 and fell in love with their food. (Check out my previous post on Ukrainian cuisine here).

So, while Lola and her mother were responsible for the appetizers and main course, I took over dessert (as I usually tend to do). My challenge was to create a traditional Ukrainian treat. Immediately, I thought of my birthday spent in Kiev where I was served the famous Kyivsky tort (also known as Kiev cake). It was so different from any other cake I’ve tried, with various layers of sponge cake, meringue, syrup/jam and cream filling. I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to replicate this tasty cake, which is a top choice among the favourite dishes of Ukraine!

This cake, however, is by no means ‘quick and easy’ to create. It takes a good deal of time and effort with various steps; however, nothing is overly complicated. As long as you have patience and closely follow the directions, you can’t go wrong! Or so I initially thought!

The cake consists of four separate layers (meringue, sponge cake, cream frosting and syrup) that must be prepared separately and then assembled at the end. The meringue layer takes over 4 hours to bake, so I recommend preparing this layer a day in advance, and then completing the remaining layers the next day. Don't worry if your meringue isn't perfect, as you can easily level it out.

For some reason, I had some trouble with the sponge cake layer (it wasn't combining properly, and as a result it didn't bake right), and so I had to resort to a different sponge cake recipe. Next time, I need to make sure to thoroughly beat the egg yokes and slowly add in the flour a little bit at a time.

But in the end, my time and effort was worth it, as everyone loved the cake! It was a great end to a fabulous Ukrainian-inspired meal.

So here are the ingredients and directions to recreate this Kiev specialty.


  • 6 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups of sugar
  • Cooking spray and wax paper 
Sponge Cake:
  • 8 eggs (separated)
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Frosting:
  • 1 can of condensed milk (300 ml)
  • 2 sticks of butter at room temperature
  • ¾ of package of cream cheese
  • 8 oz whipped cream
  • 15 oz can of apricot halves in light syrup (keep the syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Place wax paper in baking dish and spray with cooking spray, or butter. I used a 9” round cake dish. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 250° F.
  3. Beat the egg whites with the sugar on high speed. Add the sugar slowly, in small amounts. Beat until soft peaks form when you lift the mixer, roughly 5-6 minutes.
  4. Bake for 4 hours and 10 minutes. 
  5. When it is done, peal the wax paper while the meringue is still warm. Let it sit on the counter on a clean kitchen towel to cool. 
Sponge Cake:
  1. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Make sure to use the same baking dish that you used for the meringue.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  3. Separate the egg whites from the yokes. 
  4. On high speed, beat the egg whites with sugar for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Beat the egg yokes, then add the flour and the vanilla extract. Make sure you beat the egg yokes well and slowly add in the flour. 
  6. Fold the yokes into the egg whites. Go slowly, so the whites stay fluffy.
  7. Transfer the batter into the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. It is done once a toothpick comes out clean.
Cream Frosting:
  1. On medium to high speed, beat the condensed milk with the butter. It will thicken and look like frosting.
  2. Next, add the cream cheese one spoonful at a time, so that there are no lumps in the cream. 
  3. Once the cream cheese has blended in, slow down the mixer and stir in the whipped cream. (I chose to make the whipped cream from scratch. *See below recipe).
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use.
*Whipped cream: Add 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla to a bowl and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 minute.

  1. Pour all of the ingredients into a blender (apricots with its juice, lemon juice, and sugar) and puree.
  1. Cut the sponge cake in half. Pour half of the syrup on the bottom half and spread evenly.
  2. Next, spread ¼ of the cream on top of the syrup.
  3. Then take the meringue and place it on top of the creamed half of the cake. Cut the edges if necessary, so the meringue fits with the sponge cake. Save the crumbs.
  4. Now, spread ¼ of the cream on the meringue. 
  5. Take the second half of the sponge cake and pour the remaining syrup on it.
  6. Gently transfer the syrupy sponge cake on top of the creamed meringue.
  7. Use the remaining cream to coat the top and all four sides of the cake. 
  8. Once frosted, crush the meringue crumbs and sprinkle on top and on the sides of the cake.
  9. Decorate, as desired.
Yields: 12 servings

Verdict: a creative and enjoyable treat with various layers, flavours and textures

Total Prep Time: 2 hours (provided everything goes as planned)
Baking Time: roughly 4.5 hours (for meringue and sponge cake)

Rating: 9.5/10