Photo courtesy of LexnGer (click image for for more)

Photo courtesy of LexnGer (click image for for more)

For better or worse I count myself among the army of Ottawans that toil daily for the government within several blocks of Sparks Street downtown. We have our peculiar habits.  You may have noticed the ID tags clipped to our belts:  A hideous fashion choice that we gladly make in order to avoid the inconvenience of reaching into a pocket or purse when entering the workplace. Such is the efficiency and commitment of the federal civil servant. You may also have noticed that we congregate at bus stops between 3:30 and 4:30pm (or used to, before the interminable strike) because we believe it’s worth getting to work at 7:30am if you get to leave the office while the sun’s still out. And our employer is fine with that.

Anyways, another thing we share in common is lunch. Between 12 and 1, you’ll find swarms of us in the basements of our grey office towers lining up at equally grey food counters serving up meals of a similar hue. Surely you, like me, believe in your heart that there is a better way.

This post, the first in an occasional series, will point the way to the culinary adventures that await only minutes away from your ergonomic keyboard.

Today’s discovery:  Tokyo Sushi on Kent between Nepean and Lisgar.  The place is small — maybe 6  tables.  It wasn’t busy though, even during peak mid-week lunching hours.  The decor is clean, fresh, and minimalist.  It makes for a nice break from the taupe an beige tones of your typical Government of Canada workplace.

The reason you come, though, is the sushi and good prices.  This is seriously tasty sushi. Much better than the nearby (and better-known) Festival Japan.  It’s also reasonably priced, a near miracle in Ottawa. The maki sushi combos start at $6.95 and top out at about $11 for enough sushi to make a good-sized lunch. The spicy salmon roll is delicious.  The veggie gyoza are crispy and light.  And the edamame were nicely cooked and salted. The best part of all: Pots of pungent japanese green tea are free and plentiful.

So ditch the basement sandwich shop, don your parka, and check it out.

The Best Poutine In Town

January 7, 2009

poutine
I have a confession to make. I don’t eat meat but I can’t stay away from poutine. Yes, I know it usually – the best ones at least – comes with beef gravy. And even if it doesn’t, then it usually has gelatin and anyone who professes to be a herbivore should probably stay away from concoctions made with grind up bones. I just can’t help it. I love poutine.

Here’s my top five faves:

1. New York Fries’ Poutine. What? Are you complaining that I’m giving a food court option? I truly love it’s deep dark beef gravy. Yum. Even better with mayonnaise and some of NYF’s california spices. Watch out though, according to calorie count the small size has 710 calories. (!) $3.95
2. The Standard’s Poutine: Real cheese curds and spicy peppery gravy are what make this poutine great. Consistency can be a problem –which for $8 a dish should be fixed.
3. Elgin Street Freehouse : The Freehouse used to offer a wonderful poutine with blue cheese, deep dark gravy and wild mushrooms. Why it escaped from the menu is beyond me and they should bring it back. Bring it back! $9.
4. Elgin Street Dinner’s Poutine: Delicious. But the fries could use a bit of help – why are they so small? And at $7.99 it’s getting a bit pricy. Try asking for a small version. At $5 a pop it’s a much better deal and you won’t fill ill from your poutine adventure.
5. Wedge’s Plus: This poutine makes the grade only because Wedge’s delivers. Not to try unless you are desperately seeking Quebec’s national dish. The wedges are good but there are no curds and the gravy is pretty weak.

What no chip wagon? You’re right, it should be there but I haven’t found one that blows me away yet. Prove me wrong.