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.

New Kid on the Block

January 22, 2009

Play

Play Stephen Beckta’s new wine and cheese shop on Sussex Drive is now scheduled to open on January 30th. (One month behind schedule but who’s counting?).

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.

NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS 2

January 6, 2009

Another Elgin restaurant is breaking the law. Across the street from Oz Kafé, The Standard comitted its own liquor faux pas and is now closed until January 9th.
The crime? Serving liquor after hours.

Are Elgin Street restaurants worst than others? Or is the city cracking down? 2007 saw Fesco Bistro also closed for bad behaviour during the Senators’ playoff run.

NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS

January 2, 2009

The Oz Kafé is still in the dark. The Elgin Street restaurant had its liquor license suspended after an inspector spotted a customer walking out from the patio with a drink.
Dinners will have to find a new spot to eat until January 7th.

UPDATE: Oz isn’t the only spot breaking the law. Across the street, The Standard comitted its own liquor faux pas and is now closed until January 9th.
The crime? Serving liquor after hours.

The Best Two-Egger in Town

December 14, 2008

It’s the little black dress of breakfast: two eggs, toasts, potatoes. This cheep and easy standby is a favourite of students trying to forget last night and seniors trying to remember the last ten minutes. For those of you left jaded by decadence weekend brunches, try getting back to basics at these downtown(ish) hangouts.

  1. Mayflower – 247 Elgin Street – $3.35
    What the two egg breakfast is all about – the only way to get more bang for the buck is to lay the eggs yourself. Be sure to get a table in the back where the atmosphere is more English pub, less greasy spoon. Hippies beware: The Mayflower is a known conservative hangout.
  2. Bramasole – 428 Bank Street – $5.95
    Time warp back to the 1950s… or at rather to the 2008 hipster version of it. Although its not the best deal in city, the food is good and plentiful and the decor is the cat’s meow.
  3. Ada’s – 510 Bank Street $4.50
    Maybe its the sizzle from the kitchen, or the colourful checkered table clothes, or the waitress in her blue jeans and a T-shirt, but Ada’s is where you go to feel like an Ottawa insider. The meal is cheep and satisfying but, coffee refills are $0.50 a pop! Gasp!
  4. Wild Oat – 819 Bank Street $6.50
    The two-egger with a hippie twist: you pay a little extra for the virtue of Fair Trade Coffee and organic eggs. Go for the Spelt bread and the homemade jam. Conservatives beware: dreadlocked vegan types love spelt bread.

Any other favourites? Add a comment and let me know.