Ottawa is a delightful city, around 950,000 people, filled with lovely neighborhoods and more. I am spoiiled because I get to go there. The canal is delightful -- and for the first time I was there for tulip festival. The above is sort of an iconic Ottawa tulip festival picture, connected to the history of the tulip festival which is connected to the presence of the royalty of the netherlands in Canada during WWII and the fact that one of the royalty was born in Ottawa as a result. (Thanks to this site for the picture.) The brief walk we took among the tulips was itself worth the trip. The beds were huge and hte colors amazing. And, during the few days we were in Ottawa, we dined well.
First: We dined at Murray Street Charcuterie and Kitchen. This is one of our favorite places. At first, we risked really serious disappointment as the poutine is not gluten free. Hence, no poutine. But, we both ordered the duck confit. And, it was simply the best duck I have ever had in a restaurant and possibly ever. The confit was boneless, succulent, and the lentils it came with were so good I considered ordering a second whole meal. I knew I liked the place -- but wow. This was as amazing as the first time, when I had poutine for the first time -- and duck poutine at that. We had some nice cheeses for dessert -- and we left very very happy. I have reviewed Murray Street before (see here) but wanted to mention it again because this meal was also absolutely wonderful. (I am still touched that they include my earlier review on their website.) We sat at the bar -- and were very happy. This particular restaurant is not a place for vegetarians (of course) as it features meats and cheeses and the like - but, if you want protein in a meaty form -- and you want to smile a lot, this is the place for you. Also: their food is entirely Canadian -- and they have the mst humorous array of pig kitsch I have seen in ages.
Murray Street is, surprisingly (she said smiling) on Murray Street which is a burgeoning set of dandy little dining places. Here's what urbanspoon has to say:
Where else did we eat? Well, in our wanders we went to a place we had not been to before, Taylor's. And, again, we loved it. This was for lunch. Taylor's is a small-ish place, on Bank Street, and has a wonderful ambience. The food is also good -- really good. Perhaps most terrific was a gluten free dessert which we shared -- involving quinoa and an espresso marchmallow. Also equally wonderful was the daily soup. Not to mention the wine. (is this where I had the tomato salad? Yes, it was. And it was delightful.)
Here's urbanspoon's view(s):
Somewhat thereafter we headed to Domus, one of our regular haunts. (For prior commentary on our delight at dining there, click here.) Wherever we dine, the soup to compare soups to is the soup at Domus. They are terrific. Invariably, they are silky smooth, and unexpectedly complex in their flavor profile. This time, we were amazed for a different reason-- and felt very silly for not having figured this out What? That Taylor's is a sister restaurant to Domus. Why should it have been obvious? The chef at Domus (and now we knew the reason for the name for our lunch spot) is John Taylor. Has always been John Taylor. So, not surprisingly, in addition to a dandy meal, we were able to get a . . . gluten free dessert. In this case, the cake was more or less the same, but the accoutrements were different. Dandy. What else did i have? Toasted israeli couscous with rabbit confit as a starter and old fashioned chicken balloutine (wrapped in bacon) for my main treat. Both were wonderful. And neither is something I could ever imagine successfully making at home, one of my chief criteria for ordering in restaurants. Though some day I may try making a balloutine. I love that word.
Here's urbanspoon on Domus --
We also ate Thai. The place? Khao Thai. And yes, it is on Murray Street, almost directly across from the site of the amazing duck confit. It was actually poor planning that led us to this restaurant as we did not make reservations for our second visit to Murray Street and, of course, it was packed. So, off we went for Thai, having once been told it was a good restaurant. We ordered green papaya salad and a green curry, along with some jasmine rice. I was on gingerale to drink. Hmmm. Anyway, the papaya salad was nothing to write home about; in fact, it verged on being bland. It definitely needed some heat and some fish sauce. Having said that, the green curry was actually sublte, well heated, and tasty. The ambience was ok; one thing I liked as a photograph of a huge buddha's hand, with a monk before it. And, the bathroom actually had a lovely set of flowers in it. (Perhaps most oddly, for Ottawa, where all bathrooms seem to be underground and far away, this one was neither!)
And, finally, we ate at Urban Pear. We had seen it before, when visiting one of our other favorite Ottawa insitutions, Octopus Books. It is a totally great poltically oriented independent bookstore. Anyway, kind of across through the parking lot is a place called Urban Pear, which we have always been curious about. And, I have to admit it: I like the name. Anyway, despite being discouraged a bit by the bookstore folks, we headed off and had a dandy lunch there. We both ordered a porchetta sandwich, though one (due to the need to avoid gluten) came instead atop some "candied" red cabbage. Mmmmm. Not to mention a few cosmos on my part. Also, we had a lovely dessert which was a kind of take on lemon meringue pie -- the shortbread cookie went to me, and the lemon and meringue got shared. Quite lovely.
Also: the service was really friendly. Our waiter told us at some length about a place in Ottawa to obtain freshly made gluten free bread. We did not get there, but still, it was nice.
Here's urbanspoon on urban pear:
And, here's a toast to Ottawa. Where the ramps and fiddleheads were in season, and the visit was wonderful.