Albacore Tuna Crudo | Supply and Demand | 1335 Wellington St.
If you made me choose just one dish to recommend to diners visiting Ottawa, it would be the Albacore Tuna Crudo at Supply and Demand. While you can expect seasonal offerings elsewhere, this menu mainstay isn’t going anywhere. The fatty Ocean Wise Albacore tuna is tickled with truffle oil, then topped with puffed rice and Maldon salt. In its simplicity, It is pure, unadulterated ambrosia. Don’t look at me when I take my first bite of this because you’ll find me with my eyes closed, moaning.
Cappuccino | Little Victories Coffee | 801 Bank St. & 1111A Wellington St.
Full confession, I’m not a coffee snob. I don’t own a Chemex, I wouldn’t know how to use it if I had one, I don’t have the Nespresso app, I only recently learned that cappuccinos are meant for mornings and espressos are reserved for afternoon pick-me-ups. At any rate, I do know what I like. The cappuccino, and the coffee in general, at Little Victories is as close as I’ve gotten to a spiritual experience with caffeine.
Banoffee Pie | Allium | 87 Holland Ave.
Goddamn do I love banana desserts. I have a theory as to why that is: I’m allergic to penicillin, or more precisely, amoxicillin. The one and only time I got to slurp down that saccharine banana-flavoured medicine as a child, I fell in love, hard and fast (and then I puked). Ever since, I’ve been seeking out that cruel mistress. Banana popsicles? In. Banana split? Sign me up. BANOFFEE PIE?! Get out my damn way before you get stabbed with a fork. The example from Allium is composed of a graham cracker crust, banana, toffee, whipped cream, shaved chocolate and chocolate sauce. It is a dessert sans pareil – get your own.
80-Day Dry Aged Burger | Fauna | 425 Bank St.
I can eat. Or as my mother says, “You have a healthy appetite.” When you order the burger at Fauna, only on offer at lunch, don’t be daunted by its size; simply think of me, and know that I demolish that thing every time I order it, and then roll myself out of the restaurant like Violet Beauregarde. I order mine medium-rare, if you order yours well-done, picture me shaking my head in disapproval. This unctuous burger is paired with Jameson BBQ sauce, chili aioli, jalapeño crisps, pickled onions and cheddar.
Sumac Glazed Half Chicken | Fairouz | 343 Somerset St. W
I don’t typically order chicken when I eat out. I’m always worried it’s going to be rubbery or bland. The Sumac Glazed Half Chicken from Fairouz is neither. This work of art is poultry perfected. The chicken is richly flavoured with sumac and is the most succulent bird I’ve ever sampled – could be due in thanks to their sous vide cooking method. In any event, it’s a dish not to be missed.
Dutch Baby | Edgar | 60 rue Bégin
I waxed poetic about this dish in my Best Ottawa Brunch Spots post but it still haunts my dreams. This Yorkshire pudding/pancake hybrid is topped with a crispy slab of pork belly, aged Quebec white cheddar, apple compote and syrup. Honestly, it’s the best thing you could put in your mouth on Sunday morning, when you’re ready to slide wordlessly into a food coma for a few hours afterward.
Steamed Mussels | The Whalesbone | 430 Bank St. & 231 Elgin St.
In my experience, mussels can often be bland. These little shellfish are meant to be flavour vectors and they demand a sauce that will help them live up to their full potential. The fragrant coconut broth with Thai basil, cilantro, chilies and peanuts certainly does the trick. These mussels are the best I’ve ever sampled, if you catch yourself sopping up all the remaining broth with your bread, your neighbour’s bread and then licking the bowl, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Lobster Spaghetti | Riviera | 62 Sparks St.
It’s all in the name. Lobster. Spaghetti. How could you go wrong? Oh? You still want me to give you the sales pitch. All the pastas at Riviera are extruded in house, so the freshness cannot be beat. The lobster is toothsome yet delicate, matched with a decadent, buttery broth. It is filling, bring your appetite or a friend if you’re planning to go with the full portion.
Shaoxing Pork gua bao | Gongfu Bao | 365 Bank St. (Coming Soon)
This little food cart that you may have discovered at food truck rallies, Arboretum festival, in its natural habitat in Confederation Park, or elsewhere, is making the transition to bricks and mortar. Set to open in March, Gongfu Bao will be bringing Chinese and Taiwanese culinary traditions, like their namesake steamed buns (bao) to diners at their new home at 365 Bank St. The first time I sampled the Shaoxing Pork gua bao, I was completely overwhelmed. I had to go back for seconds, and then thirds, to relive the flavour experience that is this delicious pork steamed bun.
Soutzoukakia | Mati | 428 Preston St.
We talked about this. Keep up. In short, these braised lamb and pork meatballs nestled in a spicy tomato sauce and balanced by pressed yogurt, are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. If you have delusions about sharing them with your dining companions, just be prepared to place a second order.