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DESBRISAY DINES: The School of Bock, Beau’s Brewery’s Oktoberfest



Team Orkin at the Beer Pairing competition during this past weekend’s Beau’s Oktoberfest. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

The rain forecasted for the day never arrived, but thankfully the crowds did… by the thousands, with Beau’s re-usable beer steins in hands and green felt Alpine Bavarian hats obeer_291366n heads.

Spread across the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds, Beau’s Oktoberfest 2015 seemed to me — from the few hours I enjoyed it on a sold-out Saturday afternoon — a smashing success.

I was there for the “School of Bock,” to help crowd-judge the best one-off beer team challenge. It paired one Beau’s brewer with one label artist: four teams of two, four beers, four labels, and much-spirited debate.

In the end, the winning beers, by a democratic show of hands in a crowded hall, were the Baltic style porter ‘One Ping Only,’ and the Medieval-era ale with a large bouquet of medieval aromatics, called ‘Return of the Mumme’. It was my favourite and it tasted like

Following the beer team challenge was a food-based one. Beau’s Brewery chef, Bruce Woods, took the Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack and paired each of the four beers in it with four plates of food. The most striking combination for our group was the Bog Hopper: a hoppy amber-coloured wheat beer, which was matched with a Vietnamese style meatball (pork, shrimp, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, cilantro, chiles), that had, in turn, its own kind of symbiosis.

return-of-the-mumme-front-1024x1024The pork in the ball comes from the Pickle Patch Farm. Aartje den Boer’s heritage Tamworth pigs are raised on organic feed that includes Beau’s Brewery spent grain. They spend their days rooting around, and then show up (thank you) in a meatball paired with beer in which they have been somewhat marinating in all their lives.

The day ended with gingerbread. It was presented as a mini-muffin round with a salted chocolate caramel sauce (the salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co.). It was paired with the pumpkin wheat beer called Weiss O’Lantern, a pale, zippy beer spiced up with ginger, cinnamon and orange peel.

Dozens and dozens of yellow school buses brought us home.

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, 10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill, 613-678-2799




DESBRISAY DINES: Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner



Chesterfield’s sandwich. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Somehow the people from Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner have managed to clone my mother’s ‘70s cottage couch. It now sits, in its floral splendor, at a communal table for six.

In the space that used to be the coffee house Illume, on the ground floor of a condo development in Westboro, Chesterfield’s serves breakfast/brunch/lunch on weekdays. About a month old and declaring this a ‘soft opening’ (which refers to the menu, not the relative comfort of the couches), I nevertheless plopped myself down last week for lunch in an effort to talk about how well their sandwich is made.


Inside Chesterfield’s. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

The menu leads with eggs (the very first item, actually, is the vegetarian ‘Benny’ with a bean patty and avocado standing in for the usual bit of pork. Sign of the times, when a breakfast diner leads with a veggie dish? Though I am quick to reassure that the next item contains bacon and sausage, which can be upgraded to pastrami for a toonie.

With news that the Rideau Bakery’s delicious challah was not available for the ‘Israeli breakfast’ (the bakery was closed for Yom Kippur), I settled for the chicken schnitzel. I had seen it go by my table en route to another, and judging by the happy chatter at the schnitzel table, it seemed to have been well received.

It was impressive. It starts with real chicken breast (not the usual pressed and seasoned product), which has a light crumb-coating and then is lightly herbed; it’s fried, then topped with a chunky, well-flavoured tomato sauce and a slice of provolone. Broiled to melt the cheese, it arrives tucked into a grilled bun layered with (tasteless baby) spinach, the cheese and sauce oozing out as they should.

Less delicious was the bean salad I chose as one of the ‘free sides’ served with the sandwiches. The elements were correct – tomato, black beans, corn, red onion, a bit of herb – but it was under-seasoned, under-herbed, and overall dull, which was disappointing given the season’s availability of fresh, delicious corn and tomatoes. If Chesterfield’s looking for advice during their soft opening, I’d suggest they work on that.

Open Wednesday to Friday, 7am to 3pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 3pm
111-1433 Wellington Street West, 613-680-8990



DesBrisay Dines: Pasta Tavola



I’ve worked my way through a heroic amount of frozen ravioli in my day, but this one tops them all. By a long shot.

The latest stuffing in the Pasta Tavola line has been out for a while, apparently, but it was new to me. It’s called Tuscan Bean. I wouldn’t have bought it but for the enthusiasm of the Seed to Sausage woman wrapping up my steak. And having tasted it, I think the sisters who run Pasta Tavola should come with a sexier name, for these are far more luxurious than they sound.

Mascarpone might be the key. Or the buttery leeks and sharp cheddar, which all keep fine company with the mashed, slightly gritty cannellini beans. But kudos too for their pouch womb. So often frozen ravioli boils up doughy and uneven, the thick seals still raw as their centres overcook. Not these. The pasta is remarkable thin but sturdy enough to hold together, and the ratio of filling to dough is bang on.

I first bumped into the Watts sisters, Victoria and Paula, at the Belleville Farmers’ Market in the pretty town square. I remember coming home with a tray of their lasagna and emu steaks from Naylor Farm. That was perhaps four years ago. So it’s a pleasure to see their business expand.

I ate the Tuscan bean ravioli topped with bacon, caramelized onion and sour cream one night, the ravioli boiled for three minutes, then pan fried, pierogi style. The next night, with a simple tomato sauce. Good stuff.

My 500 gm bag was found at Seed to Sausage. Check the website for other Ottawa spots to find this lovely Belleville product.

DESBRISAY DINES: Vittoria in the Village

restoVittoria in the Village is chapter three for the ‘Vittoria’ chain. It’s a partnership, we read on the website, between Vittoria’s Dominic Santaguida and Geoff Vivian of Lapointe Fish. Opened in the spot where Lapointe’s Westboro Fish House used to be, the space is narrow, done over in greys and blacks, with a long red banquette. A garage door lets in light at the front and an open kitchen adds interest in the back.

The original Vittoria Trattoria has been a feature on William Street for just shy of twenty years. Before that, Vittoria started life as a deli in the Glebe. In 2003 a second location was opened in Ottawa South, just off Riverside, a modern room with an open kitchen and a commanding glassed-in wine cellar. Indeed, the Vittoria restaurants are both highly respected for their award winning wine lists and for the Santaguida family’s contribution to wine education in the city.

You won’t find that same thick wine list in the Village location. It’s a one-pager of mostly crowd-pleasers, though there’s a bit of choice for the big spender too. The food menu is a two-pager, and though smaller than the Market’s VT, it is much the same document, with fewer main dishes and with flatbreads in place of pizza.

I wouldn’t call it ‘Modern Italian’ fare, as the sign says. But if you’ve a hankering (and so many do for some strange reason) for an unchanging menu of standard Italian-Canadian fare (bruschetta, deli meats, fried calamari, penne Arrabiata, veal Marsala, chicken Parmigiano, New York cheesecake…) along with a few oddities (quinoa salad, curried mussels), you’ll find these largely unexciting dishes, fairly well-executed here. Though there have been some duds too.

shrimp on puff

Shrimp on a puff: a solid hit on the Vittoria menu. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Shrimp in Sambuca cream on puff pastry wasn’t one of those. It was a blast from the past, and a pretty compelling one. The shrimp were snappy, bathed in a white sauce that was rich, sweet and boozy, scented with tarragon. They covered a square of browned puff pastry, the edges crisped, the middle soggy. We liked the octopus salad well enough, with rounds of chorizo, soft cannellini beans and grape tomatoes united in a chipotle mayo.

You won’t find fresh pasta here. The section is long and all but one from a box. (Only the cheese tortellini in Gorgonzola cream sauce is made here.) There are options for whole-wheat spaghetti and for two bucks more, gluten free pasta can be substituted. I’ve tried one pasta dish and I don’t think I’ll try another. The fettuccine with seafood and red peppers was thoroughly disappointing, the mussel shells either missing meat or the meat shrivelled, the scallops rubbery and salty, the shrimp tainted with iodine, the pasta overcooked.


Wild salmon with beet risotto. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The special one evening was wild salmon. We’re asked how we’d like our salmon cooked. (That’s a first.) We reply that we’d like it lightly cooked. Our server looks a bit confused. ‘Not too much’ we add, helpfully. Medium then? Or medium rare? she asks. Sure we say. It arrives grill hatched and cooked as we figure we’d ordered it, the flesh still moist and wobbly. I wish she had asked how we’d like our risotto. Cooked with beets, it was prettily pink-stained and of good flavour, though well past al dente.

One night pounded veal was cooked to tender, spotted with capers and served with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables. It was fine. Another night, another veal (Marsala) and the meat was wildly salty, the vegetables unseasoned and soggy.


Housemade tiramisu. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Desserts are mostly brought in – New York cheesecake, tartufo, zuccotto. Made in house were an apple crumble, a crème brulée flavoured with white chocolate (my teeth ached thinking about it) and good old tiramisu, which wasn’t bad at all.

Mostly ‘not bad at all’ summed up Vittoria in the Village for me. It specializes in a set menu of recognizable dishes. It plates up abundance. Service is far from professional, but friendly and kind. The wine list isn’t up to Vittoria standards – nor does it come with service that can explain it – but it’s passable. If you’re in the village looking for ‘wow’, it’s not here. But for plates of North Americanized Italian dishes (updated with quinoa, whole wheat and gluten-free options), adequately executed (for the most part), this new place will do.
309 Richmond Rd., 613-680-7575,




Red House Honey. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Bees have been on my mind this summer. There was an incredible swarming, a dancing, buzzing colony, furiously attempting to make a home in a pine tree at a cottage in the Kawartha Lakes. I was at that cottage on their possession day. When the bees moved in, we all ran out. It sounded like the Snowbirds on the First of July.

It made me think about Patricia Larkin, chef late of Black Cat Bistro, and who is taking a sabbatical from active kitchen duty by instead turning to the trials and joys of beekeeping. And also about the lovely restaurant Clover on Bank Street, so named for the bee-food sown on chef West de Castro’s front yard to encourage production in her hives.

I returned from the cottage to find a jar of this on the doorstep. Red House Honey. From my sweet friend Joan. “Have you tried this stuff yet? REALLY good. Found at Westboro Pharmasave.” It wasn’t even my birthday.

So I Googled them. They are beekeepers who live in a red house on the St. Lawrence River and make unpasteurized honey, without preservatives, pesticides, or additives. They also make it by hand without the use of electricity. And they are poets to boot! “From Eastern Ontario’s full force gales to snow and sleet, to the sweet flowering of the apple blossoms and the whiskey scent of ripening buckwheat” — that’s how the story of their farm begins.

And now I have Red House Honey every day on my morning toast — toast made with Natali Harea’s whole wheat sourdough bread (she of Nat’s Bread Company), the recipe for which is stuck to my fridge door. I’ve become a bread baker this summer. Mostly because of Nat and because of the Red House poets and their honey bees.

Available at these fine shops: Westboro Pharmasave, Seed to Sausage, The Glebe Meat Market, Jacobsons, Ottawa Bagel Shop, Rideau Bakery, among others.


DESBRISAY DINES: Beau’s Patio For Beer Cuisine

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

As we bask in the final weeks of summer, it seems a bit mean to be telling you about a fabulous patio, this one in Vankleek Hill. But I believe Beau’s weekend-only front terrace, shaded and rustic, will stay open through the fall, when the hops that grow up the support pillars will be full and lush and bushy, the cones ready to harvest. That’s worth seeing. Smelling too. Though it might give you a bit of a thirst. Fortunately, there’s beer, all of it Beau’s, and all of it five bucks a glass.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Bruce Wood with the patio team. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Brewery Chef Bruce Wood has devised a menu of grazing friendly food, to pair with the certified organic Beau’s beers. Or with his Beau’s brewed iced tea. Always a sandwich on Nat’s Bread; always a plate of charcuterie and cheeses with house pickles, olives, and mustards; always a salad of some description. And then, well, there could be fish cakes, or grilled sausages on pickled cabbage, smoked tofu, a plate of dips and pita.

I was particularly taken with the terrine and housemade beer mustard, the caponata and feta tzatziki, the fattouche salad with sumac-pickled onion, the wee oatmeal crackers fashioned with Beau’s spent grains.

And for dessert, a berry square on beer shortcrust, or gingerbread made with Tom Beer. Check out Beau’s Brewery’s Facebook page for weekly menu.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay


And later in the season (what a good thing I’m late with this post!), on October 2nd and 3rd, Beau’s annual Oktoberfest on the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds.

Patio hours: Friday, noon to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 am to 5pm. Holiday Mondays.

10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill, ON


DESBRISAY DINES: The Zydeco Smokehouse

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I’ve been cooking for my nieces this summer. They’re in various stages of veganism. One — the eldest — has gone whole hog, though bacon remains a stumbling block, and the younger ones are vegans with ice cream exemptions. And though I have been indulging in a bit of meat in their company, pig ribs seemed a bit too much.

But summer and ribs are like bacon and eggs, and I’ve been feeling a lack of them. So when the smell hit me walking the west side of Preston Street a couple of Tuesdays ago, and the sidewalk sign announced ribs were the feature, I waltzed into Zydeco and ordered up the special.

For twelve bucks, they were dinner too. Four big meaty ribs, rubbed and smoked over hickory (according to pitmaster/owner Greg Delair). The meat was lightly clinging to the bone, brushed with a fruity, smokey bacon-chipotle barbecue sauce, and served with two sides — cole slaw in an apple cider vinaigrette and a choice of a second. I picked the house potato salad, mayo based with chopped pickles and onion and a strong smokey presence. Add a drink from the cooler (bottled water or a can of pop) as part of the $12 (tax in) combo.

Zydeco ribs. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Zydeco ribs. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

In the kitchen, along with Greg, was Aaron Wong, formerly of Salt Lounge across the street, and now the head chef at Share Freehouse. Wong seems to be working mornings at Zydeco and then heads to Centretown once lunch rush in Little Italy is over, for dinner service at Share. Hat’s off…

There’s absolutely nothing fancy here, and nothing vegan — just perfect summer food, made from scratch, slowly, carefully, served up with a smile.

In short, Zydeco is the best use of an out-of-business barbershop I’ve found yet.

Combo packs, $12
432½ Preston Street, 613-230-5870
Closed Sundays


Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.


La Terrasse slider trio. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Ottawa summers are short and options for dining outside – though many – aren’t all splendid. For every geranium-trimmed terrace, there’s a cafe with al fresco tables next to rubbish bins. The gentle season is far too precious to waste our evenings on shabby patios.

La Terrasse at the Chateau is one of the good ones. Sure, if you’re looking for action, head to Clarence Street, but for peaceful dining, on above average food, with a very fine outlook, it really can’t be beat. Sheltered from the busy-ness of the capital, it affords truly lovely views of it – and of the sun lowering over the Gatineau Hills.

It’s not perfect. There are no bookings; it’s first come first served. And you’re paying hotel prices for booze – and perhaps a hefty evening parking fee if you aren’t up for further-afield parking options.

But the menu comes from the Wilfrid’s kitchen and it’s a thoughtful, family friendly, summery assembly of dishes, starting with a grazing section of Ontario and Quebec cheeses and charcuterie (some house made, most from artisanal producers like Seed to Sausage and Niagara Foods). The balance of the menu offers a strong selection of fish and seafood dishes, meal-sized salads, and fun stuff like gourmet sliders and Chateau ice creams.

A first course Caesar boasted a lemony dressing, a fine anchovy flavour, delicious bacon, and benefitted from a light grilling, such that the tips of the romaine wedge had begun to wilt, but the core remained crunchy. A main course Lobster Cobb salad with avocado, hard cooked egg, bacon lardon and grilled corn came together just fine with hunks of Bleu Ermite cheese and a dill flecked dressing crunchy with mustard seed.


Spicy tuna tartar. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The crab cakes were slightly on the salty side, but lightly packed and fish-dense, moistened with a caper-lemon-dill aioli. A trio of sliders seemed a good deal at 20 bucks. We chose the elk burger with pickled red onion and Glengarry’s Celtic Blue Reserve, the cod burger (battered, crunchy-soft fish, very nice) with an apple fennel slaw and a caper mayo, and the curried lobster and shrimp salad slider, which had no shortage of flavour. The buns were soft, sweet, and fresh. The spicy tuna tartar arrived missing the promised salmon roe, but not missing the promised spicy-heat, served with herbed crostini.


La Terrasse pickerel plate. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

A flaccid skin is my only complaint with an otherwise splendid plate of pickerel, the fish very fresh tasting, moist and well-seasoned, served atop a Panzanella (bread) salad, which turned out to be something of a reworked Salade Nicoise, with crisp haricots verts, semi-dried tomatoes (to concentrate flavour) caramelized onion and the umami pleasure of black olives and anchovies. The bread bit was focaccia, grilled squares of day old, infused deliciously with garlicked oil. This plate was the star of the mains. Seared trout suffered from an onslaught of surface salt, while the peas in the overcooked risotto were cooked to grey mush.

We liked very much the panna cotta with July berries, tart with buttermilk in the mix, the light pudding enhanced with an ice wine glaze above and a grape gelée below. Full marks.


Perfect panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

For a more kid-pleasing dessert, look to the strawberry shortcake with house made strawberry ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries tucked in and around a scone.


Sunset at La Terrasse. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Part of La Terrasse is fully shaded beneath a canopy, and the other part, closest to the stone railing, is exposed to the sun and wind. Hold on to your hats… and to your fifty-dollar bills. (We felt your pain, dear neighbours, as your money went sailing out over the Rideau locks.)

We stayed to watch the sun set, it was a good one.

Mains, $19 to $42
Open daily, July and August only from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
Fairmont Chateau Laurier, 1 Rideau Street,

DESBRISAY DINES: Carben Food & Drink

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.


Not your basic beet salad — Carben Food & Drink. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Let’s start with dessert. Why not? It’s summer and we can break some rules. And boy, do we like dessert here. A lot.

Created by Carben co-owner and pastry chef Caroline Ngo, the sweet endings at this new Hintonburg restaurant speak of a chef unafraid of mining the sweet potential of vegetables and herbs. Or playing around with “shabby chic.”

Take the dessert called Cinnamon Toast Crunch: it stars a splendid sphere of bitter chocolate set in a shallow bowl. Beside the round is a dozen squares of the kid-cereal and some modernist pearls (agar agar jellied pebbles) of strawberry.

And then the still life delivered gets wrecked tableside — a jug of warmed almond milk is poured over top, melting the chocolate and trickling down to reach the cereal. This has two affects: the top of the ball retreats such that you may peer into its guts, and the dry cereal becomes breakfast! Inside the chocolate sphere is a blob of cinnamon crunch ice cream, a salted caramel sauce, a cinnamon streusel topping and hunks of a spiced almond cake. Once you’ve devoured that, you can enjoy the cereal in milk topped with ‘strawberries,’ or at least their concentrated essence. Very clever. Very yummy. And considering the work involved, remarkably priced at $10 bucks.

And then there’s the dessert that studies green flavours on a black plate ($9) — a scoop of chunky cucumber ice cream, melon-balls of compressed (marinated) honeydew, cubes of pickled cucumber (sweet and lightly sour), torn vanilla sponge-coral cake infused with matcha tea and shards of green meringue flavoured with mint. A splendid summer dessert, cool and un-sweet, created by a clearly gifted pastry chef.


Scallops and pork belly. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

These were the fine endings to two very good meals at the one-month-old Carben Food + Drink. The only boo boo was an overeager hand on the salt grinder in the lamb roulade (a clever play on a bacon wrapped tournedos that ate like a sophisticated (though salty) meatloaf.

The kitchen is led by chef/owner Kevin Benes, husband of chef/owner Caroline (hence the name ‘Carben’ ). Benes is a former member of the kitchen brigade at Arup Jana’s Allium restaurant on Holland and before that, was chefing in Vancouver. In addition to having a spanking new restaurant, he and Caroline have a brand new son we learn. Which somehow makes her careful desserts all the more impressive…

The dinner menu is nine items long, four dishes to lead, five to continue. The very best plates were the starters.

Carben's mushroom salad. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Carben’s mushroom salad. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

One began with a smiley face swish of miso glaze and set above it, a composed salad starring mushrooms — smoked eryngii and lightly pickled wood ears. Among these were briny branches of sea beans (aka sea asparagus or samphire greens), plus chili oiled edamame and crunchy-soft bok choy. Dots of an aioli yellowed with turmeric and sprigs of purple shiso finished a plate of winning flavours and textures.

We liked as well the Salmon Carpaccio, the cured fish rolled in leek ‘ash’ (charred, dried, ground to a powder) served with an avocado mousse and nori chips.


Carben’s Salmon Carpaccio. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

And then the endlessly satisfying marriage of crisped pork belly with seared scallops, their richness balanced with a vibrant chimichurri, softened apple wedges compressed with tequila, and a shredded salad of mango with the underloved tuber jicama.

A duo of beets was stunning on a blue plate – a pile of raw candy canes julienned, wedges of goldens, lightly pickled. They shared the stage with just-so steamed peas put back in their pods, dots of a lovely sheep milk yogurt and zig-zags of a watermelon mint purée. There were patches of puffed quinoa mixed with a sweet pistachio brittle and pickled petals of pearl onion. Something with heat here and there — a chili oil drizzle I think. Not your basic beet salad.


Carben’s star — the Hake. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Among the mains, Mariposa Duck was bang on, as was the Veal Cheek with bacon foam and a wildly peppery red onion jam.

But the star was the Hake, a member of the cod family rarely seen on Ottawa menus. (And replaced with halibut at my second visit since the kitchen’s discovery of its questionable sustainability status.)

Sorry to report that the hake you may or may not be able to have here, was terrific. It arrived, firm, juicy, poised on a crunchy cake of arancini, topped with shaved and pickled heirloom carrots, and surrounded with baby bok choy and sweet little enoki mushrooms, all ringed with duelling sauces — a squid ink butter sauce and a lemony sabayon.

The room, by One80 Design, has built on what was here before (Burnt Butter) and taken it up a notch. The feel is clean and uncluttered, achieved with a modern palette of greys, mixed with shiny white tile, Danish low-back chairs and stools (from neighbouring A Modern Space), pale wooden shelves and tables, caged industrial lights. A scattering of homey touches warms the long narrow room – book shelves, eclectic curios, framed maps, photographs. Random yellow chairs add pops of colour. And though there’s no outdoor seating, on a fine summer night the street wall of windows opens and you are dining al fresco, protected with a roof overhead.


Dining area of Carben. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

In keeping with the ultra-local concept, the handsome crockery here is all from Loam Clay Studio on Hamilton at Armstrong.

Service standards are high, the cocktail list is fussed over, at least two local beers are available on tap and the thin wine list is a work in progress. Having the food down pat, let’s hope they work on plumping it soon.

I’m excited by Carben. It feels a bit like a western Fauna, minus the party scene. I encourage you to book a table. It’s been far too quiet at my visits.

Mains, $24 to $28
Open daily from 5:30pm (late night hours Thurs. to Sat.) and for weekend brunch, 10:30am to 2pm.
1100 Wellington Street West, 613- 792-4000  


Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Petit Peru on Somerset West. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Petit Peru on Somerset West. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

You used to have to climb a flight of stairs and dine beneath a mirror ball, skedaddling once the room began to fill with dancers. That was on Dalhousie Street, when Petit Peru shared space with the Discoteka nightclub. Today you find it in Chinatown. At least the Petit Peru on this side of the river. There is a small Petit Peru in Hull, the ‘Epicerie des Ameriques’ that was established three years ago by Jorge Bahamonde. And now this second one, relocated.

Jorge tells me, as he delivers my long thin plate of stuffed mussel shells, that this new location is about to have a new neighbour. It will be a Latin market. Soon, the Peruvian products he currently sources further afield, will be found just next door, to the east, on Somerset West. He seems pretty pumped about that.

Petit Peru's tamale. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Petit Peru’s tamale. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

It was a good lunch, though I could have used a friend to help me eat it. The ‘appetizer’ of warm tamale followed with a cold dish of steamed mussels presented on the half shell and piled on with good, tart crunchy stuff was plenty of food for a solo diner.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Mussels “a la Chalaca”. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Cornmeal dough stuffed with soft chicken spiced with cumin, garlic, pepper and Peru’s brilliant yellow aji marillo chili, arrived on the bananaleaf in which it had steamed, served with pickled red onion. And then the mussels: cooked, chilled, piled on with red onion, tomato, and with choclo, the pale yellow giant corn kernels with a winning chewy texture and nutty taste.

The menu is long, and I’ve mined only a titch of it. I’m looking forward to a return visit — with friends — to taste more of Petit Peru. And soon to shop at its neighbour.

792 Somerset St. W., 613-229-2868