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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 



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.

Tomo interior. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Tomo interior. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Clarence Street is where people tend to go when they don’t care so much what they eat, so long as there’s a party vibe. We wander the street to soak up the atmosphere, gawk at the bikers and the beauties, then walk a block to Murray Street to dine well.

Clarence also has a long history of having a hard time getting eateries to stick. Lots and lots of turnover. But now there’s Tomo, which means ‘long time friend’ in Japanese, and for it we wish for some long time-ness. The food hits some high notes here and there. The room is a real beauty. And I’ve been hugely impressed with the friendliness of the service, led by part-owner Mark Ngo. What’s more, there’s no grating music to ruin my dinner.

Once home to two businesses (Wonton Mamma and a place called Spoon Frozen Yogurt Lounge) Tomo takes over both. A custom mural vibrates off one wall, a playful installation of sake barrels suspends off another, nautical ropes droop over the back booths. Harvested from the recycle, sake bottles are refitted into chandeliers. The room has a democratic seating arrangement that meets a bunch of needs — an inviting bar in the middle, high tops at the front, communal tables of polished wood that seat eight, and cosy back booths hidden from the patio action.

Salmon bites. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Salmon bites. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The Tomo menu is split in half — cold snacks from the sushi bar down the left side, stuff from the kitchen down the right. If you’re in the market for seasonal delicacies with complex layers of flavour and texture, you’re out of luck. This isn’t that sort of sushi. But for the usual suspects — lead by salmon, tuna, crab stick — the well-calibrated vinegared rice at room temperature with cool, fresh slabs of well-cut fish fit the bill. And the presentation goes beyond fake fernery and curly parsley. Golden beet chips, say, and some tiny pickled tomato lend eye-pop to everything.

Nigiri suishi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Nigiri suishi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Perhaps in the fullness of time the sushi and sashimi offerings will become more interesting. For now, the rice snacks and specialty rolls are adapted to Clarence Street palates.

We did find some treats among the appetizers. Edamame, the beer nuts of Japan (soy beans steamed in their pods) arrive lightly salted and go remarkably well with the Cool Cucumber cocktail the barman hands me — gin, aperol, cilantro, cucumber, lemon juice, falernum, yuzu, and lemon bitters … lovely! Then pinched and pan-fried gyoza, some stuffed with well-seasoned chicken, some with vegetable. Skewers of tender duck arrive dusted with shichimi togarashi (a peppery, citrusy Japanese spice mix). A dish called ‘salmon bites’ is pretty straight forward — sushi grade nuggets of fish cooked tataki style just to crisp them up, the flesh still rare and wobbly, dressed with a pleasant teriyaki sauce.

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DESBRISAY DINES: Soif — for lunch



Mixed Marineau mushrooms (from Le Coprin farm) on toasted baguette. Served with a side of well dressed greens in bouncy condition. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

We add this one to The List of ‘Splendid Summer Patios on which to Drink and Dine Well’. It’s not a long list, so best take note.


Soif’s back patio. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Soif is the Gatineau wine bar opened late last year by superstar sommelier Véronique Rivest, now with chef Jamie Stunt in charge of the kitchen.

You will remember Stunt from his days at Oz Kafe on Elgin Street. Seven years he laboured in that teensy space, putting Oz on the national stage when he and his team won the regional Gold Medal Plates competition in 2012, and then went on to win silver at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna the following year.

He also put Tibetan yak on the Canadian culinary map (from Rosemary Kralik’s Tiraislin Farm), and proved how well the Ashton Brewing Company can create a craft beer to match that exotic meat.

But those are stories for another column.

My first taste of Stunt at Soif was at a soup and salad lunch on that lovely back deck, shaded at noon with mature trees and with a view of some rooftop container gardening. Always a welcomed sight.

Stunt gave spring tomatoes some serious smack by smoking them before pureeing them into a rich red soup. It arrived seasoned well, lightly creamed, lightly oiled, topped with chives. Very nice.

And then mixed Marineau mushrooms (from Le Coprin farm) on toasted baguette. Garlic, onion, mushrooms, wine, dobs of ricotta and snippets of chive piled on good bread, then under the broiler until browned and burbly, served with a side of well dressed greens in bouncy condition. Does it get more perfect?

A wine was chosen to match by a charming server. Can’t for the life of me remember which one. But I do remember three ounces didn’t seem enough.

88 rue Montcalm, Gatineau, 819-600-7643,




Ola Cocina’s plat campesino with pulled pork and a parking ticket. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Now, well into its second year, Ola Cocina has constructed a ‘tortilla tent’ so neither snow nor rain nor beating sun might slow down the business of al fresco pressing and grilling.


Ola Cocina — Donna Chevrier’s little corner taqueria in Vanier. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Donna Chevrier’s little corner taqueria in Vanier continues to plate up two handed flavour bombs: tacos, enchiladas, tortas, tamales, cheese stuffed house pickled jalapeños, plus All Day Mexican Breakfast. Inside or outside. Rain or shine.

Particularly tasty was lunch last week, including Al Pastor tacos, the marinated pork cooked on a trompo, coloured red with achiote, soft, piquant, and tangy with pineapple. Quite a different animal than the pulled pork, with its creamier, richer taco mates and the gentle kick of the house jalapeño crema.


Ola Cocina’s tacos. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Duck confit and tandoori chicken tacos are a bit irreverent, but turn out to be winners. The duck comes with house pickled golden beets, dobs of goat cheese, and a cranberry coffee maple sauce that adds a sweet balance to the sour beets and bitter arugula.

The Alambre Plato is a heaped plate of steak — marinated meat, spiced up, grilled to medium rare with peppers and onions, bacon, mushrooms and house queso. It comes with rice, beans and guacamole. Tortillas arrive on the side, along with salsa verde.

On another visit — Ola Cocina’s Plato Campesino (rojo rice, black beans, mango salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream, pulled pork, jalapeno crema, pickled jalapenos, and a side of chips) is a well-balanced jumble of flavour and texture. I take it to go and eat it in the car, in the rain. It softens the blow of the Beechwood parking ticket.

Tacos, $4 each, mains, $12-$17
Closed Monday
62 Barrette Street, 613-746-6222


DESBRISAY DINES: The Elmdale Oyster House & Tavern



The Elmdale Oyster House & Tavern. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Yes, indeed, there were grumblings.

In late 2012 when news broke that The Whalesbone Oyster House group had bought the 1934 Elmdale Tavern, the bah humbugs about further gentrification of the Hintonburg neighbourhood and the muzzling of live music were loud and clear.

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DESBRISAY DINES: Lunch at Mellos — still the same, but with better food



Mellos’ Singapore Noodles with tofu — presented like the queen had ordered it. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

The last time I plopped down on a brown vinyl bench at Mellos it was for a Matthew Carmichael pop-up dinner. Before that, it was for bacon and eggs with some son-or-other’s soccer team — the full breakfast works, fabulously greasy, with a bottomless cup of thin black coffee, served with clucky no-nonsense charm by long time waitress (and manager) Leisa Bell (RIP).


Mellos. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

That was ages ago — back when Mellos didn’t serve things like the thing I had for lunch: Singapore Noodles, with tofu, presented like the queen had ordered it. All arranged just so.

Wide rice noodles — still with bite — carrots, daikon, bok choy, cilantro in a coconut-galangal-lime leaf-lemongrass broth with some chilli spirit, logs of fried tofu laid on top with a wedge of lime for some extra zing.

Very nice. I read my book while I slurped and gave silent thanks for the eclectic face of the modern diner, still gnarly, still nostalgic, still serving all sorts, meeting all kinds of needs, but now with better food.


Mellos. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Mellos has always been and continues to be found at 290 Dalhousie Street. It’s open every day from 8am till 9pm, 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights. It has no website. 613-241-1909