Food and Wine

Top Ten Restaurants 2010

Absinthe

1208 Wellington St. W., 613-761-1138, absinthecafe.ca

The dish: Ontario lamb three ways — braised shank in duck fat sablé; belly roulade stuffed with creamed kale and chanterelles; roasted rack with herb crust, carrot and caraway puree, and Malivoire reduction

In late August, I discovered a back-door entrance to Absinthe from its parking lot, whereupon I passed two wooden planters filled with micro-greens, fragrant basil, and fresh green onions basking in the sun. It’s what the staff affectionately call their “ghetto garden.” When my niçoise salad arrived, there were all those lovely leaves again, this time gently dressed and placed alongside sweet cherry tomatoes, boiled potatoes, green beans, hand-pitted olives, and a generous slab of lightly seared fish from The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster and Fish Supply. For Absinthe, the personal connection to ingredients is everything. Its menu uses an elaborate system of symbols to pay homage to a small army of local farmers. At a glance, customers can see that eggs are from Bekings, tomatoes are from Rideau View, broccoli is from Rodney Knox, arugula from a guy named Spicoli (meet him, and you’ll know why) — and on it goes. Once you become acquainted with the provenance of each dish, there are wine-pairing suggestions to consider, be it for individual items or packaged as a three-course pairing. The appetizers, mids (soup or salad), and mains can also be ordered à la carte or combined into a table d’hôte. As decision-making goes, it can be a bit intense. So, too, is the cooking itself. Chef-owner Patrick Garland favours big, bold flavours. His food yells, Life is short, eat up! A walleye pogo has chipotle pop; smoky ribs are basted with sweetened heat. Even vegetarian ravioli have a wicked kick. And then, once you’re braced for the one-two punch, Garland reminds us that life can be as sweet and delicate as the perfect profiterole.

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  • Aunt Carolyn

    My favourite restaurant!

  • Buds

    Overrated. Was invited for a birthday dinner and was highly Disapointed. My boyfriend ate his steak bavette with a butter knife, for lack of ability to get our servers attention. My risotto lacked flavor and cooking time. The grains stuck to my teeth they were so undercooked. And again where was the waiter? And when finally we politely expressed our disappointment, nothing was done other than giving us our $150 addition. Our entree of beef tartar was excellent, but with only 2 croutons, and a busy waiter, it wasn’t as excellent.

    Ambiance: that of a gastropub. A bunch of random antiques put in a room decorated like The Works burger joint and very echo loft like dining rooms made the ambiance short of desirable.

    Not recommended. I don’t care if my waiter can point to the part of his body where the beef is from. It’s a restaurant, not a biology class.

  • Thomas McVeigh

    As the comments are the same following every page of the top ten, if you are commenting, it would be helpful to mention which restaurant the comment refers to, otherwise there are ten restaurants that are trying to figure out who they pleased/displeased.
    Cheers!

  • Skye

    I agree that Bistro St-Jacques deserves a spot on that list. The food was incredible, the atmosphere was charming, and the staff extremely attentive.

  • Taylor’s leaves a bad taste

    Couldn’t agree more with your review on Taylor’s Genuine. Their treatment of that incident will keep me and others away for good. What a shame. It wasn’t amazing but it had great potential.

  • wee

    err… this article seems to be focused to much on.. expensive and probably not very filling food. I guess everyone has their own option on wats best from the high/low price, or people who cares to much about the look of their cuisine. 

  • pops

    Will have to try Play, Food and Wine. Last trip to Beckta’s was thoroughly disappointing. Was there with a couple from the eastern US. For a group of four, no alcohol (no one drinks) was close to $400 with tip. Can only comment on my meal but honestly, I can cook a way better salmon for way less the price. Everyone commented on cold food. Too bad. Have been to Beckta’s many times,..perhaps an off night or new cook.

    Next time better shine or I will not return

  • Nancim_726

    I dropped in at Fraser Cafe for lunch with a friend and the food was delicious! We will definitely be back for more.

  • Bilalshaikh

     taylor you should try Evening Away From Home In Ottawa.They have best food, desert and everything. i have visited there and i loved the way they show cased the products while I was
    getting my 3 course meal and robotic massage. It was a royal treatment,
    the wife and I really enjoyed it.

  • eater

    Fraser Cafe was disappointing. We chose to sit at the bar instead of our reserved table, wedged between 2 parties (6 and 8) for our special night.  As the bar is usually a great seat and in my experience better service, we were surprised at the lack of charm, or of any attempt to entertain on our server’s behalf.  We were also annoyed that we had to flag down our bartender, who had all of 6 seats at the small bar to take care of, for refills on drinks (wine that is, not free ones).  Food was ok, but not great.  Beef entree was not seasoned and accompaniments were blah.  Delicate scallops, albeit being perfectly cooked, were served with a pungent parmesan, kalamata, and tomato linguine and topped with a massive fried oyster with chive crème fraiche … a terrible combo in my opinion. I only ate the scallops which were great.  The charcuterie plate to start was exceptional, and the highlight of the meal.  Perhaps the experience would have been more enjoyable had the entrees not taken – no exaggeration – an hour from the time we finished our charcuterie.  With that much time to anticipate, I guess our restless taste buds became pejorative.

  • not for sale

    meh. not overly impressed with this list, I think you could’ve dug a little deeper. while the places listed are definitely amon some of the “hipper” restaurants, diners should expect to encounter the usual atmosphere that goes along with this sort of too-big-for-my-beaches professionalism