DesBrisay Dines

CITY BITES INSIDER: Opening soon! Étienne Cuerrier gets set to open Meat Press Creative Charcuterie and Sandwich Shop in Hintonburg

Meat Press owner Étienne Cuerrier stands in front of the door hiding his fermentation room — that's where the pickles, vinegars, and bread starters get made

Meat Press owner Étienne Cuerrier stands in front of the door hiding his fermentation room — that’s where the pickles, vinegars, and bread starters get made

By Sarah Brown

He ran his own successful catering business but, most recently, was known as the chef dreaming up the delectable dishes to complement Véronique Rivest’s wines at the critically acclaimed Soif wine bar. Now Étienne Cuerrier is teaming up with his wife, Myriam Campeau, to open Meat Press Creative Charcuterie and Sandwich Shop in Hintonburg. After a whirlwind six-week reno, the new business is set to open in time for the popular Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19 — perfect timing!

A very busy Étienne Cuerrier took time out from his hectic schedule to show off his 16-seat charcuterie and sandwich shop — and to talk about some of the surprises he has in store for Ottawa’s more adventurous carnivores.

Who’s running the show?
It’s a family operation — me, my wife Myriam [Campeau], and our kids. My five-year-old daughter says she’s going to be the sweets advisor. She already makes fruit rollups and candies!

Take a seat: Étienne and his father are building a bench — a place for customers to sit and chat while their sandwich is being made

Take a seat: Étienne and his father are building a bench — a place for customers to sit and chat while their sandwich is being made

Why open up your own business?
When you work at a restaurant, you have impossible hours. It’s hard to find time for your home life. Owning Meat Press will allow me to set my hours better and to be truly creative because I won’t be restricted by a menu.

Any reason you chose Hintonburg?
I grew up in this neighbourhood and love it here, so when the city’s urban planners rezoned this building, I jumped at the chance to open Meat Press. The area reminds me of a little of the Bronx or Brooklyn — it’s part of the city but also not quite ‘of the city.’ It soothes me. There’s not as much pressure here.

Are you worried about being slightly off the main drag?
Not at all. We’re so close that you can actually see Meat Press from Wellington Street. And once people find us, they’ll be back. We’re launching at the Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19, so that will be huge for us. Oh, and being almost right across from the PranaShanti Yoga Centre means over 150 people walk or drive by us every day.

There have been rumours – is Meat Press a lunch counter? A restaurant? A take-out spot?
I have so many plans! It will be all of these things. I’ll definitely be doing sandwiches seven days a week as soon as we open in September, but we have applied for a liquor license so we hope to begin serving dinner a couple of nights a week by December. On the retail side, I’ll be making sausages and charcuterie. We’ll sell our meats at Meat Press, but also through other retail food stores around town.

The storefront: With just a few weeks till opening day, boxes and supplies come and go into 45 Armstrong Street. The sign will arrive any day.

The storefront: With just a few weeks till opening day, boxes and supplies come and go into 45 Armstrong Street. The sign will arrive any day.

Tell me more about the charcuterie at Meat Press.  
Charcuterie is important, but we won’t just be focusing on dried meats and sausages. I am picturing selling whole ducks and stuffed chickens for takeout. I would love to sell sweetbreads — that’s something people don’t have time to prepare at home — and maybe marinated duck hearts and crispy pork belly. In the fall hunting season, we’ll be working with duck and venison.

Okay, we’re salivating. Now tell us more about the sandwiches.
We’ll work at a table by the window so people can see everything getting made. I plan to do two types of hot sandwiches a day — roasted meats like a thick-sliced porcetta or a pressed duck.

And the parts that aren’t meaty?
We make all our own pickles and vinegars and bread. I’ve been experimenting with apple yeast and grape yeast as bread starters. The apple yeast gives the bread a slightly acidic taste which goes really well with pork, while the grape is sweeter and matches with beef and duck.

Anything else?
We’ve been making our own fresh cheeses for fun, experimenting with the easier ones like mozzarella, ricotta, and cheddar. For drinks, I’ve been making my own grape soda and root beer.

Okay, let’s end the interview with a couple of sample sandwiches to get readers in the mood. Can you describe a few you have planned?
Porchetta with pickled brussel sprouts, crunchy barbecue sauce, and lemon-parsley; a smoked brisket with fried shallots, sunchoke chips, aioli, and celery leaf; and a smoked duck with creamy slaw, duck neck flakes, and ramp leaf pesto. A vegetarian sandwich might be tofu bacon with diced apples, soft cheese, watercress, and dry figs.

CITY BITES: Fantasy Food Trucks

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

*Yawn* It’s 9 a.m. on Friday, the last Friday of August, and oh how you wish it was 5 p.m. Soon my friends, soon. In the mean time, here are some Fantasy Food Trucks thought up by a few of our illustrators to amuse you while you drink your coffee. Can you think up any you’d like to roam the Ottawa streets?


Illustration by Michael Zeke Zavacky

Imagine, if you will, a food truck that allows you to take a sweet stroll down memory lane, back to a time and place where you enjoyed the best meal of your life — perhaps in the company of a loved one. Zeke’s Memory Lane food truck allows you to do just that. Put on the unique headgear, which will tap into your memory bank and project a visual of that special scene right on the side of the truck. What’s more, the truck also serves up the exact meal you enjoyed. Do you dream of that unforgettable night in Paris 50 years ago when you shared that amazing glass of pinot noir over a bowl of pasta with the love of your life? Voilà! Memory Lane recreates your incredible meal of a lifetime, allowing you to experience it anew. And all for a very affordable food-truck price. Think about it: if Zeke’s Memory Lane food truck pulled up outside your door, what would you order? —Michael Zeke Zavacky



Illustration by Kyle Brownrigg

Beeraoke: Two of my favourite things in this world are beer and karaoke. This food truck would provide specialty beers and a stage on which to perform your favourite karaoke songs. Don’t have the guts to sing? No problem. Have a few more! —Kyle Brownrigg



Illustration by Dave Merritt

LOTS OF LOX: Enjoy hot gourmet bagels with lox and cream cheese!
“There’s nothing like fresh cream cheese on a bagel topped with smoked salmon, fresh off the smoker. I wish this food truck existed so I could eat one of these satisfying treats whenever I had a craving. It would also be cool to look at.” —Dave Merritt


CITY BITES: A Gourmet Guide to Ottawa’s Cheap Eats Scene

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

It’s always fun, always evolving. We’re talking about the cheap-eats scene. One day you might opt for an exquisite banh mi sandwich, the next you’re craving a meatball sub. In this, Ottawa Magazine’s gourmet guide to all that is tasty and economical, we eat our way around town, noshing on all manner of well-priced sandwiches, stews, and sweets to bring you our 43 finds. To round out the top 50, we called on seven discerning chefs to reveal their cheap eats of choice. At these prices, you can’t afford not to eat out.
By Cindy Deachman (CD) and Anne DesBrisay (AD), bolstered by staff picks (SP) and chef suggestions

Photo by

The Cheesus Crust Almighty starts things off. Photo by Christian Lalonde

1. Cheesus Crust Almighty

If you don’t get struck down for blasphemy first, you may still keel over eating the Cheesus Crust Almighty, The Joint’s unique and “mysterious” take on a grilled cheese sandwich. They take mac ’n’ cheese, roll it in a “secret ingredient” (Cinnamon Toast Crunch?), plunge it into the fryer, then “slam” it into a grilled cheese sandwich. This heavenly combo gobsmacks the palate with a jumble of salty, sweet, tangy sensations — the latter if you choose to dunk the sandwich into the accompanying house-made Bollywood sauce (think butter chicken gravy sans chicken). It would be “criminal” not to include a side of deep-fried Britney pickle spears. $7–$10.The Joint, 352 Preston St., 613-656-5849. ~SP

2. Hot chicken sandwich

Hot chicken sandwich from WIlf & Ada's. Illustration by Jeff Kulak

Hot chicken sandwich from WIlf & Ada’s. Illustration by Jeff Kulak

A long-running tradition on the corner, Ada’s Diner morphed into Wilf& Ada’s last year and serves diner classics with a twist — they’re made from scratch. We’re big fans of the hot chicken sandwich, a pile of moist pulled chicken on a root-vegetable mash, piled on house-made bread and smothered with full-flavoured onion gravy, well peppered and well made. Served with good fries and arugula salad.The taste of the 2015 diner? Bring it on! $14.50. Wilf& Ada’s, 510 Bank St., 613-231-7959. ~AD

3. Square Pizza Slices

Centretowners know that the best slice isn’t sitting under a heat lamp at a chain pizza joint. It’s made to order in a humble pizzeria that has anchored the Somerset strip from Bank to Bronson for 15 years. Pavarazzi offers white or herbed-flecked dough, and one order gives you two four-inch squares of satisfying ’za, which is usually plenty. But if you’re soaking up a night of beer swilling, go for two. Leftovers make perfect hangover food. From $3.Pavarazzi, 491 Somerset St. W., 613-233-2320. ~SP

Hung Sum shrimp dumplings. Illustration by Jeff Kulak.

Hung Sum shrimp dumplings. Illustration by Jeff Kulak.

4. Deep-fried shrimp dumplings

Hanbiao Lin learned the high cuisine of dim sum as an apprentice in his native Canton. So if you want the genuine article, visit Hung Sum, which Lin owns with his wife, May Lee. His shrimp dumplings are beauts. The crisp exterior of the deep-fried wonton yields to a sweet filling of shrimp and pork. And as for the feathery-light frilled edge — oh! $4.25 for three dumplings. Hung Sum, 870 Somerset St. W.,
613-238-8828. ~CD

CITY BITES: Tuesday Trolleys

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Who doesn’t remember Dickie Dee? Founded in 1959, Winnipeg Manitoba, Dickie Dee was the epitome of summer: rolling by after school as the last days of class approached, waiting patiently for soccer players to finish their game only to have them run over in a crazed, demanding pack, vying for their favourite treats. I still get a familiar rush of child-like excitement when I see one now (although it hasn’t been Dicke Dee since 2002). Today, there is a new kind of ice cream cart. And new food carts in general, for that matter. Cindy Deachman shares a few with us.


Dickie Dee, is that you? Photo by Ben Welland

Here’s the quintessential old-fashioned ice cream cart pulling up to the corner of Bank and Sparks. It comes from Old Ottawa South gelateria Stella Luna Gelato Café. Co-owner Tammy Giuliani is very proud of her freshly made gelatos and sorbets — after all, she did study at “gelato university” in Bologna, Italy. Known for her meticulous work, Giuliani is firm in adhering to the correct ways of production. At the same time, she gets pretty fired up when experimenting with new flavours, as you’ll see after visiting a few times (you will find yourself returning). Refreshing strawberry and champagne in the heat of summer, apple pie gelato as fall approaches. “If you can conceive of a flavour, we can create it,” says Giuliani. The old-world pushcart got its start last year, with the Carp Farmers’ Market proving the perfect pilot project. “We had so much fun working outside one-on-one with the people.” Another time, at a wedding, she offered gelato to accompany fruit pies the bride’s mother had baked. Evening now, and the pushcart, with all its twinkly lights, is downtown, still selling ice cream. Under the moon and the stars — magic! Bank & Sparks St.



Cooking up Korean. Photo by Ben Welland.

“We started making kimchi as soon as we arrived,” says Hana Jung of emigrating from Seoul, Korea, to Ottawa in 2009. “Without kimchi, we can’t eat a meal.” Not finding any locally that they liked, she and her husband, Iruk Cho, started preparing their own. In fact, Cho even ended up returning to Seoul in 2010 to study royal Korean cuisine. He and Jung launched Raon Kitchen in 2012 and started selling their homemade kimchi, along with their Korean sauces, at farmers’ markets. “Hey, why not sell Korean foods to accompany those condiments?” customers suggested. Jung and Cho got in just under the wire when the city put out the call for 2013 food-cart licences, not having seen it until 10 days before the deadline. “We couldn’t miss the chance,” says Jung. Their concept is simple — offer one dish with different toppings. That one dish is Korean fave bibimbap, a rice bowl to which an egg and meat (or tofu) are added, along with sautéed vegetables and soy sauce. The whole is thoroughly mixed — the meaning of bi bim. Add sesame seeds, extra hot sauce, and other condiments, along with some fabulous kimchi. Bank Street between Albert and Slater.



Chinese steamed buns stuffed with pizza? Yes please! Photo by Ben Welland

“I’m working on getting picnic blankets, but I’m really pernickety,” says Tarek Hassan. Picnic blankets? His cart is located at Confederation Park, so yes! Gongfu Bao Cart offers fluffy steamed Chinese buns, or bao, filled with goodness — Shaoxing pork, coconut saag chickpea curry, even pizza. And — as billed — Hassan’s killer coleslaw, best in the city. Obviously, his imagination knows no bounds. His novel ideas might be attributed to having lived on four continents, though maybe it’s that engineering degree that encouraged Hassan’s lateral thinking. All he knows is that his goal is to “break the paradigm of eating bad [street] food while on the way to your next meeting.” Smart guy — our kind of guy. Chefs like him too. Gongfu Bao has a strong following in the restaurant world, according to Hassan, who notes that Murray Street chef Steve Mitton once tweeted that Gongfu’s bao was some of the best food he’d ever eaten in the city. Dishes in the future? Here are a few possibilities: red-braised short ribs and daikon cake, fresh dan-dan noodles, mapo doufu, lion’s head bowl. Picnic blankets would be sweet. Elgin Street at Confederation Park.

CITY BITES Q&A: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Liz Mok


What is it? Liz Mok’s own Asian inspired ice cream recipes, scooped into two-bite balls, and dipped in a rich chocolate coating. After diving in to her passion, Mok is making it work with Moo Shu Ice Cream – hitting all the right marks on her way: starting at Privé’s Night Market, partnering with some of Ottawa’s coolest foodies, a sweet spot at Lansdowne’s farmer’s market, and a place on SEN asian cuisine‘s dessert menu as well as at TOMO Japanese Restaurant. We can’t wait to see what she’s going to bring us next!

Find Liz and her Moo Shu truffles at Clover Food | Drink, 155 Bank St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Monday, Aug. 17 for a pop-up shop!

Spicy Caramel Fuyu

Spicy Caramel Fuyu

How are you finding your instant success?

Haha, not sure I can say I’ve found success yet, although I’m always surprised when people come up to me at the market to say they’ve heard of Moo Shu! It’s still a struggle to get people to try ice cream in an unfamiliar format and in unfamiliar flavours, but with the rate of returning customers we see, I’m confident that we’re onto something amazing.

Is your family into food?
My mom wasn’t a great cook (sorry mom!) but my parents deemed food the most important thing to spend money on. Good quality, new food experiences, we didn’t have a fancy home, car, or clothes like some of our friends but we sure ate a lot fancy things. Living between two huge multicultural metropolitan cities, Hong Kong and Vancouver, and we ate out all the time. It wasn’t until moving to Ottawa for university that I realized that eating out, say, five dinners a week wasn’t normal.

Good Morning Yuzu

Good Morning Yuzu

What did you study in school?
Industrial Design at Carleton University. How does that relate to an ice cream business? I would say I use a lot of the soft skills that I learned, like developing your product iteratively, considering the holistic user experience, and thinking about how to scale production. Practice with graphic design and general “making” doesn’t hurt too!

You started planning in April, but when did it really start to take off?
We actually started off with a bang at Privé’s 613 Night Market. We had four people working the booth and none of us were able to take a break until 9pm. It worried me that we really petered off afterwards, but we just kept going to events and talking to people. I can’t identify when we “took off” to be honest. It’s been gradual growth as the word of mouth has spread. If I had to choose, July’s Ottawa Citizen article definitely made a significant boost!

Moolong Tea

Moolong Tea

How was Canada Day?
Cold and rainy. Not a great day for ice cream but I had a blast at Dominion City Brew’s Dominion Day. Those guys know how to throw a party. Amazing beer, kooky Canada-themed games, local musical talent, and great food from Town and The Rex. It felt like I was at an amped up backyard party.

What has been your most popular product so far?
Our best-seller is without a doubt, the Spicy Caramel Fuyu ice cream truffle. It has an intense flavour, and is very balanced. Sweet and bitter from the caramel then salty, spicy, and umami from the fuyu (Chinese fermented tofu), all packed into a creamy frozen truffle. I don’t think anyone’s ever put fuyu in ice cream! I’m proud to say it’s a Moo Shu exclusive. My dad thinks I’m a weirdo for concocting this and still doesn’t believe that it’s Moo Shu’s best seller haha.

It’s worth mentioning that Hong Kong Milk Tea has the most loyal following. The Hong Kong style milk tea drought in Ottawa really pushed me to make this flavour over the last few years and many people have come to us just for it.

Black Sesame

Black Sesame

What are your fall/winter plans?
I do have new products in mind for fall and winter. Something new and not yet done in Ottawa. I’m still testing and working on it, but I’m excited to share when it’s ready! As for ice cream, I’ll probably feel it out, see what the demand is like over the colder seasons. I’ve seen line-ups at Dairy Queen in February so you never know!

Why “Moo Shu”?
Moo Shu just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s taken from mu shu pork, which is a North Americanized Chinese dish. That’s kind of what we are doing, taking traditional ingredients and reintroducing it in a new modernized way. Plus, “Moo” for cows and dairy!

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Are you looking for permanent housing (as in a store of your own)?
I would absolutely love to have a store of my own, but it seems to be a ways away unless an affordable hole in the wall opens up. I daydream about it all the time and it keeps me motivated. I have to remind myself to scale-up responsibly because it’s so easy to give in to the urge to just go big! In the meantime, I think Ottawa is pretty great for mobile vendors in the summer. With all the festivals, craft fairs, and markets there’s lots of opportunities for small start-up makers to showcase their stuff.

Who approached who about the beer partnering/how did it come about?
It was definitely me that approached Beyond the Pale and Dominion City Brewing about beer ice cream. I’m still an unknown compared to those guys, so it’d be highly unlikely that they’d come to me! Beer in ice cream is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m a huge fan of both breweries. There’s so much creativity coming from our local breweries. It’s a no-brainer to tap into that!

Breakfast Bite

Breakfast Bite

What are your next flavours?
I constantly have new flavours on my mind. Chrysanthemum, Lapsang Souchong, Thai-style salty coconut, sake-kasu… Too many flavours, too little time!

What do you do with your free time now (if any)?
Free time is really hard to come by nowadays. Ice cream making was my defacto hobby so now that I do it full-time I’m afraid there’s not much left to do! I guess you could say I am a Netflix potato when I’m not making ice cream.

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CITY BITES INSIDER: Opening next week! Rich Wilson gets ready to launch The Pomeroy House in the Glebe

By Sarah Brown

Rich Wilson xxxx xxxxx xxxx

Chef Rich Wilson (shown here at home) plans to launch the much-awaited The Pomeroy House next week. Photograph by Luther Caverly

After opening for a few months last summer “just to give people a taste of what was to come,” {segue} restaurant in the Glebe closed up shop for an extended reno. Renamed The Pomeroy House, the 65-seat restaurant is slated to reopen on Tuesday, August 11 (check the website to ensure the restaurant is open and reservations are available).

Chef Rich Wilson is promising that the new kid on the block will quickly become a neighbourhood gathering spot — comfortable and bustling, with casual banquettes and a welcoming bar. “It will be ‘come as you are’ but with high-end comfort food,” says Wilson. He took a break from overseeing the finishing touches to the renovation to tell us what’s in store for guests of The Pomeroy House.

You honed your skills as a sous-chef at Beckta. Why open your own restaurant?
At a certain point, you want to run with your own ideas. My fiancée [Lindsay Gordon] and I had been intending to open a restaurant for several years. The time was right!


When the weather is nice, the large front windows will open to the street.

Why the Glebe?
We love the neighbourhood. When we first moved to Ottawa [from Peterborough] this is where we lived. I believe the Glebe is on the rise again. There’s lots going on here, including Lansdowne, and the neighbours are very supportive of their local restaurants.

You closed a year ago and the renovation took longer than expected. What happened?
Yes! We were originally supposed to reopen in January, but permits took longer than expected and because this is such an old building, every time we opened up a wall we discovered another mess. The renovation basically turned into a demo job. But it’s been worth it. Having to do more than we planned actually allowed us to make this restaurant truly ‘ours.’

What have you been up to on your enforced year “off?”
Other than overseeing the reno, I’ve been planning the menu. Since last fall, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen and drafting a menu each month in the hopes that The Pomeroy House would open. I’ve now got my seasonal menus pretty much planned for a full year.


A banquette at the back of the restaurant features a window viewpoint into the busy kitchen.

Can you give us a hint or two about what to expect?
I would describe the menu as refined, modern comfort food. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen refining dishes from around the world, manipulating them to take advantage of local ingredients. So, for instance, I’ve been working on a really great recipe that’s inspired by Creole flavours, but it’s not like the whole menu will have a Creole theme.

I notice that there’s a huge window that looks into the kitchen. What’s that about?
There’s going to be an eight-seat table for groups right outside that window so guests can look in and watch us working. The plating station and pastry station are set up right by the window, so you can see everything coming together.

And the bar? It’s huge.
Yes, there’s a big S-shaped bar along the one wall, which means extra space for sitting at the bar. I want people to come and hang out here, mingle, and enjoy a good scotch or whatever. I wanted to make the bar a centrepiece to the room.


A sneak peek at the bar a few days before opening. In a nice touch, the lights were created using a range of decanters.

Sixty-five seats is pretty big. You’re obviously not working alone.
I’m working with a great bunch of people. My fiancée, Lindsay [Gordon], is the GM and wine director. Tyler [Uguccioni], the sous-chef, used to work at {segue} with me, and Brendan [Macfarlane] was chef de cuisine at Gezellig. Our pastry chef, Adrienne [Courey], has worked at Beckta and Brothers Beer Bistro.

What are you most excited about?
Finally opening! I can’t wait to serve people again. It’s so much fun to make people’s day if you can. I can’t wait to be in the space with my staff and engaged with our guests.

The coverings have finally been removed and The Pomeroy House takes its place along the Glebe strip.

The coverings have finally been removed and The Pomeroy House takes its place along the Glebe strip.

CITY BITES INSIDER: The Nguyen family gets set to launch SEN Asian Cuisine at Lansdowne


In 2008, the Nguyen family opened a tiny pho restaurant on Booth Street, turning it into a bustling local gathering spot popular with office workers and neighbourhood regulars. Seven years on, they have taken a huge leap, closing Pho’licious and going head to head with the big restaurant chains at Lansdowne Park. Their new eatery, SEN Asian Cuisine at Lansdowne, will feature a pan-Asian menu aimed at a cosmopolitan audience. CityBites insider caught up with sisters Kim and Ann Nguyen as they watched over the final details ahead of a planned August opening.

Architect Kris Benes (left) worked with Ann (centre) and Kim (right) Nguyen to design SEN Asian Cuisine

Architect Kris Benes (left) worked with Ann (centre) and Kim (right) Nguyen to design SEN Asian Cuisine.

Your family previously owned the popular Pho’licious Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown (2008-2015). Why the leap to Lansdowne Park?
Kim: The launch at Lansdowne Park was the right fit at the right time. A few years ago, we began looking to open a second restaurant — we wanted to expand beyond pho. Lansdowne is the perfect fit. It’s a new hub with a great history.

Do you think your previous clientele will follow you here?
Ann: A lot of our clients were from the Glebe, so we’ve had so much support. Some people have even been in touch to say they’ll hand out flyers to let their neighbours know we’re opening.

Tell me about the new name, SEN Asian Cuisine.
Kim: Sen means lotus flower in Vietnamese, but it’s a flower that you see throughout the region so we felt it represented the range of Asian cuisine that we’ll be cooking now. Also, the lotus often grows in difficult conditions — it represents adaptation and perseverance.

Ann: We didn’t want to be associated with just pho, since we plan to feature Japanese and Thai dishes as well. Initially, we weren’t even going to keep pho on the menu, but all our regular customers said we had to!

Architectural drawings sit on an empty table at SEN, which it set to open in early August.

Architectural drawings sit on an empty table at SEN, which it set to open in early August.

Can you describe the menu?
Kim: We’ll have a range of Asian dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan. For more adventurous customers — and people who visit regularly — we’ll also have changing house specials, which will feature less-known dishes from our homeland. We have a liquor license this time around, which is great.

Is your family’s background in the food business?
Kim: Yes. Before we came to Canada [in 1998], my parents had a large business making Vietnamese sausage. When they arrived in Vancouver, they did the same thing on a smaller scale.

Ann: They have always paid attention to every detail when they’re making food. At Pho’licious, everything was made from scratch. At SEN Asian Cuisine, the menu and style is totally different, but everything will be made from scratch, too.

Pho’licious was your family’s first restaurant, though?
Kim: Yes, we moved to Ottawa when my older sister came here for university.

Ann: We sold the restaurant this past spring and it has a new name. We have kept the rights to the Pho’licious name because we hope to open up another Pho’licious sometime in the future.

Bright idea: The billowy lights look like clouds above the tables. They also reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside

Bright idea: The billowy lights look like clouds above the tables. They also reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside

You’re not busy enough?!
Kim: It’s not going to happen anytime soon. But we do plan to bring it back when we find the right time and location.

Every restaurant opening is a huge challenge. How have you found the process of launching SEN Asian Cuisine?
Kim: It has definitely been a challenge. We had hoped to open in May, then it got pushed to June and then July…

Ann: We’ll hopefully grab a bit of summer!

So an opening date is imminent?
Ann: Yes! We’re planning for early August so keep checking our Facebook site.

It’s a beautiful design. How did you come to work with architect Kris Benes?
Kim: We found Kris online. We googled him and liked his style — it’s chic and modern.

Ann: The look is simple and clean. Everything ties together.

Ready to go: After months of prep time, the chefs can't wait to get started. The cooking setup includes (at far left) a double wok station.

Ready to go: After months of prep time, the chefs can’t wait to get started. The cooking setup includes (at far left) a double wok station.

Kris, can you describe the look?
Kris: It is not a huge space, so we knew we didn’t want to try to do too much. The pale wood and slats harken back to Asian culture. It’s a very clean and neutral look, but with a splash of red at the bar to add a little bit of spice. The seating with “canopies” on either side of the restaurant creates coziness.

And the lights?
Kris: They’re beautiful in their own right, but we chose them to reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside.

Final word?
Kim: We can’t wait to open! This has been a long time in the works.

CITY BITES INSIDER: Fraser Café brothers put finishing touches on The Rowan in the Glebe


Ottawa Magazine stops by to visit as Simon and Ross Fraser oversee the final weeks of renovations ahead of the opening of The Rowan, just steps from Lansdowne Park.

Set to open in mid-July, the 45-seat restaurant, with its open kitchen and front-of-room bar, marks a new challenge for the brothers, who have operated Fraser Café, the so-very-popular neighbourhood eatery in New Edinburgh, for seven years. As the crews install lighting, Simon and Ross talk about the name, the menu, and the hoped-for vibe at The Rowan.

Picture this: Designed by bex of PLOTNONPLOT Architecture, the firm which designed The Rowan, the new mural was installed at the end of June.

Picture this: Created by bex of PLOTNONPLOT Architecture, the firm which designed The Rowan, the signature mural encompasses six panels and was installed at the end of June.

You’ve operated Fraser Café [and, later, Table 40] for seven years. Why add another restaurant to your duties?
Ross: We’ve always been on the lookout for new projects. So it was part of the plan. Now it’s time.

Why the Glebe?
Simon: It’s a great neighbourhood — The Glebe has a feeling very similar to where we are now [New Edinburgh / Rockcliffe Park]. So the neighbourhood seemed like a good fit for us and when the restaurant space became available it felt right. Also, I live just down the street in Old Ottawa South, so I’m close by!


The Rowan marks a new challenge for Ross (left) and Simon Fraser, who have been at the helm of the successful Fraser Café in New Edinburgh for seven years.

How did the collaboration [with Zazaza’s Ion Aimers] come about?
Simon: It’s a long story, but we were working with Ion on new menu ideas for Zazaza [which has been replaced by The Rowan] and we ended up coming up with an idea for a whole new restaurant. It’s a huge change.

Tell me about the menu.
Simon: It’s going to have a modern British feel to it — classic flavours. The food will be simple, flavourful, and local, with not too much manipulation. It will be very different from Fraser Café, which has more influences from around the world. But it won’t be pub food!

Ross: There will be a familiarity to the dishes, but they won’t be exactly what you’re expecting.

How did you choose The Rowan as the name?
Ross: We had a few ideas and The Rowan won out. Since the food has an English feel to it, we wanted the name to match. The rowan tree is featured in many myths and stories.

In one panel of the extended mural, the branches of the restaurant's namesake rowan tree play host to colourful waxwings.

In one panel of the extended mural, the branches of the restaurant’s namesake rowan tree play host to colourful waxwings.

Tell me about the mural of the rowan tree on one wall. Who did it?
Ross: It’s actually done by one of the architects, Bex, from PLOTNONPLOT, which is the firm working on The Rowan’s design. Their team has been fantastic. They’re totally into design but also very practical.

How many people will The Rowan seat?
Ross: We’ve got 45 seats. There’s an open kitchen at the back and a bar with 6 or 7 seats at the front, where you can have a drink and also eat.

How will you clone yourselves to work here?
Simon: After all these years at Fraser Café, we have an amazing team, so we’re comfortable delegating to them. We know they can execute when we’re not able to be there. One of those team members is Kyle Deacon, who will become chef de cuisine at The Rowan when it opens.

What are you most excited about?
Ross: We’re pretty excited that this will be a very different challenge than the past seven years at Fraser Café. I’m sure we’ll see some familiar faces, but it’s mostly going to be a whole new neighbourhood crowd and a very different environment.

Simon: Yes, at the café we have a similar crowd, more often than not. At The Rowan, I picture that there will be a different feel depending on what’s going on at Lansdowne Park that night.

The artist's concept for the signature mural shows the showcases the tree's branches, which showcase all four seasons, beginning with spring (to the left)

The artist’s concept for the signature mural shows the showcases the tree’s branches, which showcase all four seasons, beginning with spring (to the left)

Is the opening date set?
Ross: Early to mid-July. We have to get it right, so we’ll make sure everything’s ready before we open.

Simon: We’ll post the opening date on social media once we’re sure.


CITY BITES INSIDER: Opinicon’s new owner gives scoop on revamped & reopened iconic lodge


Guest Carly Beath ( photographed the iconic resort on a sunny June day.

Guest Carly Beath ( photographed the iconic resort on a sunny June day.

Meet Fiona McKean. Over the past eight months, the busy mother of three (and wife of Shopify head, Tobias Lütke) has presided over a massive overhaul of The Opinicon Resort, the century-old Chaffey’s Lock icon.

That overhaul includes a complete revamp of the expansive restaurant. Opened in June, the 115-seat eatery now tempts day trippers and nearby cottagers with an updated menu that moves beyond prime rib to include inventive salads, charcuterie, and fine baking. Ottawa Magazine quizzed McKean on the latest developments just days after the restaurant’s soft opening.


How long will you stay open this season?
For sure until the locks close, which is Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll be doing a full Thanksgiving dinner, which is an old tradition at The Opinicon. We might stay open a week or two longer than that, but it really depends on the weather.

Before: Old carpets and nicotine-stained wallpaper made for a not-so-appetizing vibe.

Before: Old carpets and nicotine-stained wallpaper made for a not-so-appetizing vibe.

You used to visit the restaurant at the “old” Opinicon. What was it like?
Way, way back, it was known for its good food and catered to a clientele of American fishermen and hunters. So there were big portions and lots of meat and potatoes. And that’s what carried on. My memories of this place are of lots of roasts and a set menu that rotated weekly so you knew that on a Tuesday, say, it was Chicken Kiev night or whatever, and Wednesday was a turkey dinner.

And that worked for a long time?
Yes, because a few decades ago The Opinicon was almost completely booked up for the whole summer with people who were staying long-term at the hotel or cabins. They didn’t really encourage “transients,” as they called the walk-in clientele. Now people don’t stay for a month at a time like they used to. It’s generally a week or two.

Today: Snapped just before the restaurant opened for business, this photograph gives a good sense of the new lighter, brighter Opinicon restaurant.

Today: Snapped just before the restaurant opened for business, this photograph gives a good sense of the new lighter, brighter Opinicon restaurant.

How big is the restaurant?
It’s big! Right now, it seats 115. We plan to expand, but we’re doing approvals in chunks so we’ll soon get the outdoor veranda space open, which will add another 40 spaces. The resort can host 90 people when it’s full, so the dining room has to be big enough to host paying guests and people who stop by just for brunch or lunch or dinner.

What did the restaurant look like before the renovation?
Just a couple of months ago, it felt really dated and dark. It had the nastiest carpet that had been put in in the 1980s and the wallpaper was an over-the-top floral print that was yellowed from the years when guests were allowed to smoke.

And now?
The transformation has been massive. It’s beautiful and fresh, with new hardwood floors, white wainscoting, and super-lovely warm light green on the walls. Honestly, it looks like something out of Dirty Dancing. It looks like it was meant to be danced in. When people who knew the “old” dining room walk in, they can’t believe it!

Chef Angela Baldwin took a quick shot of the charcuterie platter, which highlights Seed to Sausage meats and local cheeses.

Chef Angela Baldwin took a quick shot of the charcuterie platter, which highlights Seed to Sausage meats and local cheeses.

Tell me about the menu.
We’ve modified it to be more like a real restaurant. It no longer just caters to people staying at the resort. It’s much more welcoming to people stopping by from surrounding cottages to have lunch or enjoy a dinner before heading back for the evening.

Basically, we’ve tried to take simple and good, and kick it up a notch or two — actually two and a half! There are a wider variety of foods that cater to more varied tastes. So you can still order a perfectly done steak or prime rib, but you can also get a quinoa salad or a kale salad or a Caesar salad or a great charcuterie plate. There are vegetarian and vegan options. It’s all local meats and cheeses. It’s 2015 now!

How did you find the chef?
Her name is Angela Baldwin and she’s from the area, which is great. She grew up living and breathing the culture and knows the people. She sowed her culinary oats in all kinds of places, including Saskatchewan for a number of years, where she followed her boyfriend. But when she returned to Ontario, we had the job opening at just the right time. We really lucked out. She’s fantastic and she knows her stuff. And she specializes in desserts!


A view of the veranda, which will soon be open to guests who want to dine outdoors.

Do you also have plans to host large groups?
Definitely. For instance, last Saturday the restaurant was packed with 90 members of the same family for a 50th wedding anniversary. The vibe was great. A day before that, we had a full house of 115 for the Cataraqui Trail fundraising dinner. And on the first night we got our occupancy permit (June 5), we hosted a high-school prom!

Has it been as much work as you thought?
We got the keys at the end of January and I don’t think we’ve slept since! We wanted to get started right away, but the winter was so deeply cold and awful that we couldn’t even paint inside. Once we saw what furniture could be salvaged — not much — we spent much of the winter figuring out a plan of attack for when it warmed up so we could be really organized. There are 25 buildings on 16 acres so it is a huge and ongoing job.

You were quoted as saying that when you bought The Opinicon Resort in January, it was with your heart. Now it’s all about the practicalities of turning it into a viable business again. Are you having fun?
Most days I’m loving it. I make decisions quickly, but when you’re dealing with permits and trades they don’t always have the same sense of urgency. So I’ve had to roll with other people’s timelines a bit.

We’re doing renovations on a three-year plan. This year it’s open for everyone who misses the place — who has a connection and can see all the effort we’ve put in. We’ll do more improvements and renovations over the winter so that next year we’ll be ready to market to new visitors. I want people who don’t know The Opinicon to be blown away.

One-sentence description of the past six months?
I feel like I’ve been drinking information through a fire hose!

CITY BITES INSIDER: Marc Lepine dishes on his ambitious expansion of Atelier — and a new restaurant being planned for fall


Meet Marc Lepine. Renowned for his clever 12-course menus, the Atelier chef shot to national fame in 2012 when he won gold at the Canadian Culinary Championships, beating out top chefs from across the country for the crown. Since then, reservations at the tiny 22-seat Atelier have been hard to come by. That will change later this summer when Ottawa’s king of molecular gastronomy launches the newly-renovated Atelier, which has doubled in size. Also on Lepine’s current agenda — participation in a nationwide lentil competition and a second restaurant slated to open this fall.


A stylin’ Marc Lepine recently appeared in a series of Harry Rosen ads that promoted Canada’s top “masters of the grill” — and some of the store’s clothing lines. Matt Barnes for Harry Rosen

How long have you been planning the expansion of Atelier?
A long time! I originally chose the building [in 2008] because there was the option of expansion, so it was in the back of my mind from the start. But we’ve been hands-on planning for just over two years. The time was right to finally start.

What’s the timeline for the bigger, better Atelier?
We’ve got roughly a month or six weeks of finishing to do, so we’re hoping to open the expanded section in mid-August.

Tell me about the renovation.
We’ve done work on all three levels of the building. There’s a new dining area upstairs, which doubles our capacity to 45. We’re also expanding the kitchen, which is almost tripling in size. That’s great for me — and everyone around me.

Were you trying to achieve a certain look?
To be honest, I’m useless when it comes to that kind of thing. The focus of Atelier is obviously the food, so the design is refined. The colours are black and white to allow the food to “pop” in the room.

Was it fun working with the designers [Urbanomic Interiors]?
I just told them to do their thing! I didn’t have too many specifications beyond the budget. It’s like cooking — if you give someone creative free rein, they’re going to come up with something pretty special. I didn’t want to attach too many rules.

How will the expansion change business?
Really, it just lets us have more guests. But we may do some more group bookings. Maybe I’ll offer a shorter-style menu for a group looking to come in.

I’ve heard rumours that you’re still planning to open a second restaurant. Any truth to that?
Yes. It’s planned for later in the fall.

Anything more you can tell me?
It’s going to be weird and different! I don’t want to talk about it ahead of time — it would take a really long time to explain and I’d like people to try it out and then let them describe it.

Speaking of “different,” you’re one of four Ottawa chefs participating in the Canada-wide FUNdeLENTIL competition this month. How do you get to be on a lentil tour?
Yes, for the month of June I’m cooking with lentils every night [the other restaurants are Murray Street Kitchen, Absinthe, and The Wellington Gastropub]. Anita Stewart from Food Day Canada visited the four restaurants and presented us with this challenge to use Canadian lentils in a dish throughout June.

Did you work regularly with lentils before?
We have featured them lots of times in the past. For this dish we pair two kinds of lentils [red and beluga] with carrots and duck, among other things. It will be on the tasting menu for the month of June so people can try it and vote on their favourite recipe online.

Last question. I saw you recently in a Harry Rosen ad. Tell me about that.
It was a newspaper ad in The Globe and Mail. It ran for a day in May and also in the Harry Rosen catalogue.

How did that come about?
Harry Rosen did this style/chef series of portraits [called Masters of the Grill]. I knew the other four chefs so we had a good time. Ned Bell [Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver], Antonio Park [Park Restaurant in Montreal], Duncan Ly [Raw Bar in Calgary], and Carl Heinrich [Richmond Station in Toronto]. Harry Rosen flew everyone in to Toronto for the night and then the shoot took 2 or 3 hours.

Are you comfortable with the “celebrity thing”?
I don’t really think of myself as a celebrity! But it’s great to get recognition in Ottawa. The city gets forgotten sometimes, I think.


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