Articles Tagged ‘Preston Street’

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.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

 The Wandee Thai queue snakes along the woody side of the open kitchen and out the door on this mid-week noon hour. The sleet has let up, so that’s nice for the hungry hopefuls.

We have done two clever things: chosen to eat in and showed up at 11:30. Other than a table of construction workers (pad Thai and Cokes for all!) we have our choice of the five tables. There’s space for about a dozen to dine in, on benches and chairs, but given there is no table service, water is only available in plastic bottles, food arrives in take-away containers, and the only tea served is in a cold can from the beverage fridge, it’s pretty clear Wandee works better for take away.

What’s also clear, once we start tucking in, is that the food is very fresh, very good, and generously served. The queue is more understandable.

Thai rice paper rolls. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Thai rice paper rolls. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Wandee moved in here back in late March, taking over the former location of the (short-lived) Beechbone Luncheonette (the fried-fish-in-a-bun, sandwich/burger shop run by The Whalesbone/Elmdale Oyster House folk.)

We over-order, as we do everywhere, and we like it all, as we rarely do anywhere: The freshly rolled, generously stuffed rice paper wraps with a peanut sauce of some depth; a first rate Pad Kee Mau, or ‘drunken noodles,’ which knocks any pad Thai out of the park; a garlicky stir fry of vegetables — lots of them — and firm tofu in a slightly sweet (but not too much) lightly fired up sauce. We like the snappy long beans and eggplant in the green curry but it’s probably the least memorable dish.

Pad kee mau or 'drunken noodles'. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Pad kee mau or ‘drunken noodles’. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The queue seems a bit chaotic from my vantage. The three women in the kitchen are juggling many demands. There is an option to pre-order for pick up, and this may be the way to go — particularly if April keeps raining ice pellets.

Welcome Wandee! Let’s hope she does well in a space that seems to suffer a bit from its tucked away location.

Lunch mains $8.50 to $8.75, combos $13.95

Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Delivery hours ($2 charge, waived if over $50) Monday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

40 Beech St., 613-237-1641



DESBRISAY DINES: Lunch at Quan Viet Fusion

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.

Quan Viet Fusion's House made sausage. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Quan Viet Fusion’s House made sausage. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I quite liked ThaiPas, the restaurant/lounge/nightclub that used to call this address home. But I quite like its replacement, Quan Viet Fusion, too. Still with a clubby vibe about it — dark walls, dark tables, matching wooden benches and stools, a pink-lit bar, racy red bar chairs — though the ‘tapas’ formula of Thaipas has been replaced with an appetizer heavy, grazing-friendly, pan-Asian menu. More Vietnamese dishes, on balance, but the menu also delivers popular Chinese (salt and pepper squid), Japanese (sushi, sashimi, teriyaki salmon), Korean (bulgogi), and Thai (pad Thai) plates as well.

Salt and pepper shrimp from Quan Viet Fusion. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Salt and pepper shrimp from Quan Viet Fusion. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Lunch was a filling pleasure and something of a bargain (at $12) given the shareable quantity of food. We ordered the Quan Viet Special — pho and rice rolls — and though the rare beef wasn’t rare, it was very tender and heavily scented with ginger. The pale broth tasted clean and meaty, perfumed with cinnamon and star anise. Rice noodles were firm. A plate of the usual stuff — bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, bird’s eye chilis — added bulk and options. All lunch specials at Quan Viet Fusion are packaged with a choice of fryer spring rolls or fresh rice rolls, both impressive.

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DESBRISAY DINES: Elegant salads and splendid mains at new Preston Street resto Salt

Salt's pierrogi gnocchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Salt’s pierogi gnocchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

This big corner space of Preston Square has had two fairly short-lived restaurant tenants. The latest is called Salt, and I rather hope it’s third time’s the charm for this one.
Salt is a tall, dark, mod space, divided into bar, dining room, and patio. The design is generically industrial, though the  chandeliers and custom iron work lend lustre. One wall is all windows framed with dark drapes. It overlooks a corner patio with  fire pit, lounge furniture, and a nicely tended vegetable/herb garden in full swing. Another wall introduces a built-in of backlit spirits around a slick electric fireplace. The lounge at the front has a marble bar-top curved around a baby grand piano. The dining room proper is very dark, the walls and ceiling painted black. (Or possibly navy to match the drapes; hard to tell.) Outside the kitchen pass is a handsome shelving unit, loaded with carefully considered bits of culinary nostalgia (an old Joy of Cooking, a few ‘we love the whole pig’ cookbooks, many jarred preserves). It all looks designer-great.
Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Two problems marred my initial enjoyment of the place. One, was the pong of bleach, or some sort of industrial cleaning solution. (Not an unusual whiff at bars and restaurants these days, but a regrettable one: doesn’t whet the appetite.) And two, it was freezing cold. And quite dark. It was a welcome that had me bracing for a middling meal and a final bill that looked like it would be hefty.
The cold was dealt with by a gracious server. The smell faded (or we got used to it). The bill was indeed sizeable, but the food, as it happened, was disconcertingly delicious.
That may have to do with the fact that Salt, which is open 18 hours, seven days a week, has three chefs: Aaron Wong, most recently at Play; Jessica Hendren from Town; and Ryan Edwards, formerly of Taylor’s Genuine Food & Wine Bar. Three great restaurants.
The dinner menu is divided into small and large plates, and steaks. The pricing is a bit confusing. Small plates range from $12 to $39; large plates start at $16 and climb to $32.
Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

We began at the bottom, with an elegant salad starring house cured and smoked salmon. On a long plate were three moist piles of the fish on a bed of pea shoots, dill fronds, carrot tops, and spinach, topped with pickled pearl onion, fennel, and jalapeño, injecting a bit of heat. Piped blobs of a luscious avocado mousse lent richness, and oiled caraway toast, crumbled overtop, gave crunch.
And then a dish so rich and good I ordered it again for lunch. (Partly so I could see it enough to photograph.) Billed as ‘pierogi gnocchi,’ these were big, bronzed pillows of gooey smoked potato, seasoned with a whiff of garlic, the soft texture within offset by the crisp out. On top were scattered hunks of blue cheese and strings of caramelized onion, some young arugula leaves, while creme fraiche perked up with pink peppercorns was the moisture beneath.
We loved the dish called “Kraken vs Halibut” and though the name suggests the fish would arrive wrapped in the octopus tentacles, the two elements were kept apart. I’ve had lousy halibut of late. Dry and dull. But this was a splendid finger of the fish, with a powerful sear and soft, moist petals of flesh set on a carpet of minted summer peas. Other successes included the salt brick chicken infused with lemon and bathed in brown butter, and a dry aged 20 ounce striploin for two with choice of sides and sauce.
Salt has a climate-controlled, dry-aging room — the only restaurant in the city with one of those, our server tells us — and their cuts are reported to hang for at least 45 days. This was a very fine steak, the meat musky, grilled to rare, sweet in places, and with a pronounced flavour of ripe cheese.
The one dud came at lunch with a so-whatish bolognese, the fresh pasta overcooked, the basil puree served as a streak on the plate, rather than mixed in where it would have done more good.
The wine list offers lots of bubbles by the glass, which is very good of them, and a generous, well chosen list of reds and whites in two pours. There’s a good craft beer list and though I can’t vouch for the ‘craft cocktails’ the young women chatting up the bartender appeared to be happy with them.
Salt’s a fine addition to an ever more interesting Preston Street.
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Large Plates, $16 to $32
345 Preston Street, 613-693-0333


SOUP’S ON! Black Cat Bistro test drives its new “Black Cat Luncheonette” Friday take-away lunch — starts today

A luncheonette pop-up at Black Cat Bistro on Fridays. Lunch is a bowl of hot soup and fresh foccaccia: it's what everyone's craving.

Chef Patricia Larkin says she came up with the idea of offering a fun, relaxed take-out lunch from the kitchen of Preston Street’s chic Black Cat Bistro. It starts today at noon. She’ll be selling containers of her braised chicken, vegetable, and rice soup with a hunk of freshly-baked focaccia while quantities last. A batch of chocolate chip cookies will be coming out of the oven in time for lunch as well.

Larkin, who is in charge of the Bistro’s fine dining menu, says she was itching to try something new. “It’s a way to keep me excited,” she says. But it was Richard Urquhart, Black Cat’s owner, who had his heart set on the name “luncheonette.”

Larkin says he’s been talking about it for years — he likes the association with old-fashioned diners where patrons park themselves on stools at the counter. Of course BCB isn’t exactly casual, nor is it known as a place to grab a quick bite, so the new Friday brown bag lunch aims to adopt that spirit.

“It’s a fun place to start,” says Larkin, alluding to the fact that the Black Cat Luncheonette could grow into something bigger. But for now it’s a dead simple endeavor. She’ll put up a big pot of wholesome homemade delicious soup, bake some focaccia and some chocolate chip cookies. If no one shows up, it’ll be a delicious staff meal tonight, she says with a laugh.

Cost: Soup & focaccia $6; Cookie $1; Soft Drinks $1.50.

Hours: Fridays only, noon till 1 p.m.

Black Cat Luncheonette, 428 Preston St., 613-569-9998.

INTRODUCING: two six {ate}, Preston Street’s new late-night munchies joint opens on Friday

First-time restaurateurs Emily Ienzi and boyfriend Steve Harris have transformed the former Lindenhof restaurant into a hip new small plates spot

It’s the mom-and-pop shop re-envisioned by a new generation. You take a front-of-house girl whose family comes from Italy’s Puglia region and a boy who cooks with roots in Nova Scotia and you give them access to an urban garden and an 80-seat restaurant; toss in a coin-operated vintage Ms. PAC-MAN machine and a DJ and you’ve got the ingredients for a fun-loving new Ital-Canadian snack food joint on Preston Street called two six {ate}.

It opens officially on Friday. When I stopped by for a sneak peek of the place on Monday, the full face-lift, which began on August 17, made it unrecognizable from its former occupant, the Lindenhof restaurant.

It’s got all the hallmarks of the new breed of hipster hang-out: the tattooed chef, the reclaimed barnboard walls, the old-school cocktails, the funky lighting, and the playful menu offering an upscale twist on trashy kid food like Pogos and poutine. Words like foie gras torchon, sashimi, and heirloom tomatoes add heft to a menu that is a giddy mix of snack food nostalgia and Italian classics. There’s a kitchen that won’t quit until the wee hours of the morning, talk of nose-to-tail and seasonal cooking and a commitment to keeping it affordable — so far nothing on the menu is over 20 bucks.

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COLD COMFORT: Anne DesBrisay’s pick for the best pistachio gelato in the city

Mippy Goodfellow models a fresh batch of Gelatini's pistachio gelato

When it comes to ice cream I am a bore of long standing. I like vanilla. I like it more than just about anything else. It has to be really good vanilla, black speck flecked and all that, and it has to be rich and creamy with none of the chemical aftertaste of commercial ice cream.

The only exception I make to my vanilla default is when there’s promising looking pistachio on offer. And there was exactly that at Gelatini, the two-year-old gelateria on Preston Street. (Read Ottawa Magazine‘s 2010 interview with the owners here.)

I’m declaring it The Best Pistachio Gelato in the City.

Why so good?

I asked Mippy Goodfellow, who is manning the fort while owners Monica Pilotti and Christopher Hiscock gelato around Italy, and she suggested it might have something to do with hand shelling the nuts. “Monica thinks the shelling machines impart a mechanical flavour to the ice cream that takes away from the purity of the pistachio flavour,” she explains. “So we shell the nuts ourselves during quiet times.”

None of the green food colouring found in most pistachio gelato either. This is pure and gloriously meaty, rich and luscious: a perfect summer treat.

A regular cone of the stuff is $3.50. I sprung the five bucks for the waffle cone.

Gelatini Gelato, 344 Preston St., 613-235-8050,

Open: Monday to Friday from noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Preston’s Simply Biscotti, home of the Nutella Frappé, and tasty paninis (new Westboro location coming soon!)

I blame the name for misleading me. This three-year-old Little Italy pastry shop is much more than simply biscotti. Judging by the number of regulars I saw being greeted by name and the frequency with which I heard them requesting their favourite sandwiches without consulting the menu (“You got a chicken parm for me?”; “Any tuna melts today?”) it’s clear that this place is no secret lunch spot.

As it turns out, I was guilty of two wrong assumptions: 1) that Simply Biscotti is basically a takeout counter and 2) that it’s a place for sweets and coffee only. While they do a brisk takeout business, there is actually more seating here than meets the eye. In addition to the window seat with stools and a trio of high tops on the main floor, the big surprise for me was the whole second floor with two cozy sitting areas. The outdoor patio is pretty terrific too — love the brick fountain.

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TREND SPOTTING: Nails gone wild! Featuring 3D applications, patterned strips, and a whole lot of new shades

Shop Talk is written by OM senior editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, OM account executive and fashion maven.

Earlier this month, The Upkeep Shoppe opened its doors on Preston Street. Intrigued by the slick branding, unisex marketing campaign, and unique blend of spa services and tea products, SHOP TALK paid a visit.

Sarah Fischer tested out the Minx nails at new Preston salon The Upkeep Shoppe. Photo by Melissa Peters.

ST was further intrigued by the Minx nails on offer. While we’re not exactly what you’d call spa regulars — our idea of a manicure is a porch session with a bottle of nail polish and a few beers — we couldn’t help but notice Minx. With their snazzy designs, bright colours, and perfect shine, they are like that polished gal who works down the hall: Every time she walks by, you can’t help but turn and admire.

Sarah Fischer tried one on each hand; full manicure with Minx will cost you $50 at The Upkeep Shoppe.

Following this little investigation, we suddenly started to notice other outlandish nail trends. For example, drug store standby Sally Hansen is now offering patterned nail strips, touted to last up to 10 days.

Photo courtesy

And Sephora is selling Ciate Caviar Manicure polish — with “pearlescent beads for a 3D effect.” There’s a funnel included in the $25 kit, the beads appear to be packaged separately, and customers are advised to work on one nail at a time. (Best not to down too many of those brewskies before starting this project!)

In other nail news, M.A.C. is clearly into the nail trends: the make-up leader recently announced a major overhaul of its nail polish offerings. By year’s end, there will be 65 permanent colours in its collection — a huge step up from its previous eight shades.


FOOD BUZZ: Two new Fratelli restaurants opening soon—both spots hot on the authentic wood oven pizza craze

Robert Valente stands on the site of the wood-oven pizza joint to open on Preston Street in the fall

Forget what you’ve heard about a casual fish restaurant coming to Westboro, the brothers behind the Fratelli restaurants have decided to move closer — not further — from their Italian roots. Think authentic thin-crust pizza and simple, traditional regional dishes like rabbit and pastas like caccio e pepe. Chef Adam Vottorel is returning to the Fratelli kitchen after five years spent as head chef at Domus.

The Valente brothers, Richard and Robert (fratelli means brother in Italian), recently bought the building at 309 Richmond Rd. (one block from their restaurant at 275 Richmond Rd.) and will take the opportunity to modernize the concept and the menu when they move into the new space later this summer. They are hoping to see some of the hype around Hintonburg’s dining scene moving westward in the coming months.

“It’s an evolution after 16 years,” says Richard Valente, the front-of-house half of the team. “We want to keep it exciting for our clients but also for ourselves.” Chef Robert Valente admits the menus have skewed towards crowd-pleasing dishes and customer favourites rather than the type of Italian food that he and his family like to eat at home. He plans to pare back the menu considerably and take off some items that have been there forever like fried zucchini and the veal marsala. “We’ll probably put it back on a week later after people complain,” he jokes.

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