Gezellig

It was a cold winter day (surprise surprise) when I decided to drive into Westboro and try my taste buds at Gezellig. I was under the impression they had just opened but once I arrived there it was very evidence Gezellig had already formed a very solid customer base, some of which were definitely there for their second or third time. As customary I sat up at the bar by myself and  got to enjoy the vast selection of wine and beer they have to offer.

The decor is clean and quite impressive. What used to be a TD bank bares little resemblance to its cold and grey decor. Now, what lays before you is an open concept and inviting room room strewn with a mix of urban wood and contemporary glass. The layout is very spacious leaving plenty of room between you and your neighboring tables but allows you to cozy up in a banquet with your company. And i’m very curious what sits at the top of those intriguing stairs :)

Immediately upon being seated I was greeted by the bartender who was very delightful, very knowledgeable about both the food and wine, and a pleasure to speak to. I looked through the menu while I was served warm fresh bread and their daily selection of humus- delectable! Much like Play, the menu offers a selection of small plates, and unique to Gezellig they offer the same creativity in large main course plates. Sadly my appetite was not quite big enough for a starter and a main but I was aided in selecting a nicely fitted main with the perfect wine pairing. I dont normally mention the dishes I order but it looks as though this item is still on their menu and definitely worth a try. The Lake Erie Pickerel was seasoned to perfection, laid on a bed of salted fingerling potatoes and chard. If you are looking for light but filling, this dish was perfect. At times, mildly too salty, but that could have been from the natural juices of the Pickerel itself.

Since my visit I have been hearing constant positive reviews so I will definitely go back. Im tossed between visiting again in the winter while the snow is falling and I can watch through the grand windows… or to wait until the Summer when I know they will have very fresh and seasonal items for me to dig into.

A very enjoyable evening! I also noticed Gezellig’s renowned owner Stephen Beckta replies to all reviewers on Urbanspoon. I could only be so lucky if he replied back to this review :) Imagine!

Gezellig on Urbanspoon

Burnt Butter Italian Kitchen

It was one of those nights I worked late, and was way too lazy to make any food at home. So I made a reservation at Burnt Butter and headed to westboro. Walking in, Burnt Butter looked a lot like Urban Pear in the Glebe – the long restaurant with a gorgeous bay window allowing eaters to look out and passer-byers to peer in.

Towards the back (or end) of the dining room is a large chalkboard which reads the entire menu. A little daunting in my mind, as it would be more craftily utilized for daily specials. But there they were, all the delicious menu items starring me in the face. To my surprise there were several items which included burnt butter – and this surprises me because I was always under the impression we as humans could not digest burnt butter…

Now, one would think you’d order pasta at an Italian restaurant but its one of those things where, if I’m going out to spoil myself, I’d rather order something I cant make at home. Looking through all the specials and all the regular menu items, I decided to ask my gracious waitress what she recommended (or rather, what they were especially good at). Not a moment to waste, she told me the scallops were tough to turn down.

Scallops are one of those very finicky seafood that can be overcooked very quickly, but I took her word for it and ordered the scallops with lime pasta. They were perfectly cooked, lightly seared on the outside with some blackened char, but tender and meaty on the inside. I would border on saying it may have been slightly undercooked but I have a strong suspicion it was actually cooked properly and I’m just not used to the cuisson. The lime pasta was fresh and thin (perhaps vermicelli) with a hint of lime and seasoning. There were several other dishes that were at the top of my list to choose from and each one that came out (for other patrons of course) looked absolutely delightful.

I can see that the overall impression made by the restaurant is a modern take on classic Italian cuisine. The menu itself admits, ‘Italian inspired. Inventive in spirit” allowing diners to realize they wont be getting Mama’s classic spaghetti and meatballs but perhaps a Curry Rasta Linguine with grilled chicken & shrimp, roasted peppers, chiles, olive oil and pineapple salsa. It won’t jive with everyone in the city, but its worth trying to go in with no expectations.

I admit I will be back to try many more dishes and perhaps dessert next time.

Burnt Butter Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Back Lane Cafe

It was such a gorgeous Saturday I had to do something remarkable with the day – and what better than to try a new restaurant on my wishlist. I used my handi-dandy Urbanspoon phone app and discovered I hadn’t been top Back Lane Cafe yet. It was listed as the city’s top picks and it was open for brunch (being 1:30 driving around the city, it was perfect timing).

There I was walking from my excellent parking space and into the Back Lane Cafe, one door, two doors, a single second of wondering where to go next since the entire entrance was encased in curtains, and pushing my way through one of the sides I felt like I stumbled into Narnia; everyone starring at me like I wasnt supposed to be there. I stood there with confidence and slowly a man approached me and asked if I wanted a seat. Likely, given that it was a restaurant, but I politely said yes and ducked into a table for two. He said the kitchen might be closing but shortly thereafter reassured me that I was good to stay.

I had a moment to look around, and was very confused by the decor. The place was covered wall to wall with fake window panes and an eclectic collection of wooden tables and chairs. There weren’t too many people in the place but several other people came in after me.

I have to admit that judging a place on their brunch menu is a little unfair but there were some things that said ‘home made’ so I had to try them. I settled on the homemade sausage and poached egg with a grain salad. Hmm… though I hate to say it I was really disappointed. My entire mean had virtually no taste. The egg was nicely cooked but the sausage added very little (and I mean size and taste) and eventually I had to skip the bread because I couldn’t cut through it. The grain salad was really nice… and then to my left there was a side of fruit… (*sigh)… I know its Winter but there has got to be something to offer other than imported melons – strawberries, honeydew, … the whole gammit. Oh well…

I will need to come back to the Back Lane cafe to try out some of their dinner menu items but truthfully Im a little disappointed with the whole picture – the decor, the food… even the service was a little lack-luster.

I’d love to hear your comments on the restaurant.

Back Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

Agave

Agave is another small Mexican restaurant in this city. I stopped here with my brother in law one day, as he was impressed the first time he went. We walked in a grabbed the table near the front window and were greeted immediately by one of the owners with some water and menus. The menu was so large I simply could not decide what to order (and actually cant remember what I did order). The thing with this place is that although the service was good and the food was tasty there was nothing to write home about. The food could have stood out more; kind of bland. The decor itself was quite cold and diner like. What I take from metal chairs and high tops is that they dont want you to get too comfortable. Well, I wast. I ate my food casually and was not too upset to get out once I was done.

Agave on Urbanspoon

MHK Sushi (and Asian Fusion)

When we lived in Westboro we had a hankering for some sushi and found MHK – right down the street from us. We walked over and decided to stay at the restaurant to eat. My husband being a bit more adventurous than I with Asian food, he asked the Sushi chef to prepare some of his favourite dishes and present them to us. I decided to stick to the menu.

What we ended up getting (and didnt seem unusual for the chef to have a request of this nature) was some fresh octopus, squid, and a mixture of fresh seafood in a hand roll. In addition I played it safe with the bagel roll. I love this roll because I have a thing for rolls containing either spicy mayo or cream cheese. To note, the fresh fish we were given was delicious and nicely presented (this chef has not been in Canada long I can tell you that), but what you will find on the menu is Americanized sushi. I tend to not mind this as I often play it safe, but if you are in to traditional sushi rolls this wont be yoru favourite place. Also they do not offer all-you-can-eat and have small portions so think before coming here.

MHK Sushi and Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

MHK Sushi on Urbanspoon

Siam Bistro

There is not a single bad review about Siam bistro (so if you dont read this one I wont be offended). The first time I went to Siam Bistro I will admit there was a bit of apprehension. My brother-in-law-to-be at the time took me after the concert at Hope Volleyball. As per usual, it had been pouring and we were drenched and starving. When we got to Siam, which he had been raving about, there was a 45 min wait to get a table. This is not unusual and I was ‘hangry’ if you will, but we walked around Wellington and passed the time quite easily.

The staff at Siam are very very nice. They try to help everyone select their items off the menu and ask you the degree of spice you can take. Each item is served on ornate cookwear that must be shipped from Thailand; i have not seen anything this beautiful in Ottawa Asian markets. Anyways we shared a number of the plates on the men; the phad thai is one of the best in the city, the red curry is not just spicy but flavourful, and you really cant stop eating.

To comment on the ambiance, the restaurant is cozy – a lot of tables in one room, but it adds to the fun. Along the perimeter are benches, with a few tables of four along the middle of the room. Each woman is wearing the traditional Thai garb – all so beautiful. And once you have been seated the service is fast!

If you can hold for a table, it is worth the wait. My favourite Thai restaurant in the city bar none.

Siam Bistro on Urbanspoon

Trio Lounge

I LOVE this place! So TRIO is a hidden Gem in westboro (and by hidden, I swear I have driven past it several times before realizing I had parked much too far). My husband and I used to live right down the street and one day decided to explore Westboro – on one of those rainy and quiet days. We stumbled upon TRIO and knew right from entering that we had found a gem.

The front of the lounge has an oldschool dj stand set up. Yup, they play the most eclectic mix of music and all of it good. The waitstaff knows when its too quiet or too loud so they will adjust the volume for you. All of the seats along the perimeter are covered in fabric with lots of snuggly pillows to make you feel like you are in an oldschool lounge. There isnt much space in this place but they have made the place feel like your parents’ basement, or your bestfriend’s first bachelor pad.

The beer selection is pretty standard, and they have most alcohols so you can suggest a drink off the menu. Its a great place to hang out casually for a drink or a light snack. Oh the food… so I have not seen the kitchen myself but I suspect its not quite decked out. However, the chef does an elegant job of inventing a large menu of pizzas, sandwiches, tapas extraordinaire. I love the ‘not so common pizza’ (i think I order it every time). In a nutshell they make creative snack food – and each bite better than the first.

One of the reviews on the urbanspoon says “Trio lounge does what it does best, and as the old saying suggests, ‘Different strokes fer different folks.’” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The food may take longer than you expect but … relax, take a load off and enjoy your time.

Trio Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wellington GastroPub

The Wellington GastroPub is becoming much more well-known these days – which for us is bad news making it difficult to get a table on the weekends. That being said it is worth reserving a table or sneaking in on off hours to get the gastropub experience. In this particular review I will refrain from commenting on any one dish since the menu changes everyday – wow! Its a real treat to see different items on the menu all the time, and it says a lot for the staff (both in the kitchen for expressing their creativity and the floor staff for learning each new item).

The Wellington Gastropub is minimalistic in their decor which allows for the people and the food to take precedence in this experience. The entire restaurant is outfitted in simple resined wood, uncovered windows to let the light shine through, and best of all,… no uniforms for the staff. Both wait staff and cooks alike can be found wearing fun t-shirts, jeans; anything to allow them to focus on their work and feel comfortable doing it. This also means you can feel comfortable wearing whatever you want to; this is not a place to be judged.

The food: what you will find here is an option of delicately simple presentation with complex flavors. It is nice because you can pick a first, second, and third course so you can easily mix and match the flavors for the night. If you have a group of ten or more you can indulge in the table d’hote menu which is very worth it.

This in combination with the wide variety of wines and beers makes Wellington Gastropub the type of restaurant you wont just visit once. Take the time to ask the servers their opinion on the courses. With this caliber of restaurant you can be darn sure the staff knows their food. And if you can, shake hands with the chef!

Wellington GastroPub on Urbanspoon

Phnom Penh Noodle House

There are two Phnom Penh‘s in Ottawa; one in Westboro and the other is in Kanata. It appears there is another location in Kingston too, but I have never been to that one. I tried the Kanata location first – we go there for lunch quite often actually. At this location there are a few different types of spring rolls; the Cambodian spring rolls are a must! They are filled with a mix of shrimp and minced pork.

Be prepared, the curries can be rather spicy so make sure to tell the server if you prefer otherwise. A colleague of mine and I typically share the red curry with shrimp and order an extra rice to sop up the rest of the sauce. At the Westboro location they make this dish but the sauce is much thinner so it doesnt stick to the rice quite as well. Similarly you could try the red curry with chicken, which is just as good if you dont like shrimp.

The lemongrass beef is very tasty with thin flank slices of beef, a light savory sauce and a bit of a kick. Unfortunately the Phad Thai and the Bun are not that great, but after all it is a Cambodian/Chinese restaurant, not Thai.

The ambiance at the Kanata location is much cozier, with carpeted floors, dark wood stained tables and plants for decoration, whereas the Westboro location is designed mainly for take-out. That being said, the staff at both locations are very nice. I definitely recommend Phnom Penh for some spicy tasty Asian food other than a Thai restaurant or Pho House.

Phnom Penh Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Phnom Penh Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Won Ton House Restaurant

This is a place we kept driving past but never stepped in. Finally the curiosity got to me. It was a plainly decorated interior with the traditional statues of Budda, the bowing cat, and simple white linen draped over wood tables decorated in hot sauce. We sat down and took a look at the menu – traditional Chinese food – no fusion for once. Our server was a rather tall beautiful woman who tried to help us to the best of her ‘english’ knowledge but she eventually had to call over the owner. This was no problem considering we were inquiring about items off the menu.

We had a hankering for Chinese greens such as snow pea shoots but he did not have them in stock. Instead he sent us out another similar green shoot that was cooked slightly, leaving a delicate crunch. We ordered some of the dumplings to share- also beautifully prepared. Lastly we ordered two mains: a tofu with bean curd dish and the Egg Plant Yu Shing Style (eggplant stir-fried with minced pork in spicy sauce). I would make the latter dish everyday if I could – wow! It has got baby eggplant sliced down the middle and fried with minced pork and then mixed in a brown sauce perfect over rice. You will love this. Also no chopsticks here, the Chinese don’t use them.

Full as can be, regrettably we did not have room to try anything more, but we will be back.

Won Ton House on Urbanspoon