Local food news
Sweet timing! Just ahead of Christmas, chocolate entrepreneur Alicja Buchowicz opened for business, filling the shelves of Alicja Confections (829 Bank St.) with chocolate bars and truffles. The pretty new store in the heart of the Glebe is an extension of the brand that Buchowicz launched a couple of years ago, beginning small at markets and pop-up shops within larger stores, then ramping up her production — and expectations — to embrace store ownership. Top sellers include Strawberry Blonde (white chocolate with powdered freeze-dried strawberries and puffed brown rice), The Nicholas Bar (it pairs milk chocolate with potato chips), and The Hippy Bar (a 70 per cent dark chocolate bar with goji berries, cacao nibs, and chia seeds). She also plans to get interactive with chocolate in the new year. Imagine the possibilities! Pot Luck Located in the same strip mall as T&T supermarket on Hunt Club, Morals Village hot-pot restaurant (3987 Riverside Dr., Unit 1) allows people to get their Asian groceries, then continue the theme with a steaming bowl of broth filled with Chinese delicacies. This new location of the chain has upwards of 600 hot-pot restaurants in China but only recently crossed into Canada, opening upscale hot-pot shops in Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo, and now Ottawa. Bright and modern, the spacious spot marks a change from the small and homey mom-and-pop shops Ottawa is used to when it comes to Asian eating. That said, service is helpful, with enthusiastic servers willing to talk new diners through the list of close to 100 ingredients, including thinly sliced meats, all manner of fish- and meatballs, Asian and North American veggies, and hand-made noodles. Kerala Cuisine It started with the big win by chef Joe Thottungal of
Coconut Lagoon: though he’s been in business here for over a decade, his south Indian restaurant really took off after Thottungal grabbed gold in the 2016 Gold Medal Plates competition, then went on to win silver in the
Canadian Culinary Championships held in early 2017. He followed that up with a springtime renovation that added 45 seats to his perennially busy Vanier restaurant. Recently, two competitors have taken advantage of the popularity of this cuisine. Flavours of Kerala (1104 Klondike Rd.) opened in Kanata this past fall. The 30-seat eatery has wowed the tech crowd and west enders, who are thrilled to have the chance to sample Kerala cuisine closer to home. And in between the two? Thanjai
Restaurant (108 Third Ave.) arrived in the Glebe in October, promising delicacies from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. Thanjai is the second restaurant for Kumaresan Muthukrishnan, his wife Geetha, and their partner Rajesh Tyagi, who decided to open after receiving numerous requests from Ottawans visiting their Montreal space. “When we studied the market [in Ottawa], we found that there is a lot of potential for the south Indian food,” Muthukrishnan notes. In addition to idlis, bonda, and uttapams, the 55-seat eatery offers up such intriguing menu items as a four-foot dosa.
When the old-school diner there closed a few years ago, it seemed there’d be no reason ever to step inside Billings
Bridge Centre looking for home-style cooking. And then, lo and behold, the sleepy mall suddenly welcomed not one but two breakfast-type joints in the space of a few months. Allô! Mon Coco is a Quebec franchise out of Montreal that tempts early birds with a 5:30 a.m. opening time and Millennials with its modern-diner vibe. Diner-style breakfasts and lunches aren’t new, but the futuristic look (lots of shiny white surfaces and slick red backlighting) is drawing crowds. Meanwhile, just a few storefronts away, Waffle Villa targets sweet eaters with upscale Belgian waffles, bubble tea, and quality coffee (from Equator Coffee Roasters). Double Up It takes a certain audacity to go boldly into the spot recently vacated by the beloved Black Cat Bistro. But the four partners behind Mati Crudo + Charcoal (428 Preston St.) brim with confidence, buoyed up by four successful years under their belts at EVOO Greek
Kitchen (438 Preston St.). Brothers Elias and Dean Theodossiou, Amanda Belli, and April Miller are
confident that local diners will embrace their second restaurant with a Mediterranean theme, this one focused on the crudo (think raw) and charcoal (think barbecued) styles of cooking served for generations in Greece and Italy. Brandon Kennedy, who has been a sous-chef at EVOO since it opened, gets the opportunity to spread his wings and run his own kitchen, presiding over an oyster bar and a massive Argentinian grill on which he’ll work his magic with skewers, whole chickens, and tomahawk steaks. QUICK BITES
• Award-winning chef René Rodriguez, late of Navarra and DISH Catering, has quietly reopened at 151-C Second Ave. Orto Trattoria highlights cuisine influenced by southern Italy.
• Welcome Charlotte Ottawa! This pretty cocktail bar is at 340 Elgin St., the sleek and comfy look courtesy of One80 Design.
• Speaking of cocktails, all hail Cellar 82! The city’s ultimate mobile bar (housed in a 1967 Airstream trailer) recently expanded its services with the launch of
Creative Cocktail Club, a monthly subscription service for cocktail lovers looking for local ingredients and inspiration.
• Owners of the pioneered-in-Ottawa Instant Pot electric cooker will want to check out Instant
Favourites, a new cookbook by German-trained chef and food stylist Mia Bachmaier and fellow chef and food photographer Mike McColl. They promise more than 100 recipes, along with “tips and tricks from two professional chefs (and busy parents) for getting the most out of your pressure cooker.”
• Keep an eye on the marvellous but tiny Edgar (60, rue Bégin, Gatineau). Chef/owner Marysol Foucault has bought the building, which also houses two other businesses. Renovations will begin this spring to expand Edgar into the adjoining space, doubling its size.
• Roku Bar + Bites (610 Somerset St. W.) has opened in Chinatown with a long list of cocktails and an affordable bites menu with such intriguing-sounding items as kimchi fries, banh mi scallion tacos, and Lao meatballs.
• When ex-Ottawa Senator Kyle Turris was traded to Nashville in November, he penned a sweet farewell note that included a shout-out to all his beloved food haunts along Wellington West. Check it out on the TSN website — then head to Saslove’s (1333 Wellington St. W.) to try his favourite cookies.
• In other neighbourhood news, a comfy eatery known as The Third has opened at 1017 Wellington St. W. in Hintonburg; The Jack Ketch has launched on Stittsville Main Street with chef Kevin Conway (formerly of Social and The Whalesbone, among others) at the helm; and Casa México, a traditional Mexican restaurant, opened its doors at 1489 Merivale. Fans of classic sandwiches will want to check out
Subito Sandwich at Gladstone near Bank, which sells Italian-style sandwiches and a few classic hot dishes (think cannelloni, ravioli) at great prices.
Feast for the Eyes Alicja Confections (left) sells pretty — and tasty — homemade chocolate bars. New hot-pot restaurant Morals Village (right), part of a China-based chain, offers something new for those who love Asian food — and communal dining