Food

Four long-stand­ing restau­rants serve up great In­dian, French, and Cana­dian cui­sine

Where Ottawa - - CONTENTS - by anne des­brisay / pho­tog­ra­phy by pho­toluxs­tu­dio.com - chris­tian lalonde

Ab­sinthe

Ab­sinthe started life in 2006 in a former schnitzel house on Hol­land Av­enue. Two years later it moved around the cor­ner to its cur­rent home on Welling­ton Street West. There, chef/owner Pa­trick Gar­land re­vived his short bistro menu of ever-chang­ing mar­ket cui­sine. Or mostly chang­ing: the lemon tart with its brûléed top stays put. So does the hanger steak-frites, the meat lav­ished with love and grilled to ruby-chewy-good. And for that mat­ter, the house burger, topped

with smoked ba­con, caramelized onion, and “se­cret sauce,” isn’t go­ing any­where (with a buck a burger di­rected to a lo­cal shel­ter for women). There has al­ways been an unswerv­ing ded­i­ca­tion to duck at Ab­sinthe — or­der it any way it comes. Wines mat­ter at Ab­sinthe, as does the im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of (yes) ab­sinthe, in­cluded in in­spired cock­tails or served straight-up. End with the quar­tet of desserts that pay homage to the great sweet treats of Paris: tarte au cit­ron, crème brûlée, choco­late moelleux, and prof­iteroles. You may stag­ger out, but you’ll be hum­ming Piaf. 1208 Welling­ton St. W., ab­sinthe­cafe.ca

Whales­bone

They’ve since ex­panded their realm, but it all be­gan here 16 years ago at this oys­ter house on Bank Street, small and ram­bunc­tious and a prov­ing ground for many gifted chefs who have manned its gal­ley kitchen since 2005. The long, nar­row room is crowded with stuff — mem­o­ra­bilia, rec-room kitsch, fish cook­books, old vinyl, in-joke art. Where you find pris­tine is in the seafood. Sit on a hard bench at a tiny ta­ble or el­bow-to-el­bow at the bar.

Eat oys­ters. Slurp a bowl of the smoky clam chow­der. Chow down on a mess of a lob­ster roll, the sweet meat drenched with a lemony mayo, tum­bling out of a toasted brioche bun, sided with a heap of fries and a fine salad. Michael Rad­ford and chef de cui­sine Tr­ish Grey con­tinue the tra­di­tion of top-qual­ity, sus­tain­able seafood shown off in ap­proach­able dishes served by lively peo­ple in ball caps but with fine din­ing man­ners and wine know-how. Dessert goes back to big and messy — ice cream sun­daes, per­haps? Or deep-fried ice cream with choco­late sauce and sum­mer berries? Or maybe an­other tray of oys­ters. 430 Bank St., the­whales­bone.com

Al­lium

Some chefs let the in­gre­di­ents shine, pretty much un­em­bel­lished. Oth­ers pre­fer to im­pose their per­son­al­ity on them. Arup Jana, chef/owner since 2004 of Al­lium on Hol­land Av­enue, falls more into the sec­ond camp. His menu may be sea­sonal but he’s rarely con­tent to let those toma­toes speak en­tirely for them­selves, pair­ing them with pepi­tas and farro, crusted moz­zarella, and a pea whipped crema sprin­kled with fresh peas and mint. The son of a globe-trot­ting pro­fes­sor, Jana has trav­elled widely, and he brings to his Al­lium plates — the small and the large — the flavours of many places. If you’re open to any­thing, the kitchen’s “blind” dishes — one starter, one main, both un­known — are fun and wor­thy. So is let­ting the som­me­lier se­lect wines to match, plucked from a thought­fully as­sem­bled list. Years ahead of the small plates craze, Al­lium launched a Mon­days-only all-tapas menu with an any­thing-goes smor­packed gas­bord of treats. You’ll need a reser­va­tion. The neigh­bours know a good thing. 87 Hol­land Ave., al­li­um­restau­rant.ca

Co­conut La­goon

Co­conut La­goon has come a long way since its 2004 be­gin­nings, when it was a plain-speak­ing south In­dia curry house, beloved of its com­mu­nity but not well known be­yond. To­day, chef

Joe Thot­tun­gal’s restau­rant is with fans from many places, largely be­cause of the kitchen’s un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion to the cook­ing meth­ods and au­then­tic in­gre­di­ents of Ker­ala cui­sine and the warmth of the front-of-house staff, led by Joe’s brother Ma­joe. Af­ter a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion of the restau­rant, in­side and out, Co­conut La­goon re­opened in the spring of 2017 in time for its 13th birth­day party — big­ger, bolder, and thor­oughly spruced up. The menu re­mains over­whelm­ingly south In­dian in fo­cus, the sig­na­ture dishes of Ker­ala — Tra­van­core fish curry, lamb Chet­ti­nad, Ko­valam lob­ster — tak­ing pride of place, but these now share the page with small, in­no­va­tive tast­ing plates. The few dishes that re­flect north­ern In­dia (but­ter chicken and dal Makhani, say) have been given south­ern aro­mas. The wine and beer lists, which in­clude lo­cal craft and Asian im­ports, have ex­panded as well, se­lected for their abil­ity to match the spices. 853 St. Lau­rent Blvd., co­conut­la­goon.ca

Above: Chef/Owner Pa­trick Gar­land of Ab­sinthe; right and be­low: Whales­bone

Co­conut La­goon

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