Chapter Two of our gastronomic spin around Ottawa-Gatineau neighbourhoods takes us to its centre. Some of our oldest and most iconic restaurants are found in these neighbourhoods. Some of its newest too, and certainly many of its best.
These are restaurants I recommend, some unequivocally, others with certain reservations, but they are listed here because I believe each suits a mood, or a demographic, or a budget.
This list is a guide only. It is not a guarantee of what you will find.
Loosely based on a three-course dinner for two, with taxes, but before drinks or gratuity.
$: Under $40
$$: $40 to $70
$$$: $70 to $100
$$$$: Over $100
DOWNTOWN / CENTRETOWN
239 Nepean St., 613-232-1377 www.aromameze.com $$$
Cuisine: Mediterranean small plates
A Greek-style meze (small plates) restaurant with an impressive wine list to match the impressive nibbles. Kataifi scallops, melitzanosalata, foie gras stuffed Medjool dates.
ARC The Hotel, 140 Slater St., 613-238-2888 www.arcthehotel.com $$$
Retro-chic dining room/lounge of boutique hotel offers an un-hotel-ey menu to match the look: lobster-basil panna cotta; lamb with pickled grapes and pears, chevre cheesecake with sweet corn ice cream.
Beckta Dining and Wine
226 Nepean St., 613-238-7063 www.beckta.com $$$$
Food and wine should be the driving interests when considering Beckta. Fresh, local ingredients prepared in winning styles, are matched with a top-notch wine list, continually tweaked. Beckta’s service is also a drawing card.
327 Somerset St. W. 613-567-100 www.benitzbistro.com $$$
Husband and wife team of Derek Benitz and Meghan McManus opened this white on white dining room in 2007. You find the colour in the personality of the well trained staff and on the plates of French-bistro treats.
577 Gladstone Ave., 613-321-0774 www.bluenileottawa.com $
The cuisine’s fundamental condiments – berbere, mitmita, niter kibbeh – lend the good flavour to the food at Blue Nile, a new, plain-Jane Ethiopian restaurant in Centretown.
343 Somerset St. W., 613-233-1536 www.bocado.ca $$$
On the menu, a bit of everything — Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, North African. This is sturdy food with big flavours — fish stew, grilled lamb, roast duck with root vegetables, risotto Milanese.
Somerset St. W., 613-567-8100 www.bsidewine.ca $$$
Cuisine: Canadian, small plates
On the menu at Benitz Bistro’s neighbour are small plates and pastas, some conventional (calamari, crab cakes, ribs) some more interesting (arrancini, rabbit rilette, lamb sweetbreads.)
199 Bank St., 613-565-0657 www.cafeparadiso.ca $$$
Cuisine: Global bistro
Simple bistro fare – roast chicken, steak frites, grilled fish – plus crowd-pleasing appetizers for those who just want to nibble while listening to live jazz.
403 Somerset St. W., 613-237-7812 www.ceylontarestaurant $
Cuisine: Indian/Sri Lankan
Nothing from the curb, but inside the aroma of Ceylon spices is heady and the south Indian cooking a pleasure. Addictive urid dahl cakes, black curries of various pulses, dosai with curried goat.
282 Kent St., 613-233-2828 $
Centretown restaurant offers the business crowd at lunch and the neighbourhood at dinner, tasty Thai food in a shades-of-blue environment.
434 Bank St., 613-236-7750 $$
You can fill up agreeably on paella, or order a platter of predictable tapas in this dated-looking, but very welcoming Centretown restaurant.
East India Company Restaurant
210 Somerset St. W., 613-567-4634 www.eastindiaco.com $
Lush furnishings and antiques create an inviting atmosphere. Most people opt for the ample buffet (lunch and dinner.)
819 Bank St., 613-232-2703 $$$
Glebe-view restaurant on cheery upper level of Fifth Avenue Court. Large portions of fresh seafood.
Friday’s Roast Beef House
150 Elgin St., 613-237-5353 www.fridaysroastbeefhouse.com $$$
Cuisine: Mainly Meat
‘Ours is a traditional menu…’ we are told. Indeed, right down to the creme de menthe parfait. Stick with the rack of lamb, the roast beef and don’t stray far. Portions are generous.
175 Lisgar St., 613-236-2880 www.genji.ca $$
Tranquil space, with well crafted sushi, delicate tempura, fragile dumplings, and fresh fish, well cooked.
Hy’s Steak House
170 Queen St., 613-234-4545 www.hyssteakhouse.com $$$$
Cuisine: Steak and seafood
Men in suits and hungry hockey players come to Hy’s for quality cuts of Alberta beef, served in comfort, at well spaced tables.
197 Bank St., 613-563-2375 $$
Warm feeling of a neighbourhood pub at Ichibei. Seating for a dozen at the sushi bar. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, noodle dishes and so on.
261 Laurier Ave. W., 613-232-3737www.kasbah.ca $$
Popular lunch spot for the downtown crowd with affordable noon specials. At night, the room takes on a more exotic feel and offers a variety of Moroccan classics.
300 Somerset St. W., 613-236-3023 www.mammateresa.com $$$
An Ottawa institution in a brick mansion with an enduring, conventional menu. If you order her strengths – soup, gnocchi, smelts, calamari, anything with shrimp (they’re good here) veal – Mamma T’s can be a dependable bargain. Some dishes can let you down.
Merlot Rooftop Grill
Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St., 613-783-4212 www.merlotottawa.com $$$$
The menu way up here is a mix of brawny steakhouse with a bit of bistro – a thick porterhouse, veal chop with prawns, slow roasted chicken. Lofty wine list too.
281 Kent St., 613-233-3626 www.mystikogreekkitchen.com $$$
Formerly called Papagus, reopened with a new look, a new name, an all-Greek wine list, and the same vigour on the expansive menu (char-grilled souvlaki, lamb chops, garlic dips, farm-boy portions) and failings (frozen fish, dull vegetables, salty sauces.)
361 Elgin St., 613-234-0907 www.ozkafe $$$
Mostly comfort food on the menu of this casual, quirky cafe. Fresh, bold flavours, some Asian inflections, and some solid choices for the vegetarian.
315 Somerset St. W., 613-231-6333 www.restaurantjoy.com $
Cuisine: Korean and Japanese
A mix of Japanese standards, both cooked and raw, traditional Korean dishes and a bit of Asian fusion. Good gyoza, bulgogi, galbi, chicken katsu.
431 Gilmour St., 613-233-9159 www.savanacafe.com $$
Cuisine: Caribbean and Asian Fusion
Since 1987, “Ottawa’s original fusion restaurant” presents a short menu of Caribbean and Asian dishes — kalaloo soup, jerk chicken, pad Thai, tempura shrimp — in a colourful old home in downtown Ottawa.
260 Nepean St., 613-781-8424 www.thaitaste.ca $$
Open in 2007, another Thai restaurant for Art Akarapanich, who first introduced Thai food to Ottawa thirty years ago. Strengths are in the well-made classics, but also in those dishes and ingredients less often seen on Thai menus in this city.
208 Slater St., 613-236-9602 www.japaninottawa.ca $$
Hordes flock for the noon specials. At dinner, you can sup on a predictable lineup of Japanese dishes, either perched at the sushi bar, or seated downstairs, beneath the water fall, in one of Suisha’s private rooms.
374 Bank St., 613-565-9595 www.thebuzzrestaurant.ca $$$
The best of the small plates is the polenta with ricotta and roasted red peppers. More substantial fare includes a good steak-frites well priced. Open late for drinks and noshing.
The Capital Dining Room
Delta Ottawa Hotel, 361 Queen St., 613-23-252 WWW.deltahotels.com $$$$
A windowless rectangle of dated comfort but with solidly good food. Scallops in a lime butter sauce, duck consommé with confit wontons, wild salmon with a lobster crust in a yellow pepper purée.
370 Elgin St., 613-231-2070 $$
It’s more than an extensive whisky and draught menu that draws them down to this basement pub. Food is solidly good too, service is kind and unaffected, vegetarian diners are treated well.
The Scone Witch
388 Albert St., 613-232-2173 $
Golden topped, layered and yielding, scones are available in a variety of flavours, either straight up, with cream and jam, or split and filled with lunchy things.
The Whalesbone Oyster House
430 Bank St., 613-231-8569 www.thewhalesbone.com $$$
A small and whimsically decorated seafood pub, run by a boisterous staff, where you crowd around cramped tables or at the bar, feasting on pristine oysters, seafood chowder, ethically sourced fish, plus a meat dish thrown in for good measure.
478 Bank St., 613-593-8991 $
Very yellow, very plain, owned by a kind family. Sizeable Szechuan section of the expansive menu makes it a bit different from the pack.
GLEBE/OLD OTTAWA SOUTH
1169 Bank St., 613-730-9829 $$
A short, seasonal menu in colourful, retro-looking room of mismatched chairs, formica tables, fish tanks and cacti. Salads are bright, sandwiches satisfying and the pizza is excellent.
749 Bank St., 613-237-1658 www.fratelli.ca $$$
This is the Fratelli that started the 5-strong chain of handsome, colour-rich eateries dotted across the city, each with similar menus (pizza, pasta, veal) and admirable wine lists.
Light of India
730 Bank St., 613-563-4411 www.lightofindia.ca $
Solidly good Indian food in a comfortably dated room. Strong starters – samosas, shami kabab, begun bharta on puri – superior dishes from the tandoor and the curry pot.
1330 Bank St., 613-733-8424 $$
Cuisine: Vegetarian Thai
A new Thai restaurant for Old Ottawa South and the first vegetarian Thai restaurant in the city, housed in a pretty, tranquil space.
1050 Bank St., 613-730-3954 $
Ottawa’s first Thai restaurant, now thirty years old and not much changed. The room is dated, but the food is fresh and flavourful.
925 Bank St., 613-234-1280 $
A first-rate Indian eatery in the Glebe offers traditional northern Indian dishes marked by complex flavours and generous spicing.
The Urban Pear
151 Second Ave., 613-569-9305 www.theurbanpear.com $$$$
Cuisine: Modern Canadian
A sophisticated but neighbourly space with a short, seasonal menu of adventurous food. Albacore tuna with cranberry gastrique, scallops with a blood orange compote, sumac creme brulée.