When Ben Baird, formerly chef-owner of the Urban Pear, turned away from the daily grind of restaurant running to the fun of the daily drive with a new food truck endeavour (Streat Gourmet), he promoted his sous chef Cody Starr to restaurant chef and left him in charge of running the UP kitchen. And then Baird sold the Urban Pear four months ago, and Cody left to pursue other things.
I had lunch at the ‘other thing’ last week. It’s called The Rex, so named in honour of Starr’s grandfather and just-open. Rex is a modest place, on a small street called Adeline, close to the government towers on Rochester, in a space that used to house a pizzeria. They’ve done a nice job with the design — it feels like retro diner meets modern bistro — and they’ve hired well, including a former long time server I remember from The Urban Pear.
Open to the public — for now — only on weekday lunches and weekend evenings, the noon menu is teenage-boy friendly. Mains include house made sausage sandwich with cheddar, sage, and caramelized onion on house made bread; a Reuben (house made short rib pastrami, smoked gruyere;) mac and cheese with broccoli (and four cheeses;) a wild boar shoulder and belly sandwich; Shepherd’s pie (featuring braised short ribs and brown butter mash, bless them;) fried eggs with bacon or sausage or boarchetta; poutine. Sure, there’s a salad, but it features duck proscuitto.
But breakfast had been steel cut oats for this eater. I was due for pig in a bun. The soup and sandwich options ($12) appealed, and we found ourselves impressed with them. Particularly with the soups.
If someone had asked me a few years ago where to go for the best soup in the city, I’d have suggested the Urban Pear. They nailed soup there. I still re-slurp in my imagination, a purée of roasted parsnip and apple I was served four years ago, served with a chopped walnut, blue cheese, apricots, and roasted garlic crostini, and swirled with an apple-basil oil. It ticked every box.
As did The Rex’s roasted cauliflower-leek-potato soup with its toasted corn and scallion relish and a pea and ham hock soup crowned with a bittersweet mound of charred brussel sprouts. Fantastic bowls of flavour and texture. These came with the house grilled cheese with spinach and mushrooms and tomato jam on yummy bread apparently flavoured with Beau’s Lug Tread beer, and The Sausage Sandwich which was slightly less successful, the casing a bit tricky to pierce, the flavour a bit wan. A carrot-cabbage slaw and house made potato chips finished the tasty plates.
I’ll return any day for soup, but here’s hoping The Rex tempers the meaty-rich menu with a few lighter options for the lunch crowd. Looking forward to seeing what the kitchen might do in the evenings as well. For now, they’re starting out slowly… including the option of a well priced take-out menu for the grab and go crowd. Clever that.
$12 for soup/salad and a sandwich.
Open weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The Rex, 40 Adeline Street, 613-695-9739. therexottawa.com
First published in Ottawa Magazine