Oh, Susie Q, Oh, Susie Q
Oh, Susie Q, Baby I love you, Susie Q
You are well worth the walk,
You deserve all the talk
You are well worth the walk, you deserve all the talk, Susie Q
Well, say that icing is blue
well, say that icing is blue,
Well, say that you use fruit loops and icing that’s blue, Susie Q
Well, say that’s tart kaffir lime,
well, say that’s tart kaffir lime,
Well, say that’s coconut, served with tart kaffir lime, Susie Q
Oh Susie Q, Oh Susie Q
Oh Susie Q, Baby I love you, Susie QI like all your donuts in stock
And that you’re open until 7 o’clock
You give Tim Horton’s a knock , your specials are written in chalk, Susie Q.O Susie Q, Oh susie Q
Oh Susie Q, Baby I love you, Susie Q
Many new doughnut shops have opened in an effort to have people pay two or three times as much for one as they would at Timmy’s or some other generic bakeshop. In many cases, they fall flat…literally. They are often dense, cakey, sickly-sweet and offer little taste benefit over their cheaper competitors. In other words, sprinkling a bit of balsamic on a half-ass doughnut doesn’t make it worth three bucks.
Suzie Q reintroduces the lost art of the yeast doughnut (not donut) back into fashion. They are light, doughy, nicely leavened and not overly sweet. In fact, you can taste the yeast in the dough. As far as designer doughnuts go, they are well worth the $2/each or the $10/6 price tag.
There are many dichotomies that exist in the world. Numerous works of literature have been penned which attempt to paint a picture of such polarity. Charles Dickens tells us a tale of two cities. Robert Louis Stevenson describes Dr. Jeckyl and Mr Hyde. It is no wonder that this concept has crept its way into the culinary world.
Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain have traveled across North America on their Good vs Evil Tour, embarking on friendly discussions of the triumphs and perils of the culinary culture. Chef Ripert is a distinguished chef and a poster boy of the cliché French chef with his frosty hair, pristine chef’s coat and seductive accent. 10 Arts, his restaurant in Philadelphia, is an example of his simple, clean cooking style with probably the best octopus I have ever had. Anthony, on the other hand, is a pop culture icon, traveler, author and a celebrity more than he is a chef. He’s a bone-sucking, bug chewing son of a bitch who tells off food critics and television executives at will. They are sort of the Beauty and the Beast of the culinary world.
It’s no surprise that Beast, the King West Bistro, was a sponsor of the Good vs Evil tour’s recent stop to Toronto. It boasts the same premise; good and evil wrapped into one. Other examples include the art, which showcase nubile figures with animalistic heads. With brunch, you are offered sweet ketchup together with fiery, housemade hot sauce. During brunch, you can get a fresh French pressed coffee with a cherry, coconut donut or one of the filthiest breakfast sandwich in the GTA. Even the name, Beast, leads one to picture either a noble and majestic animal roaming a grassy plain or flaming soul stealing Lucifer.
I rarely eat brunch and I’m rarely in Toronto with my kids. The mention of a breakfast joint with donuts closed the deal. They offer a platter of 4 for $10. On this day, there was maple bacon, cherry coconut, a Jack Daniels twist and a Kahlua filled cream donut. Watching two kids fighting for a maraschino cherry is always a blast (in this regard my daughter is good, my son is evil). They were sinful and quite divine, reminiscent of old school donuts before Tim Horton’s redefined them with their current, par-baked, flimsy version. The finishing touch was a number made to order french press coffee options served with a timer for optimal brewing time.
Beast takes advantage of puffy brunch prices with a $12 bacon and eggs but with a twist…a bottle of Labatt 50 (a testament to the fact that hipsters still can’t let go of beer their fathers and grandfathers drank). Since my daughter is not a fan of 50 (and the fact she is 13), we opted for the good version (booze free) for $10. She did get a non-alcoholic ginger beer, which was an aggressively powered elixir which was a bit over the top for a teen palate. I finished it off and she went with a safer freshly squeezed OJ. As the breakfast, it was an average bacon and eggs, with crisp bacon and slightly soggy potatoes.
The progression from good to evil finished with the beastwich. Touted as one of the best and nastiest breakfast sandwiches in town, I longed to to see why. The equation is as follows…biscuit, fried chicken, cheese, egg and sausage gravy. I am a bit biased having a love affair with a similar dish at Lucky’s in Cleveland. The biscuit was fluffy, the chicken was spot on, I wished for a little more yolkiness with the egg and the gravy was a little less complex than it could have been. That being said, it held its own and can be considered a leader in GTA breakfast sandwich supremacy. The potatoes could be a bit better and it would be nice to see that void on the plate filled with some grapes, strawberries or another acidic fruit which could tear into the richness of the sandwich. Is $14 worth it? I’ll let you decide.
Beast offers a fascinating brunch, offering everything from fried pickles to poutine to pork hock. Even naming their chorizo after Luis Suarez, one of the sweetest yet beastly strikers currently in the English premier league, is an example of the ongoing theme of polarity. Don’t expect fluffy pancakes and delicate crepes here; most of the dishes are evil, savory and beast heavy. The combination of the menu variety and the decent food makes this a place I would come back to again for brunch or dinner…but I would need to be feeling much more Bourdain than I would Ripert.
I consider it another sign of synchronicity when I had a chance meeting with Top Chef competitor Jonathan Korecki on a random Ottawa street mere minutes before I went to his restaurant, Sidedoor. After convincing myself (and him) that I wasn’t a stalker, I took the opportunity to ask him the one thing on the menu I should try. His priceless answer was “One thing?” Good point.
When I arrived, no fewer than 4 employees greeted me and I was seated quickly and Cameron took over for the rest of the night. He reaffirmed my theory that in Ottawa, the service often matches the food. He spent at least 2 minutes explaining the ins and outs of the asian-influenced menu, notably the fact that in each section the dishes go from lightest to heaviest.
There is a good selection of cocktails and draught beer. I opted for the bourbon-based SIDEDOOR cocktail which was crisp and satisfying.
On Jonathan’s recommendation, I ordered the tuna sashimi which was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a while. The tuna was sliced thin and presented beautifully. The fragrant yuzu marmalade was delicate with a complexity which smacked my taste buds in all kinds of directions. I was tempted to lick the plate when the tuna was gone.
In a previous blog, I questioned hawker bar’s son-in-law eggs, particularly the prik nam pla sauce. Sidedoor’s version (another suggestion from Jonathan) blew my mind. Tearing into the soft yolk and watching it saturate the surrounding rice and salad made me feel like a MasterChef judge. The taste matched the visual appeal and the sauce was not overpowering.
I love pickles and I’m known to ask for a sample whenever they are homemade. I noticed a mention on the menu so I pitched the idea at Cameron. Instead of a small ramekin filled with 2 or 3 gherkins, he returned with a plate of pickled vegetables that surpassed all expectations. It contained pickled beets, jalapenos, carrots, daikon radish, Jerusalem artichoke, melon rind and sea asparagus adorned with mustard seed pickled in a bread and butter style .
Jonathan’s third suggestion was the donuts. In this case, who can turn down the chef’s creation, a peanut butter stuffed donut topped with a cocoa glaze and banana. Better yet, they were served warm. All I can say is…they taste how they look although a tad bit more filling would of been even better.
I tried the spicy beef and Bajan crispy fish tacos. They are a bit small for $9 but the shells were delicate and tasty. The spicy beef was hardly spicy but a bit of the homemade chili oil at the table helped. The Bajan tacos had a bit too much of the sauce which drown out the taste and texture of the fish a bit. I agree with their slogan, “Make Tacos, Not War” but can’t quite get to the state of “Make Tacos and then Make Love”.
I was looking forward to the “Peking style” chicken but I was a bit disappointed. Big in size but modest in flavour, the texture and interior pinkish colour almost made it look underdone. I found the surrounding broth a bit curious. The fish sauce was overwhelming which I didn’t think complemented the rest of the dish.
I wouldn’t hesitate to sneak in the sidedoor again. Bold flavours seem to lace every dish and there is enough diversity to visit a few times and get a very different experience. The tuna sashimi is a must and I can’t speak highly enough of the service. The staff is energetic, knowledgable and not phased by a large table of what seemed like the offspring of the “Real Housewives of Ottawa” partying it up a few tables down.
I was once told I should always listen to my mother and not talk to strangers. Based on this meal, I’ve learned I should always listen to chefs as well, even if I don’t know them.