Review: Ottawa: Sidedoor

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.

Must

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.

Tuna Sashimi with Yuzu Marmalade

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.

Son-in-law eggs

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 .

Pickle Variety

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.

Chef’s Feature Donuts

Maybe

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”.

Spicy Beef and Bajan Fish Tacos

Mundane

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.

Peking Style Chicken

My Take

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.

Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Review:Toronto: Queen East: Paulette’s Original Doughnuts and Chicken

Perhaps it’s the fact that NHL expansion did not occur in the Southern states until after the reign of Harland Sanders that  somebody didn’t dream up combining fried chicken and doughnuts. I mean, a chance meeting with Tim Horton might have changed history.

Fried chicken and doughnuts have one thing in common…a deep-fryer. Other than that, it’s an odd combo. Then again, being situated beside a pulled pork serving gas station on Queen East makes it a little less strange.

It  seems Paulette had a vision to not only combine but modernize these two classics.   There is little “original” about either the doughnuts or the fried chicken. Sure you walk in to an environment with an  old school feel characterized  by a walls painted with a seemingly discontinued paint colour and very pleasant employees dressed  in dapper whites reminiscent of the colonel himself , but one look at the offerings transports you into the present. I don’t remember Raspberry Rose or Mojito doughnuts displayed in between the Boston creams and Dutchies in the old smoke filled Timmy’s.

Must

The doughnuts are good.  It seems like all of the doughnuts have the same moist, rich white cake as a base but the icing pushes the limits of sour, sweet and savory with a delicate balance. I liked the sourness of the blueberry balsamic and mojito doughnuts although preference would be based on individual taste.

The hot sauce was a pleasant surprise, filled with flavour and balance. Ironically, I can think of 20 other things I’d use it for other than fried chicken but it hits the mark.

 

Maybe

The fried chicken  may not be for everybody.  It is crispy and not greasy. The pieces are smallish.   It’s fried in sort of a confit style so the skin and not only the batter accounts for the texture. It bordered on dry which I’m not sure is due to the cooking style or the fact that it was served out of a heating cart and not directly from the fryer.  

Fried chicken with hot sauce and side of mac and cheese.

 

 

The Mac and cheese is a decent side dish. Not the best I’ve ever had, but it was tasty with a subtle kick .

Mundane

A doughnut is $2.75.  A small half chicken with a side is $15.  I wanted one of each donut and the modern colonel was quite pleased to tell me I didn’t have to pay tax since I bought 6.  Yes…but a half dozen still cost me  $16.50. That would buy me a lot of Dutchies.  Here’s a tip. If  you need to thank the government instead of your establishment for a discount, you may want to rethink things.  In general, things are overpriced.

My Take

It’s a unique concept with unique food done well. Price point is a bit high.  They should consider selling a half dozen variety pack for $12 or something in that range. As for the chicken, it’s not cheep..cheep…cheep.  I fear these doughnuts may go the way of the dinosaur or the cupcake. It  won’t be due to a meteorite but more likely a mass realization that overpriced baked good trends have a finite shelf life. Red velvet anyone?

Paulette's Original Donuts and Chicken on Urbanspoon