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Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar: Great dining in Ottawa

15 Oct

I recently went to Ottawa for the weekend, and was quite excited because I had been impressed with their food scene in the past.  I had eaten at the very excellent molecular restaurant L’Atelier and had brunch at Benny’s Bistro.  So, when I knew I was heading back, I once again checked out the local food blogs to find a place to eat using the great site OttawaFoodies.

What I ended up choosing for my evening meal was Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.  It seemed reasonably priced, and had a good, though short, menu.

We started off with some drinks.  My boyfriend had their Beau’s All Natural Lug-Tread lagered ale on tap and I had a their cocktail of the day, a mix of lemon and champagne, delicious and refreshing!

At this time, they also served us some bread.  It was a nice mix of different sides of bread, things were looking good for the rest of the meal, we were off to a nice start.

Next was a salmon amuse bouche, served with a dollop of crème fraîche.  Light and fresh, and better because it was unexpected.

One house specialty is the beef tartare, which they change up with different elements.  This time, there was some maple flavoured bacon, corn, jalapeno peppers and lime chips.  My boyfriend and I shared this entrée, which was delicious.  I wasn’t sure about the combination when it was described to me, but on my plate, it was wonderful.  The corn and the bacon made for interesting changes in textures in the tartare.  And, the meatiness of the dish was well balanced with the crunchy, sweet corn and the spicy lime chips, wonderful!

Next, a “trou normand”.  Again, unexpected and therefore that much more appreciated.  It was a fennel and sambuca granité, a great combination.  Fennel has a very sharp taste which combined well with the licorice taste of the sambuca.  A great pause in our delicious meal.

As a main, I had the course of the day, which is constantly changing.  Lobster with mixed greens, braised fennel (amazing!), beets, crunchy chips and hot sauce.  An unexpected mix of tastes and textures, which somehow went together.  Another hit!

My boyfriend had the black angus beef served with some creamy cucumber salad, crunchy chips, raspberries, spinach and gratin dauphinois.  The steak was cooked perfectly and my boyfriend couldn’t stop raving about the creamy cucumber sandwich.

For dessert, I had the strawberry and rhubarb tart served with vanilla ice cream.  The crust was buttery and flaky and the mix of strawberries and rhubarb was a nice mix of sweet and sour.

Finally, before we left, we were offered some candies to go, a sort of butterscotch and coconut mix, which was crunchy and chewy, a perfect sweet bite to end our wonderful meal.

245 Richmond Road, Ottawa, Ontario

613-728-0220

http://www.juniperdining.ca/

Enjoy, bon apétit!

Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant XO, Hôtel St James: As luxurious as it looks?

21 Aug

I had heard of the Hotel St-James before; to me, it brings up images of rock stars and uber luxurious surroundings.  So, when a friend mentioned she was having her wedding reception (and meal) there, I was anxious to try it.  We were a small party of around 30 people, so we were seated on the mezzanine, with a nice view of the first floor and a wonderful chandelier.  Unfortunately, though, it was a little warm, with the air conditioning not quite cooling down the whole level.

I  started off with  a raspberry and lemon cocktail, fresh and tangy on this warm evening.

The tables were decorated with some lovely pink roses, very appropriate for this wedding supper.

The menu was preset, and we were served two entrées and then we had a choice of a main meal between veal or duck, and then a cheese course followed by a dessert course.

They started us off with a selection of breads.  They had some type of pizza bread, it was drenched in oil; greasy, but delicious!

Next, we started off the entrées with snow crab from Gaspé, pistachio powder, lemon, tarragon oil, whipped celery root and roasted red pepper.  I was a little put off by the size of the entrée, it felt a little too small.  However, it was a great start to the meal.  The crab was very fresh and the mixture of textures and tastes was intriguing.  I liked that the whipped celery root and pistachio powder lent some molecular elements to the dish, making it both tasty and interesting.

Next we had the foie gras with spiced brioche, strawberries, millet mint, macadamia and molasses.  The best part of the dish was definitely the spiced brioche.  It was so concentrated in flavours, cinnamon, molasses and nutmeg.  Also, it was a nice contrast to the creamy, unctuous foie gras.  While the crab was small, this was a huge piece of foie gras, and many people at the table were unable to finish it.  I therefore got some leftovers and ended up eating two to myself… yum!

I decided on the veal course for the main meal.  A duo of veal cheek and filet, celery root, butternut squash tortellini, burnt onion gel and collard greens.  Both the filet and the cheek were extremely tender, and the veal filet was cooked to perfection.  The butternut squash tortellini was another highlight of this dish, with a creamy and decadent filling.

The other option was the duck magret with apricot, kohlrabi, maitake, wheat berry, orange and wild leeks.  While I did not taste the dish, other guests mentioned it was good, and also very well cooked.

Next up was the cheese service.  I don’t recall the exact cheeses, but I recall them being good…. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever met a cheese I didn’t like!

Finally, the dessert was a chocolate pudding with cherry sorbet, pistachio, crumble and yogurt spuma.  I didn’t particulary like the dessert.  Again, the effort was there with a pistachio chip, some whipped yogurt, the crunchy crumble, etc.  However, I’m not a fan of cherries and found the tastes, while all good individually, didn’t do much for me personally.  And, despite my earlier fears of the portion sizes being too small, I was now stuffed, so I didn’t bother finishing my dessert.

As a nice touch, we were also given some mignardises to finish the meal.  There was some meringue, some blackberry gelly, and some crunchy little cakes.

The décor was beautiful, though quite empty on this Saturday evening. I would have expected more people at the restaurant, and was surprised by the low turnout.

In conclusion, while probably not up to par with their usual service and offerings due to the fact that it was a set menu for a wedding, I nevertheless really enjoyed my evening at the XO Le Restaurant at Hotel St-James.  I felt that they showed inventiveness in their ingredient selection and their offering of different tastes and textures.  So, while it’s definitely not what I expect is a typical experience that might get if you went there for a romantic evening for two, I still felt it gave me a good idea of the quality of the restaurant.

I enjoyed my experience and would recommend the restaurant.  Definitely worth experiencing.

Enjoy, bon apétit!

XO Le Restaurant

355 Saint-Jacques Street, Montreal, Québec H2Y 1N9

514-841-3111

http://www.hotellestjames.com/the-life/dining/dining.asp

XO Le Restaurant on Urbanspoon