Sunday, September 29, 2013

Good Domino's Pizza but Hold the Smoke!

Domino's Pizza on UrbanspoonFriday for lunch I was craving pizza. I had not eaten pizza and a couple of weeks and was thinking where should I go?

Hmm....could go to Preston Pizza again, no there must be other pizza places in Little Italy on Preston Street in Ottawa.  I went for and adventure southwards on Preston looking for a spot.  Sure I could have a couple of sit down places of decent Italian fare but pizza is more my game.

I noticed the Domino's Pizza (300 Preston Street, Ottawa) and cracked, I had not eaten at Domino's since moving from Richmond Hill last year.

I stepped up the front step, past the Domino's employee smoking his cigarette.  So much for the requirement to not smoke near building entrances.  I entered and met one of the coworkers who welcomed me like nothing was going on.  The tinge of cigarette smoke lightly in the air.

I started by ordering a straight nothing special 10" pepperoni pizza figuring that would be perfect.  I was then informed a 10" three topping pizza was on special for less than $10.00.  Perfect!

The Order: 1 10" Three topping pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms & green peppers) with a 500 ml bottle of Coke.

I was promised my order in 10 minutes or less and I was off to wait.

I watched the clock tick away towards my ten minutes.  At 9 minutes 30 seconds my order was ready!  No kidding, less than 10 minutes, that is impressive!

10" Pizza Box from Domino's Pizza

Back to the office with my pizza in a box and my bottle of Coke.

I arrived at the office and opened the box to find a delicious looking pizza.

10" Pepperoni, Mushroom & Green Pepper Pizza from Domino's Pizza

I dug into the goodness.  The sauce was a decent tomato that I had remembered from the Richmond Hill Domino's.  The toppings appeared to be somewhat generous without the stinginess I ran into at Pizza Boyz.  Heck even the price for a Domino's 10" pizza was $5.00 better with 3 extra toppings  than a 12" pizza with 1 hard to find topping from Pizza Boyz.  The topings themselves were average freshness from the chain pizza places like Domino's and others.  The attempt looked like it was the Domino's corporate expectations.  Nothing wrong with the food whatsoever.

Overall, this Domino's seems to follow the corporate rules in terms of food preparation with good amount of tomato sauce and average amount of toppings without overdoing it.  Pizza deals are great if you go looking for them and don't need something to spec.  For example, I went in looking for a one topping pizza and for almost the same price due to a promotion, I could add two extra toppings.  The only tweak this place needs is to encourage employees not to smoke directly in front of the location.  Perhaps they could shimmy down the sidewalk a bit or perhaps a rear location could be found.  The smoke was the only downside to this other pleasant Domino's Pizza experience. So perhaps next time we can find a way to hold the smoke!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A World of Tea in Westboro

World of Tea on UrbanspoonI visited the Westboro area of Ottawa last week on business and had to investigate World of Tea (298 Richmond Road, Ottawa).

Upon entering the store I noticed three tables in the front with a group of three customers about to enjoy their tea.  As well, there was a wide variety of teas, teapots and other tea related items neatly arranged on shelves and around the main cash area.

I was welcomed by Ji Li, the store owner, and inquired how I was and handed the menu.  The menu of teas consists of pages upon pages of different types of tea to choose from.  The list was endless and I had limited myself to just one!  No wonder the other customers had decided to come together in a group of three, more options to enjoy!

I settled on the Organic Peppermint.  Ji asked me to have a seat at the front and she would bring up the tea after she had prepared it.

Five minutes later I had the sweet smell of peppermint tea wafting up my nostrils.  Ji explained that she had just poured the water to steep with the loose leaf peppermint tea and could drain the pot into the carafe when I thought the tea had steeped enough for my tastes.

I eyed the small clear glass tea pot as the water slowly steeped through the tea leaves.  Hmmm.... when to drain it?  I poured a small cup for tasting purposes and took a sip.

Perfecto!  I quickly drained the pot into the carafe.

Trouble though was on it's way over with Ji, she was bringing a carafe of hot water.  Yes, she was offering yet more hot water to add to my peppermint tea leaves.  Too much tea to enjoy!

The tea continued to wreak of peppermint as I sipped.  I enjoyed a little reading material from the front, examining a few art tour booklets and other community information that Ji encourages locals to provide in promotion of their events.

The tea overall, was excellent.  A nice pleasing peppermint odour for the nose while being heartwarming going down on a cool fall day.

Price wise, at $3.50 for an amount of tea that could of filled 3 tea pots, it is inexpensive.

Overall, World of Tea provides a great afternoon spot to bring friends to enjoy some tea.  Ji welcomes newbies and experienced tea enthusiasts with open arms.  Have questions about tea?  Ji will patiently walk you through everything about tea and then answer all your questions.  Even better, it is priced economically.  Friends are definitely a requirement as there are way too many teas to choose from to simply choose one like I did.  The more friends you bring, the more teas you can sample as, at World of Tea, sharing is caring.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nasty Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons on UrbanspoonOut for a trip to the local Metro store and needed some lunch. We had planned to eat out at McDonald's nearby with the coupons received recently.  However, we were surprised to find the McDonald's to be in  a Petro Canada gas station.  Oops.

No worries there was the ever dependable welcoming sign of Tim Hortons (1239 Donald Street, Ottawa) with promises of familiar meals inside.

My Mother-in-Law, Wife and myself entered at 1 P.M. and waited in a short line that was adequately advancing.  We were looking at the front display case of muffins and donuts when my wife motioned to me and pointed to a wasp enjoying one of the muffins on the bottom shelf.  I didn't blink an eye figuring it was just one wasp and if we pointed it out to the Tim Hortons employee at the cash she would have it taken care of.

We walked up the cash and put our order in.

The Order: 2 Chili combos with white rolls, 1 Medium Black Coffee, 1 Medium Green Tea and 1 Large Green Tea with a Blueberry Muffin (sans Wasp please!)

After ordering, we politely quietly noted the wasp in the bottom.  The employee was like, "so?"  As if nothing happened.  She then proceeded to put our order together without alerting anyone that a wasp was in the front display case.

We gathered our order and sat down at one of the tables.  My Mother-in-Law had actually changed tables before we got there as apparently there was another wasp in a nearby window.

The food was average Tim Hortons fare with the chili being the usual freshness and not overcooked as I've had at other locations from time to time.  Nothing remarkably positive or negative about the food at all, just average run of the mill Tim Hortons fare.

But I looked around and observed at least three wasps buzzing around the air over the food preparation area.  There were actually more wasps inside the restaurant than in the parking lot.  The employees didn't pay any attention to them until one would fly by their heads and the employee was forced to dodge it.  But then they would continue on with their lives thinking nothing of it.  It was like they were used to dodging wasps and this Tim Hortons had been dealing with it for a while.

At the end of the meal, I gathered up the garbage and headed over to the garbage can.  This Tim Hortons, with the new corporate upgrades completed, had the three stream recycling program.  However, none of the bins were labelled thus making them all garbage bins.  It was like Tim Hortons was asking you to pick the size and shape of hole you wish to drop your detritus through and have a nice day! I dumped everything through one and put the tray on the stack of twenty other trays on top.  I noted the six different plates that appeared to have sat on the shelf for a while.  No wonder the place was swarming with wasps, the dirty plates and trays probably had been sitting there for over an hour.  This was all despite an average number of customers arriving over the time we were there.  Part of the wasp problem was caused by employees not taking care of the cleaning of the tables and dishes in a timely manner.

Overall, this Tim Hortons was one of the nastiest locations I have been too.  Management needs to be rotated out and new more experienced management brought in to bring this location up to corporate Tim Hortons standards.  The wasp issue obviously needs a trained specialist to take care of as it seems the wasps have been in the location so long they probably have taken up residence.   To say the least, I will not be returning to this Tim Hortons.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Expensive Taste in Average Burgers & Fries Forever

Click to add a blog post for Burgers n' Fries Forever (BFF) on Zomato Over on Zomato there has been great consternation over the newly opened Burgers N' Fries Forever (329 Bank Street, Ottawa) about if this new burger place was a positive contribution to the local burger scene or a burger place that lacks the substance.

One of the most noticeable things about the Burgers N' Fries Forever listing on Zomato is the number of reviews for a place that has, according to one employee I heard during my recent visit, only been open for 3 weeks. Currently, there are 20 diner reviews.  Noticeably there are ten reviews from Zomato users who only have that one review. There are a few more reviewers with only 2 reviews to their name as well.  Yes, it seems the Burgers N' Fries forever is asking it's employees and friends to post positive reviews about the place in order to positively market the place.  Add to this the Zomato sticker on the front glass door of the restaurant noting this place is "Liked on Zomato" on furthers the noted marketing efforts.

Of note on Zomato, once the employees' and friends' reviews have been removed is the almost equal love hate relationship between the leftover reviews.  Some noted positive encounters with dipping sauces for the fries and the fries being decent while others noted the patties were small compared to the hamburger buns and non-health department related cooking of the patties.

There was only one way to find out if Burgers N' Fries could be my forever burger place, to visit it.  With my homework done in Ottawa using previous visits to Five Guys Burgers 'N Fries, Hintonburger, Le Bac a Frites, The Works, and Manhattan's Handmade Burgers as well as the usual McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, I was ready to go.

I visited at 11:40 on Friday for lunch.  I meant to go early before noon so that I could the usual lunch rush. Upon entering, past the aforementioned Zomato sticker on the front door, to a newly renovated modern looking establishment.  Two guys were working the open kitchen, a lady cleaning the table off and another guy hauling potato sacks up the back stairs and dropping them off at front right on the floor next to the condiment and garbage station.

Yes, the full sacks of potatoes were being brought out of storage from the nether regions of the restaurant and dropped off next to the small condiment and napkin station right on the floor. This was also the place where the small walkway to the restrooms was. In the end, there were about 6 bags of potatoes sitting on the floor and not on a skid like Five Guys Burgers & Fries, all waiting to be coated in for whatever people's shoes had tracked in that day.  Added to the awesomeness of this site, the usual package marketing of open concept side of these potato bags meant some of the potatoes can be seen and thus, coated in the same mess from whatever happened to be on Ottawa's Bank Street that day.  Where were these potatoes due to be destined?  To be fries perhaps?  I do hope the potatoes are cleaned appropriately and well cooked before being served to customers.

I approached the counter and reviewed the menu posted on the large screen televisions.  The menu is set up similar to The Works where it is a step by step process to build your burger.  First the bun, second the burger patty, third extra toppings and fourth to add fries and drink for a combo. Menu seemed easy to understand except Burgers N' Fries throws a curve ball, "Signature Burgers". Signature burgers are possible topping options with a fancy marketing name attached to them like "Hawaiian", "Greek" and "Funky".  The "Signature Burgers" seem to be similar to what The Works has on their menu, a way to positively market a bunch of toppings on a burger.

I was ready to order and patiently waited at the counter.  I eyed the two guys working in the open kitchen making another order.  Would one of these guys come forth and take my order?  After 2 minutes, the lady cleaning the tables came over and took my order.  Really, you greet me walking in the front door, past the table you were cleaning and leave me ogling the menu for two minutes before coming over?  Perhaps indicating to the customer that you would be more than happy to take my order when the customer was ready would have been better.  Instead, I was left to look lost at the front on how to give the two guys slaving away in the kitchen what exactly I wanted.  Why would these two guys want to know my order?  Because on the Burger N' Fries Forever's website they note:  "We know you want burgers n’ fries your way."  So how exactly am I supposed to get them to make my burger my way if the order can't be taken? Eventually the blonde cleaning the table figured it would be a good idea take my order.

The Order: 1 American (Carmelized Onions, Cheddar cheese, Pickles, Ketchup, Mustard) with beef patty on a white bun with regular fries (chipotle mayo dipping sauce) and a can of coke.

The blonde took my order and totaled it up. $11.50.  My eyes nearly exploded out of my head.  Really? This had really be a good quality meal with a decent amount of fries.  Not starting off on the right foot with a mere can of Coke was an issue.  Five Guys Burgers N' Fries provides unlimited refills on their fountain pop and so does many McDonald's and other fast food places.  At Burgers N' Fries, I get the privilege of being rationed to a 355 ml can per meal unless I wish to purchase another. Sure other burger places like Le Bac a Frites and even T.C.'s Fish & Burgers in Aurora only have canned or bottled pop on hand, but these restaurants do not charge $10 or more for a mere hamburger with fries and a drink.

The blonde took my money and then was dumbfounded.  The cash drawer wouldn't open.  She pressed a few buttons again and nothing.  She called the guy wielding the potato bags for help, turned out he was the manager or owner of the place.  Yes, the manager or owner was placing the open sided potato bags on the floor of the restaurant in a decently trafficked area.  He had to open the til using his official looking retail manager keys.  Good thing the receipt worked, otherwise, the blonde would have looked puzzled as to how much change to hand me back.

I patiently waited for my order to come up so I could eat in the restaurant.  I watched the pair in the kitchen work away at the now frequent orders.  The blonde had a line up and was gradually processing them.  I watched as other customers, obviously way smarter than me, take up the few seats there were at the restaurant. I kept an eye out to see if I should move over but there was always two seats on the stools at the counter in the front window.

I also watched my hamburger being made as other reviewers had noted thinness of the patties and overcooking were issues.  The hamburgers start as round balls of ground beef that are added to flat grill and pressed into size by the cook.  These are allowed to cook for about ten to fifteen minutes.  In my case, the patty was removed from the gill and brought over to the prep station.  This is where the cook from the gill noticed on the receipt that there was cheese to be added.  Back to the grill it went to have cheese added to it.  Why did this Kitchen faux pas happen?  Because the other kitchen person keeping track of the orders and topping the burgers was away preparing the fries and was not able to do quality control to let the guy at the grill know cheese was needed.

They really could have used a third person as the Friday lunch rush was gaining steam to keep up.  Right, the manager, where was he after the blonde cashier needed assistance?  Slinging the same bags of potatoes out the back and onto the floor. Organization in processing orders from the cash to serving them up seems to be an issue that hopefully will be ironed out. Not having adequate staff in the kitchen to ensure everything is perfect is essential, especially when trying to compete with Five Guys Burgers & Fries who work as a well oiled machine in turning over high volumes of customers with custom made burgers.

Fifteen minutes later, my order was ready and one of the workers called my name. I picked up my order from the kitchen and started towards the front eyeing the counter with the two stools.  No luck, two customers who had just finished with the blonde and were now waiting for their orders took the seats.  I ended up inquiring with a older businessman and a college student if there was space at their table to sit and enjoy my meal.  Sure enough there was and I sat down.

The meal quantity wise looked sad for what I paid for.  The meal was the same size I could have obtained at Le Bac a Frites for a cheaper price.  Quality wise though would it be better?

I started with fries.  The fries appeared to be the fresh cut fries and were definitely well cooked to overcome the questionable nature of leaving the unprocessed brethren on the floor at the front of the restaurant. Freshly cooked, temperature was not an issue.  The fries themselves were tasty and not overcooked.  Perfect with a little ketchup.  The Chipotle Mayonnaise dipping sauce?  An interesting concept to provide dipping sauce for your fries beyond the usual ketchup or special requested mayonnaise.  The chipotle combined with the mayo, as expected, added a little spicyness which left me reaching for rationed can of Coke a little too often.  A great concept for the fries in terms of quality and added bonus of dipping sauce.  There could have been a few more fries though to compensate in terms of price.

The American Burger was entertaining. The burger patty itself was pretty good and fresh, but nothing to write home about in comparison to other burger establishments.  The toppings though were a little bit distracting.  Too much ketchup and mustard was added causing it to leak out as I took bite after bite. The rest of the toppings were hardly noticeable in terms of freshness compared to elsewhere. The buns were not noticeably bigger than the patty.  So at least the restaurant appears to have righted the burger patty being significantly smaller than the bun as noted in other Zomato reviews. The burger overall really was nothing special especially for the price paid.

Overall, Burgers N' Fries Forever is easily experiencing some teething pains.  Issues include, as other reviewers have noted, overcooked burger patties, buns being too large and service being uncoordinated.  My visit seems to confirm some issues still remain including ensuring operations are prepared and running smoothly for busier times and orders are being taken efficiently.  But there is some credit to the workers in the kitchen and suppliers for fixing overcooked burgers and ordering too large burger buns for the burger patties.  A little more focus on ensuring the restaurant is properly prepared and customers are serviced in a timely manner will only improve things.  Pricing continues to be another issue the restaurant seems to be dealing with.  But the management seem to have taken note of this as on their website they currently note: "We have been working hard with our suppliers to lower some of our prices while maintaining the quality of our ingredients." As well, they have added a lunch special for $8.50 that comes with with a burger, fries and drink.  Hopefully this lunch special can be served in 10 minutes or less as many office workers only have an hour for lunch and still need time to get to Burgers N' Fries Forever without being late returning to work.  Burgers N' Fries is a nice place with quality food, but service and pricing still need quite a bit of work, despite what the employees and friends say on Zomato.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nutty Greek Goodness at the Nutty Greek Bake Shop

Nutty Greek Bake Shop Inc on UrbanspoonYesterday afternoon I was looking for a delicious mid afternoon snack. While in the area I found the Nutty Greek Bake Shop (490 Rochester Street, Ottawa).

Upon entering the shop just down the street from Beech Street Burger, I notice the tidy bakery with a friendly person behind the counter welcoming me with a smile.  Being three o'clock the lunch rush was well past so there was time to chat.  Turned out I was being served by the owner, Anna.

I inquired as to what type of teas she offered.  She went through about eight different types, but the first or second stuck in my head, Morrocan Mint.

Of course there had to be something to nibble on if a true afternoon tea was going to be had.  I gazed through the all the tempting temptations in the display case. Hmmm...so many choices....  the carrot cake style cupcake with the swirl of frosting on the top caught my eye.  Something about it just made me salivate.

The Order: 1 Large Morrocan Mint Tea and a Carrot Cake Muffin.

Anna poured the tea and brought me the cup cake.  I paid and left to return to the office.

The Morrocan Mint tea was delightful.  The tea was piping hot and minty.  Not sure what the "Morrocan" taste was supposed to be or how "Morrocan Mint" is different from regular "Mint". But I was not complaining.  The tea went down nice and the smell of mint was with me for the afternoon.

The Carrot Cake cupcake was the interesting part of my day.  First the icing was rich, creamy and delicious. Some of the best prepared bakery icing I've ever had.  The carrot cake below that icing? Good moist quality carrot cake that tasted like your mother had pulled it out of the oven.  Delcious through and through.

Overall, the Nutty Greek Bake Shop is an excellent addition to the Ottawa bakery scene.  Freshly made baked goods coupled with quality teas within a family owned bakery atmosphere.  I look forward to meeting Anna again in the future to see what Greek concoctions she has for the day.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

No Roast Beefs at Luciano Foods

Luciano Foods on UrbanspoonOn Friday, I took a coworker's recommendation to try a sandwich from Luciano Foods (114 Preston Street, Ottawa) in Ottawa's Little Italy.  I visited at 11:45 A.M. a little confused whether to go to the noodle shop or the grocery store which are both Luciano Foods stores sitting side by side.

 I tried the noodle shop first as it seemed more restaurant style than the grocery store.  Wrong, I needed the deli counter at the grocery store.

Hop skip and a jump next door and I was warmly welcomed by one of the ladies behind the deli counter.  I asked if there was a menu, she said they make the sandwiches with the freshly sliced meats and I could have anything from the deli.    She recommended three different meats that had just been freshly sliced that morning.   So I was in....

The Order: 1 Roast Beef Sandwich with a can of Coke.

I gathered my sandwich, paid at the cash and grabbed my can of Coke and left for the office.

The sandwich was smaller in size than what I had purchased before at Di Rienzo's Grocery & Deli in December 2012. Taste wise Luciano Foods' was pretty good for a deli sandwich.  The bread tasted decently fresh, but was not freshly baked neither more than a day old.  The toppings of cheese, lettuce and tomato were also satisfactory.  The roast beef was a solid fresh deli taste.  The sandwich was pretty good, a lot better than Subway but not over the top deli fresh.

Overall, Luciano Foods provides a solid Italian deli experience with personable service and at least one "grazi" during your visit.  The deli sandwiches are decent but not exceptionally fresh in terms of taste, but still good none the less. If you are looking for a decent sandwich with all the toppings you will have no beef visiting Luciano's.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Le Moulin De Provence is Not French for Tim Hortons

Le Moulin De Provence on UrbanspoonThis last afternoon of the long weekend and all the house work taken care of, my Mother-in-Law, Wife and I decided to head downtown to tour the Byward Market.  We toured the fruit and vegetable stands and then eyed the breaded goods at Le Moulin De Provence (55 Byward Market Square, Ottawa).

We perused the displays of what pretended to be a Paris Cafe transported to the Byward Market building in Ottawa. We found our afternoon snack and waited to order in the not to fast moving lineup.  The main issue with this cafe is it is set up with long display cases along the "L" shaped walls of the cafe.  Thus, there is bread section for loafs of bread;  another section for croissants, danishes and coffee; additional section for deli meats and finally a section for salads.  Each section has it's own servers and cash register for check out instead of one stand alone check out area.  This means that server at bread counter could be standing there twiddling his thumbs while the two servers slinging croissants and coffee are overwhelmed with customers.  This is exactly what occurred while we waited to order our croissants and coffee. Added to the wait was a technical glitch with the interac machine that required the manager to stop by and rectify.   Eventually we got to place our order and continue to wait in line to pay.

The Order: 2 Almond Croissants and 2 Coffees.

The seating was much to be desired.  Most of the tables were already full with Monday afternoon tourists or dirty from people having been there.   No sign of a dedicated employee cleaning the tables or even remotely looking interested in tending to the tables.

The Almond Croissant was the saving grace of this place.  Moist, sweet and tasty.  Great with a cup of coffee.

The coffee? Nothing special. Just a plain Jane coffee with no discernible effort. Probably just a plane Van Houte coffee from a can and nothing special like you would find in Paris.  Heck even a locally sourced Bridgehead coffee would have been better.

Overall, Le Moulin De Provence is nothing but a tourist trap pretending to be a special place in Ottawa.  The French themed cafe sure would work there.  But for two coffees and two croissants at $12.00 is overpriced! Added to that the dirty tables and lack of effort to present at least a clean environment makes it worse.  On top of that the arrogance from the Barack Obama 2009 visit to by a couple of cookies with the word  "Canada" on them is quite noticeable.  Full size pictures in the entrance door windows, more photos inside and a complete display of overpriced Canada cookies seemed to be an arrogant way to say "we are tops".  Le Moulin De Provence may have been tops back in 2009 when Obama was there, but things have slid since then.  Now you get asked for spare change by a homeless person walking by as you sit at a table with crumbs all over it.  At $12.00 for what we ate, Le Moulin was lucky I bused my own table. Next time, I rather go to Tim Hortons for coffee and baked goods.

Cardboard at Sbarro

Sbarro on Urbanspoon I was out with my Mother-in-Law and Wife at the T&T's first annual Night Market at the Hunt Club Marketplace plaza.  The stinky tofu and other dishes didn't seem to appetizing to me.  I looked around the plaza for dining options.  I was not too hungry but just a little.  A slice of pizza or something small would work.

I did a double take at seeing Sbarro (222 Hunt Club Road, Ottawa). Was this a mirage?  Was it true? Could I have the delicious pizza slices I enjoyed on car trips along the New York State Thruway as a kid?  Could I relive the waiting for an flight to Toronto from Newark's Liberty International Airport with a slice of Sbarro Pizza?  Apparently I could at least visit a rare Canadian location.

I walked in and was asked to wait two seconds by what appeared to be the franchise owner.  There was one other employee working on some pizza dough and two tables of customers inside the newly renovated location.    The two customers ahead of me cleared out and the franchise owner was ready for me.

The Order: 1 New York Style Pepperoni Slice and 1 Small Fountain Coke.

The owner took a slice from the display and placed it in the oven to warm.  So much for freshly made pizza slice.  But with so few people coming in the door that evening, there was really no point in making fresh pizzas periodically to take slices from.   The slice was eventually ready, the drink poured and I paid.

Price wise it was not worth it.  $1.69 for a small non refillable fountain Coke seemed extreme.  $3.99 for the slightly large pizza slice was also a let down.  Added to that, it was a New York style thin crust pizza, there was more money for less dough.

The pizza taste was less than thrilling.  Sure the pepperoni toppings were not skimped on but the taste was lacking.  The slice tasted like cardboard gussied up with pepperoni.

Overall, Sbarro needs to better train their franchisees in making Sbarro quality products in Canada.  Sure it is one of the first franchises in the spread to Ontario, but Sbarro could at least attempt at putting a positive step forward with quality products instead of the corrugated product I was served.

Dim Sum at Hung Sum Restaurant

Hung Sum Restaurant 恆心食馆 on UrbanspoonSunday for brunch saw my Mother-in-Law, my wife and myself head over to Ottawa's Chinatown for some Dim sum. My wife had been wanting to go for a while, but I do not usually care for some of the dishes.   But with my wife's mother in town, we were good to go!

My wife had scoped out a few places and decided on Hung Sum Restaurant (870 Somerset Street West, Ottawa).

We arrived at 10:45 to find the 25 seat place full with more people out front.  Quite the popular little family owned establishment.  The food had to be good as I peered through the front window of the converted Victorian era home from the front porch at the very plain insides that could use a decorator's touch.  The place was quite spartan with plain paint inside and basic tables with table cloths and chairs. It was a functional set up and not meant to be impressive by any means.

My Mother-in-Law went into investigate the wait time and what menu options were available.  She returned with a thirty minute wait time and a single double sided printed piece of paper.   Normally a thirty minute wait would have me looking for other dining options.  Surely on a Sunday morning in Chinatown filled with restaurants there had to be a place ready for us with a ten minute or less wait.  But since my wife had wanted Dim sum and chosen this place based on the Ottawa Citizen's Food Critic Peter Hum's recommendation, I was willing to give a little lee way.

Five minutes before the thirty minute mark, we were escorted to our seats by one of the two servers.  I always enjoy when a restaurant is good at guessing how long the wait will be for those stuck in the front entrance purgatory of wanting to eat but not having a table ready yet.  This guess was pretty well right on.

While waiting for a table to open up, my Mother-in-Law had made some choices.  So we politely waved down the server that sat us with our order.

The Order: Steamed Beef ball, BBQ Pork Bun, Sesame Ball, Spring roll,  Rice Noodle Roll with Crispy Donut and the Rice Noodle with Beef.

First came out the complimentary tea which was pretty good as far as Asian tea restaurants went.  Our table went through at least three tea pots of tea during our meal.

Second came the turnip cake. Turnip cake?  Yes, a slip up, we had not ordered this dish.  We indicated this to the waitress who quickly whisked it away.

Next came an avalanche of food as a bunch of dishes hit the table.

The Steamed Beef Ball was interesting as a large beef ball, larger than spaghetti meat ball, was selected.  It tasted like a regular meat ball but had a garnish with it.  Pretty good for this white guy's first dishes at Dim sum in Ottawa.

BBQ Pork Bun was one of my favourites.  The BBQ pork was surrounded by a delectable dough.  Watch out though, the pork insides are hot if prepared correctly like they were at Hung Sum.

The Sesame Balls were also interesting. Hung Sung's Sesame Balls have a red lotus paste on the inside.  Again, the insides are hot and, this time, gooey good. After the first couple of bites I thought perhaps I might try making these and figure out a way to put chocolate in them.

Spring rolls were average.  It is hard to make exciting spring rolls these days though as they are a pretty common at any reputable and non-reputable Chinese establishments.  But Hung Sung's do not disappoint.

An interest dish was the rice noodle roll donut.  The best way to describe it is a donut bread wrapped with a Chinese rice noodle outside.  A confused tongue ensues as it tries to make sense if it is eating a main course dish or dessert.

The Rice Noodle with Beef, my wife tells me, was bland tasting and overcooked. The noodles were pasty.  The beef though I thought was fine.

The service was pretty good with two servers bringing dishes in and out of the kitchen  and tea pots being refilled in a timely manner.

Overall, Hung Sum provides some of the best Dim sum in Ottawa.  I enjoyed my meal here and my Chinese wife and Mother-in-Law said it was a pretty good Dim sum experience in a town that doesn't have much in high quality competitive Chinese cuisine like Vancouver or even Toronto.    I may return in the future but at a later time to hopefully avoid the thirty minute wait.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Great Mediocre Town Fryer

Town Fryer on Urbanspoon A couple of weeks ago I visited the Town Fryer food truck (Preston Street & Louisa Street, Ottawa)  for lunch.  The food truck is located in a small parking lot in the heart of Ottawa's Little Italy neighbourhood on Preston Street.  The brightly painted yellow truck is easy to find just north of the Highway 417 (Queensway) with friendly family owned service.

My first visit was at 11:30 A.M. for lunch.  I was hoping to beat the traditional lunch rush on a Friday that hovers around 12 Noon.  Instead, I ended up behind three hungry City of Ottawa landscapers who were waiting on their three large helpings of poutine doused in gravy.  I put my order in with the tall gentleman working that day.

The Order: 1 Hot Dog in a Baguette and Medium Fries with a Pepsi.

The order took a little while to be prepared.  That was understandable considering three large poutine orders were ahead of me with one server in a food truck doing the preparation work.   I waited patiently.

The results though were less than stellar.

 Sure the hot dog was delicious along with the toppings and a standard baguette.  No the baguette was not freshly made, but tasted store bought.  But a nice idea to use a baguette instead of the standard run of the mill hot dog bun you could get any old hot dog stand.

The fries were the big let down.  Overcooked and turning brown is never a good sign.  These should have been hucked and a new batch cooked.  Considering three orders of poutine were right before me, warm, but not necessarily piping hot, fresh fries should have been expected.  Size wise the fries were thinner than regular thin cut fries but were thicker than shoestring fries.  There was promise but the overcooking killed it.

I thought about writing this review earlier but things got in the way and other reviews piled up as I enjoyed some summer time.  I decided a revisit was in order on August 23rd.  I reattempted a visit to the Town Fryer at 11:50 A.M. when the truck should be gearing up for a nice sunny Friday noon lunch rush.  Nothing, the truck was closed.

A return visit on Friday August 30th at 11:50 A.M. again had better luck.  A mother and daughter were working that day.  The teenage daughter took the same order as previous, and started about working on it.  The mother was on and off her cell phone while unloading the daily supplies from her car.  I waited for my order which came quicker than last time.  But it did help three teenagers were not looking for their large orders of poutine.

The hot dog and fries came together along with a cold can of Dr. Pepper.

The hot dog had not changed.  This time though I watched it being cooked.  A pan fried sausage instead of grilled, but none the less, a long with the baguette, nothing had changed in terms of quality.  The sausage was standard with a little zing by adding the baguette.

The fries were significantly improved.  Piping hot and fresh these fries were better than your average run of the mill fries you would find.  Fresh cut? No, but freshly cooked and chewy, these fries were a good offering for a family run food truck.  Things had improved.  

Overall, I'm left with a conflicting reflection on this food truck.  A family run food truck, complete with a tip jar renamed to "Emma's College Tuition Fund", that is trying to make a positive contribution to the neighbhourhood.  But the first visit optics were not that good with the overcooked fries that supposedly were one of their best offerings and forming a consistent base ingredient in many of their offerings.  An unexplained closure on a typical busy Friday lunch followed by them at the best.  Being a family run operation, I can forgive them for having a possible unexplained family emergency closure.  I can myself returning several times if the Town Fryer runs at it's best, but memories of that first visit's mediocre overcooked fries continues to loom.

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