February Flavours — A Taste Tour of Ottawa’s Cuisine

Over the past several months, I’ve dedicated my free time to finding new, old, and always exciting Ottawa hospitality gems that show this city is on an upward trajectory in the culinary universe. So much so that I often get asked questions like, “Where should I go if I want ______ in Ottawa?”

This got me thinking; it would be really fun to plan a culinary day around Ottawa — somewhere for breakfast, a new spot for lunch, something different for dinner, and, of course, dessert. I realized it might get expensive fast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t WRITE about it!

So, I’m launching a “Meal of the Month” column to highlight multiple businesses in the city that are good at different things. There will be some that I have previously written about but have something new to highlight, and others will be entirely new. Regardless of familiarity, they will all have one thing in common . . . deliciousness!


Breakfast/Brunch of the Month

Wilf and Ada’s • 510 Bank Street

You’ve heard of Wif and Ada’s, the small, walk-in-only breakfast staple on Bank Street in Centretown. This breakfast and brunch hub has been a favourite with Ottawans for years, and I finally got to see why!

If you’ve read my pieces before, you know how I feel about a well-sized, well-thought-out menu, which Wilf and Ada’s epitomizes — six general breakfast options, three Benny’s, five items in their “sandwiches and more” section, and sides — no flipping through a breakfast novel.

Even more impressive is that Wilf and Ada’s prides themselves on sourcing most, if not all, of their ingredients from local vendors. Whether it be food, beverages, or friendly service staff, you can rest assured it proudly represents the city of Ottawa.

Now, onto the goods. My vote for Breakfast/Brunch of the Month is the Mariposa Duck Benny. True to form, putting the Mariposa name in the title pays a beautiful homage to the vendor who provides the duck. Braised with thyme, the duck offers a delightful herbaceous note. It is paired with seared apple, a classic hollandaise sauce, two poached eggs (one on each English muffin), and the star of the show, a spiced carrot chutney.

The duck is tender and not greasy (a common problem I find with braised duck legs). The eggs were perfectly poached, and the seared apple played well with the thyme while providing a wonderful texture. The spiced carrot chutney is to die for — the kind staff sent my partner and me home with a little extra container so we could enjoy it further. Seriously, I cannot rave enough about it! A sweet, flavour explosion, it brings all of the other components together in perfect harmony. The Mariposa Duck Benny fully deserves to be the breakfast/brunch dish of the month!


Lunch of the Month

Sula Wok • 184 Main Street

Lunch in the city of Ottawa is truly a sleeper; many of the amazing restaurants in the city only open at 5 p.m., so seeking out the best places to eat in the middle of the day is a bit more of a task. For the mid-day meal, you want to be satisfied, get value for money, and not feel too full or eat anything that makes you sluggish. Thankfully, Ottawa has several places that fit the bill, which made it difficult to choose just one dish from one place for the Lunch of the Month pick.

A small walk-up spot located on Main Street in Old Ottawa East, Sula Wok is a family-owned Asian fusion restaurant that specializes in bowls, momo dumplings, and their famous Asian tacos. This month, I decided to do a solid for my vegetarian friends and highlight their sticky pineapple tofu bowl. Traditional animal-based protein options are available with this bowl, but I think the puffed tofu is the perfect option.

A mound of rice is topped with pineapple, tomato, various veggies, a sweet, sticky pineapple sauce, and, of course, the puffed tofu. When you bite the tender tofu, you’re greeted with a flavourful, almost juicy sensation coated in a well-reduced sauce. The pineapple and tomato add freshness to the dish and create a balanced bowl that is the perfect lunch to fill you up and keep you moving. All of the takeout boxes at Sula Wok are reusable. Instead of recycling them, the environmentally conscious can return them to be repurposed.

In addition to the food, every interaction with the family who owns Sula Wok is a delight; they are wonderful people who are happy to feed any hungry tummy that comes their way!


Dinner of the Month

Giulia • 350 Elgin Street and 61 York Street

If you know me, you know I am a one-man spokesperson for Giulia on Elgin Street. I’ve gone on record to say this is the best sit-down pizza spot in the city. From the staff to the cocktails to every item on the menu, I am obsessed with Giulia and recommend it to everyone who asks!

Their pizzas are amazing, but this time, it’s all about pasta! Giulia has a rotating pasta menu featuring seasonal ingredients and whatever the chef (Mackenzie at Elgin or Chris at the market location) has created. Unfortunately, once it is gone, it’s usually gone for good. I am so happy that I decided to try the newest addition to Giulia on Elgin’s ever-changing pasta menu: Gnocchi Sardini in Amatriciana Sauce. I highly recommend that you get there before the menu changes.

When you go, sit at the bar and enjoy one of the magical cocktails made by Hector, Madigan, or one of the other elite bar staff. Ask your server about the pasta of the day, and then pray it’s the Gnocchi Sardini in Amatriciana Sauce. The gnocchi itself is not a traditional potato gnocchi but rather a more classic pasta in a gnocchi shape. The amatriciana sauce has a base of tomato, Calabrian chilli, guanciale (cured pork jowl commonly in carbonara), pecorino cheese, and garlic butter. After the pasta has been tossed in its sauce, it’s topped with pangrattato, the poor man’s parmesan, a crispy breadcrumb topping used in various Italian dishes. At Giulia, they make it using their house-made sourdough.

The Gnocchi Sardini in Amatriciana Sauce is everything you want in a pasta dish: the noodles are cooked perfectly, the sauce coats the whole plate and has a slight kick to it from the Calabrian chillies, and the texture added by the breadcrumbs is absolutely stellar. This is one of the most straightforward but most delicious pasta dishes I’ve had in a very long time, and with a last name like Pizzuti, you can rest assured I’ve had a lot of them.


Dessert of the Month

Tartlette • Unit 7, 175 Main Street (South side of Milieu Building)

For the first “Meal of the Month,” I wanted to do something special for dessert. Something truly local but elevated that involves an immense amount of skill. After asking my Instagram followers their favourite dessert spots, I decided on Tartelette, a high-end bakery and cafe, which, like Sula Wok, is located on Main Street in Old Ottawa East. Tartelette specializes in a variety of baked goods and desserts created by a Cordon Bleu-accredited pastry chef. I chose one tart and asked the employee behind the counter what Tartelette was known for as my second choice. Both tarts were so expertly executed that I’ve decided to highlight the duo.

I am a sucker for lemon-flavoured desserts, so the lemon blueberry tart was an obvious choice. The chef told me via Instagram that the tart shell, like EVERYTHING at Tartelette, is made from scratch! A butter and almond powder base is rolled into individual rings and filled with the tarte ingredients of choice. In this case, that would be a lemon cream and blueberry confit, creating a unique balance between sweet and tart (no pun intended). It is then topped with a smooth blueberry ganache, fresh blueberries, and a lemon julienne.

With my love of lemon, this pastry was sure to be a hit, but that doesn’t detract from how perfectly executed it was. From flavour to composition, it was a delightful bite.

The second tart boasts a distinct array of Persian flavours piled into a French tart. Called The Sharazi Tart, the almond shell is filled with a unique pistachio cream, a layer of pistachio cardamom ganache, and a pistachio cremeux. Pistachio is another favourite of mine. What sets it apart, however, is the saffron and rose water cream that the multiple layers of pistachio are topped with; the elegant flavours pair perfectly with the nutty filling. Continuing the elegance theme, the tart is finished with rose petals and chopped pistachios.

In case your mouth isn’t already watering, it’s worth noting that this tart is one of Tartelette’s signature creations and a best seller at the bakery.

The duo of tarts I enjoyed have rightfully earned the dessert spot in my “Meal of the Month.” Tartelette has a wide array of choices, and I will be returning to try more.

These are just a few deserving culinary destinations. Whether you are hunting for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, Ottawa is full of unique businesses to support! If you know of an awesome spot that deserves a highlight, then I want to hear about it! Contact me using the link on my website or message me on Instagram.

Ottawa’s culinary scene is a wonderland that is waiting to be explored, so where are you eating this month?

Photos: Jordan Pizzuti