Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Milestone of a Meal

Saturday for Lunch, with a gift card melting my pocket begging to be used and my wife and I in downtown Ottawa, we visited Milestones (700 Sussex Drive, Ottawa).  

Milestones is owned and franchised by the Cara group of companies who also own and franchise: Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's and Montana's. Each banner name (i.e. restaurant name) has a different flavour for the dining pleasure.  Harvey's is the traditional burger place that competes with McDonald's, Burger King and others.  Swiss Chalet is the family rotisserie chicken place competing in the Quebec and Ottawa area with Scores. Kelsey's bills itself as "Your Neighbourhood Bar & Grill" which also typically has more family friendly pricing in a place that pretends to be a bar/pub but really isn't.  Montana's is supposedly a cookhouse that specializes in serving up grilled meats of whatever flavour you wish. 

Milestones' dim lighting for the evening with supposedly higher end culinary chef inspired food attempt to make the ambiance and food romantically inclined.  Daytime wise it still has aspects of romance to it as well, but less so with light streaming in through the windows.  

The downtown Ottawa Milestones is in a picturesque location nestled between the upscale yet historic Chateau Laurier Hotel across the MacKenzie Street side of the building and yet on Sussex Drive opposite the Byward Market. But the building also has a architecturally significant tierred patio built into it providing great views from the Milestones' bar / lounge area with wrap around windows facing the Government Conference Centre (formerly the Ottawa Train Station) that provide great opportunities to look at historic architecture as well as people watching of the hoards of tourists walking by on Rideau Street. 

We arrived at the MacKenzie Street entrance through the double front door to meet the two hostesses standing at a table.  The interesting part is about said table is it is really as soon as you walk in instead of a little further back to allow other guests coming in to wait in the warmth.  It was like the designer of this Milestones location thought this was Los Angeles, California where the weather is nice year round instead of a February in Ottawa where it is below freezing and customers may be wielding ice skates before or after a venture on the nearby Rideau Canal Skateway. Not very well thought out, but lucky for us the restaurant was not that busy for a Saturday noon time lunch.

At this point you are given an option by the hostess to either eat in the dining room or in the lounge.  Not knowing that difference was I selected the dining room.  It wasn't until later that I ventured over to the bar area to realize the above noted wrap around windows overlooking the corner with Rideau Street.  I got a few looks from the waitresses when I visited like "can we help you?"  I just looked, went, o.k. that is the view and scurried back to the dining room. 

We were lead to the table by a hostess who, while on the way, showed us where the washrooms are.  At the table she dropped off a slip of paper with our table number on it and the time we were seated.  I'm not sure the reasoning behind this slip of paper but I used it to guage the timely progression of our meal.  

We were seated below a panorama historical picture of the Parliament Hill view from the Hull (Gatineau) side of the Ottawa River.   After perusing our menues for both brunch and dinner I took a closer look at that the photo and noted the time period was definately before the First World War as the Chateau Laurier was absent, the railway was prominent and the Victoria Tower on the Centre Block of Parliament Hill was still present as opposed to the Peace Tower.   An interesting view compared to what that same view is today.  

While perusing the menues,  I first observed the different somewhat gourmet style named and increased pricing compared to your average restaurant.  But offerings weren't that high brow that I was going to need to sell my first born to attend or to expect the Prime Minister to visit with the Queen.  But we did find something for each of us that we would be content with. 

Our waitress, five minutes after us sitting, stopped by to reiterate that the menues were looking at were the brunch and dinner menues and we were free to order from both.   She asked if we wanted to order drinks, we replied nicely that we were ready to order our food as well. 

The Order: The Montreal Stack (Montreal smoked meat, aged Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and ripe tomatoes served with a house made blackberry ketchup with curly fries on the side) & a Pepsi and a Spicy Thai Chicken Rollup (A warm red flour tortilla, spicy smoked chicken breast, Jasmine rice, peanut sauce and sesame cucumber mayo with curly fries on the side) & a glass of water.

The waitress was pretty quick with service.  The odd thing was she would dissapear for five minutes at a time leaving her three or four tables unserviced for a while.  She would reappear later, service all of them and dissappear again.  No real issues with the service but she seemed to have this down to a science knowing where in the meal process each table was in and what they would need next.  At no time did I have to ask for a refill on my Pepsi, she just quickley offered, grabbed the glass (which I ensured was always at the end of the booth table we sat at), refilled it and returned it.  The only service issue we had was actually with the refill on the Pepsi when our food arrived. 

When our food arrived, in a timely manner, our waitress ensured we had everything and offered to refill my Pepsi glass.  I agreed, she dissappeared and it took three or four minutes for her to return.  She apologized for the delay as I had already dug into my meal.  No sweat though, other than that she was top notch service wise with a dose of good cheer. 

The Montreal Stack smoked meat sandwich was nicely done with finely sliced beef brisket, fresh tasting tomatoes and cheese.  Admittedly, I missed the "caramelized onions" until I reread the menu for this review.   Although the menu promised "blackberry ketchup" I didn't see anything except for a little thing of ketchup that I assumed was for my fries.   This is also because my wife's Chicken Rollup was also accompanied by same said small ketchup container.

The accompanying curly fries on both plates were hot as well.  They were an interesting take on the traditional bar fries that looked like little rings.  At one point I had about six fries intertwined to make a chain of which any five year old playing with his food would be proud of.   The accompanying ketchup tasted better than the Heinz you would find at your average bar and made a good compliment to the fries.

The spicy chicken wrap my wife asked for the spice to be more mild in nature.  She reports that after a couple of bites there was a tang to the chicken spice but it wasn't eye watering suicidal like it might of been.

Overall, Milestones is a good restaurant if you are in search of a romantic spot probably away from the crayons and associated place mats of the family dining establishments. There are a few interesting culinary delights to find here but because Milestones is part of a chain, don't expect the food to overly great with the chefs onsight taking culinary liberties like other single family owned locations.   Looking for a decent romantic spot out in downtown Ottawa after a date on the canal or before a romantic walk at night around the rear of Parliament Hill food you know will be decent? Milestones just might be your place.

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