Saturday, July 13, 2013

Too Much Green for Papaya?

Decided to have an adventure for dinner and a date with my wife on Saturday evening.  We took OC Transpo's Route 8 over the old city of Hull and disembarked in front of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.   Across the street was the Green Papaya (69 Rue Laurier, Gatineau). 

We arrived at 4:55 P.M. to find the front doors locked and a group of three sitting out front waiting.  A quick look at the hours of operation noted the restaurant would open in five minutes.  

We waited the five minutes.  Watched as one of the employees ventured out onto the patio to hang some decorations and fine tune some tables for what appeared to be a private party.  The minutes ticked by.  5:01 arrived and nothing.  Not even a sign of movement toward the door, no sign the restaurant was closed for a private function.  We waited until 5:05 and still nothing.  We decided to take a five minute stroll down the street to check out the shops on Rue Laurier and return for one last attempt. 

Upon our return the restaurant was open.  We entered and stopped when we reached the restaurant.  Do we wait here to be seated? Do we wait for someone to seat us?  What to do?  No worries, a server stopped by, welcomed us and showed us to the intricately designed dining room.  

Decor of this restaurant reminded me of a tastefully decorated with chandeliers and a hint of Asian themed plants.  Nice touch to the tables with high end table cloths and place mats. 

Our waitress stopped by dressed in traditional red Asian robes and greeted us in both English and French.  One of the interesting things about dining on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river is the noticeable ease at which restaurant wait staff offer up French first but also reassuringly offering English second.  Only some wait staff on the Ontario side of the border do this.  This is probably mainly to do with the requirement under Quebec provincial language laws to serve customers in French.  But, so as not to make tourists unwelcome, wait staff also offer up English. 

The menus were different from the sister restaurant, Thai Garden, which at the time was fine with us.  However, upon further review of the Green Paya's website, the menu was not posted only the Thai Garden was.  The main difference is the Green Papaya's menu had less Pad Thai dishes than the Thai Garden.  As well noticeably different was the pricing.  The Green Papaya's was a dollar more in the hard copy menu than what was posted on the website for the same dish!

The Order: 1 Beef Pad Thai with Rice Noodles and 1 Shrimp Pad Thai with Rice Noodles.  

The dishes were brought out within ten minutes of ordering and well laid out just like at the Thai Garden.  The first noticeable thing though, the plates were smaller.  Not only does the Green Papaya charge a dollar more per plate but they also give you a smaller portion of food.  Same exact Pad Thai (Beef Pad Thai) but smaller portions.  

Taste wise the Beef Pad Thai was delicious.  No qualms with preparation of the Pad Thai itself.  The decorative vegetable side I even tried.  The raw carrot was deliciously fresh and so were the other vegetables.   My wife enjoyed her Shrimp Pad Thai without any complaints.  

The food at both Thai Garden and Green Papaya tasted as if they were mirror images of each other.  This can be trouble sometimes especially in larger chain restaurants where the may be some deviations from the main menu.  But at the Green Papaya / Thai Garden small chain of four locations, this has not been an issue with all the restaurant's same Pad Thai dishes tasting the same, and more importantly, delicious!

Overall,   the Green Papaya provides well prepared traditional Thai dishes in a market looking for authentic Asian cuisine.  Sure the Ottawa area has lots of Vietnamese Pho places, but it is lacking in traditional Chinese and Thai cooking.  The Green Papaya fills the void of the traditional Thai cuisine Ottawa lacks.  Pricing to portion size though needs to be investigated.  How can the Green Papaya location in downtown Hull be more expensive and smaller portion than the downtown Ottawa Thai Garden location?  That is a question I would love to have an answer too. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Check the Clock Tower for the Time While I Eat

Friday for lunch I stopped by the Clock Tower Brew Pub (422 MacKay Street, Ottawa) with a coworker.  I had been intrigued by this small Ottawa based chain of four locations. 

What is their claim to fame? Obviously it is that Clock Tower brews their own beer.  But would this just a beer only place or would the food be superb or merely mediocre?   Only one way to find out.  

We entered shortly after 1 P.M. to mainly empty pub with a couple of tables inside occupied and the same outside on the patio.  With the temperature pushing thirty degrees Celsius, we decided to sit inside to enjoy the air conditioning.  

One server walked by, apologized and said she would be right with us.  Fifteen seconds later another server stopped by, apologized for the wait and showed us to our seats.  Not sure what all the apologies were about, we were barely there a minute.  

At our seats we perused the menues.  The Club Sandwich stuck out to me.  Perhaps it was the failed attempt at mediocrity still ringing in my taste buds via the Club Sandwich served at my previous visit at Broadway Bar and Grill

I half thought about ordering a beer, but considering there was work to be done that afternoon, I stayed away.  

The server who seated us returned to be our waitress for the afternoon.  She took our orders and then left. 

My Order: 1 Clocktower Club (Grilled chicken breast, peameal bacon, mayo, lettuce & tomato served on ciabatta) with fries and Pepsi. 

The food came respectable ten minutes after ordering.  So far the service was excellent and timely.  The waitress ensured we had refills on our drinks and ketchup was brought to the table.  

The club sandwich plate looked well presented with the sandwich one side and the fries in a sepearate bowl, but also on the plate.  This got me thinking, was I being jipped on the fries or was this to keep the theoretical ketchup I was about to add from coagulating with the sandwich?  The other theory was to make the fries seem larger in quantity.  I leaned to latter option as it appeared there could of been more fries especially at a price of $13.50.  

The fries were pretty tasty and better than I had at Broadway.  They looked at least close to a fresh cut fries I have seen a pub provide to it's patrons.  They were also still warm from being made but not overly greasy.  

The club was equally as good an attempt as the fries. Freshly grilled chicken coupled with peameal bacon on a noticeably nicely tasting ciabatta bun provided a significant improvement over the average club sandwich served elsewhere.  A nice fresh cooked sandwich and fries washed down with a cold glass of Pepsi was a perfect lunch.  

Next things got interesting.  We started looking for our waitress for the bill so we could continue the afternoon.  She had not been in our area for a while.  Where was she?  We saw her wiz by out the front door with plates in hand.  Surely she was not also covering the patio outside as well?   Afraid so, she was bringing plates of food out to the other three tables outside despite another waitress being available indoors. But our server was quickly back inside and back to the kitchen.  She returned to the patio and dropped some more off and gathered other drink orders.  Took a non-complainable five minutes to find our waitress in order to ask for the bill. But the optics of her working both the patio outside and then back inside seemed a little weird.  Perhaps this minor issue could be fine tuned as if she had to handle one or two more tables, the server would have been in trouble.

Overall, the food at the Clock Tower Brew Pub was pretty good. The brew pub noticeably cared just as much about what food was served with their specialized beer. No second rate or mediocre food here, just well thought out tested pub foods with a slight culinary twist.  Nothing overly fancy gourmet but nothing mediocre or average either, just a happy medium that will keep the people coming back time and time again.

Could I Have a Second Cup Please?

Friday, found myself in the Beechwood area in the morning.  Looking for a nibble and a cup of coffee I headed over to the Second Cup (1 Springfield Road, Ottawa).

Outside the front door, behind a short wrought iron fence, is a small outdoor patio area where customers can enjoy their drink of choice while people watching.  This is one of two comfy areas customers can choose from.  More on the other later.

Inside the front door, via the small patio area, I was welcomed by one of the Barista's.  Walking by the display case of baked goods, I noticed something savory right away to snack on.

The Order: 1 Medium Irish Cream Coffee and a Cinnamon Roll.

I paid for my order, gathered it and found a seat in the indoor section of the coffee shop.

This Second Cup has tables with leather parsons chairs as well as the more traditional coffee shop favourite, the leather comfy chair with coffee table.  I chose the leather parsons chairs and regular table to enjoy my coffee, cinnamon roll and newspaper on.

The Irish Cream coffee is exactly like you would find at any other Second Cup.  A hot coffee with a creamy smell and taste to it.  Worth the purchase to experience it yourself.

The cinnamon roll I had no idea how it would turn out.  The cinnamon roll was nearing the end of it's shelf life.  Second Cup has most, if not all, of it's baked goods shipped in.  This means bakery fresh is not their claim to fame.  Thus, the cinnamon roll, like most of Second Cup's baked goods, has been around a while  resulting in drier tasting goods.  This dryness is fine for muffins and other similar bakery goodies, but cinnamon rolls not so much.  Thus, it was satisfactory to eat, but not wowing like I've had even during a recent Ikea visit.  If you're looking for a good cinnamon roll, skip this place.

Overall, Second Cup sticks to what it knows best, coffee.  Baked goods are not this coffee chain's forte.  They are usually drier and not as fresh as Bridgehead or a local bakery.  However, this Second Cup has comfy seating inside and out with a real community feel to it.  You will see interesting non threatening people walking by or visiting for their cup of java at this coffee shop.  It seems to be the neighbourhood coffee shop for the New Edinburgh area where neighbours stop for coffee and catch up on the news either in person or via the newspaper. Thus, there is always a reason for a Second Cup of coffee to be asked for.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Canada Day from the Nation's Capital

As a kid growing up I have attended Canada Day celebrations of my hometown of Aurora for years. With the exception of my one year in New York City, this year was the first year I would be celebrating Canada Day elsewhere.  

Waiting for the show to Start on Parliament Hill.

As a kid growing up I have attended Canada Day celebrations of my hometown of Aurora for years. With the exception of my one year in New York City, this year was the first year I would be celebrating Canada Day elsewhere.  

One of the things I've always wanted to do was celebrate a Canada Day in the Nation's Capital, Ottawa. After moving to Ottawa last fall, this year was the year to celebrate the Nation's birthday in style in Ottawa.

The main show does not start until noon on Parliament Hill.  So I spent the morning pretty antsy.  First off to the local Tim Hortons for a Canadian breakfast.  Of course being a good husband, I left my wife to sleep in a little bit more before leaving.

We left at 9:45 A.M. to lucked out by catching one of OC Transpo's newish double decker buses which happened to be running the route 97.  

We arrived downtown to walk through the Ottawa Jazz Festival's set up at Confederation Park and over to Ottawa City Hall to hear some of the Jazz acts warming up for the day.  A short stop at Ottawa City Hall and we were off to Parliament Hill to find some primo standing room for the noon hour show.

Travelling up Elgin Street a sea of red and white could be seen.  Elgin Street is closed from Laurier Avenue northward towards the War Memorial.  Food trucks are present along with various community groups providing entertainment.

At Wellington Street we headed westward and settled into the shade provided by the old U.S. Embassy across from Parliament Hill.  We waited for 45 minutes for the arrival of the Governor General and his smartly red dressed entourage, the Governor General's Foot Guards.

The show started with a fly past by a Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules plane dropping a load of parachutists who either flew the Canadian flag or streamed red mist during their decent.

Changing of the Canadian Flag to the Governor General Flag on the Peace Tower.
Next came the arrival of the Governor General.  Of course, the flag had to be changed on the Peace Tower from the Canadian Flag to Governor General's Flag.  With the flag changed, the Governor General arrived and proceeded to inspect the Governor General Foot Guards.  As well, the Governor General received the traditional 21 Gun Salute.

Smoke from the 21 Gun Salute envelopes the East Block of Parliament Hill

The sea of humanity on Parliament Hill and Wellington Street was overwhelming. Red and white was seen as far as the eye could see.

The patriotic crowds on Wellington Street during Canada Day Celebrations.

Once the 21 Gun Salute was finished, the Governor General's smartly dressed black busby and red coated Foot Guards marched off the show was ready to begin.  

The national anthem and God Save the Queen followed by Terri Clark was awesome. Terri Clark sang "Northern Girl" and "Here for a Good Time".  The music from there didn't really interest us and the to and fro of the crowds on Wellington Street got bothersome.  So my wife and I moved on towards O'Conner and made our way to Sparks Street to look for other options.  But we had a good time witnessing the start of the festivities for Canada Day.

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