One of the best things about moving to a new city is the promise of new food and delicious restaurants yet to be tried. Right now, I have a list on my iPhone of about 36 different restaurants in the Ottawa area that Byron and I want to try, based on articles I’ve read, internet researching and recommendations we’ve received from friends and co-workers. Despite the fact that we eat out about once a week, the list is continuing to grow.
Monday was my birthday, and to celebrate Byron took me out to dinner to one of the restaurants on our list, Allium. Allium is conveniently located in our neighborhood; we could easily walk in the summer, but the cold winter weather meant it was a short drive away instead. Monday night at Allium is Tapas Night, meaning they exclusively serve small plates from their tapas menu. I really like this concept as it means you get to try a bunch of different dishes, which is always fun.
We arrived at Allium at 7:30 and I was happy to see that despite the fact that it was a Monday night, the restaurant was buzzing. Clearly Tapas Night is quite popular. As we mulled over our many different options on the menu we put in our drink order. A cocktail called Memories of Summer, made with vodka, apricot brandy, B&B, sugar, bitters and sparkling wine, for me and Dalwhinnie Scotch for Byron.
After some deliberation we decided on the dishes we wanted to try: Fritto Misto, Foie Gras & Shrimp, Yellowfin Tuna Crudo, Marinated Flank Steak, Fresh Pasta and Crab Toasts.
First out was the Fritto Misto, which was calamari, clam strips, pickle mayo and grilled lemon. The dish was quite tasty, but to be honest it tasted a lot like calamari I could get from anywhere. I was expecting the dish to be a more elevated take on typical calamari.
Next up, the Foie Gras and Shrimp, which was foie gras mousse, wild shrimp salad, Lebanese cucumbers, pickled celery and radish. This dish was ambitious and seemed like it could be an interesting combination of flavours, but I just didn’t think the foie gras and shrimp really worked all that well together.
The Marinated Flank Steak was served with sautéed kale, hollandaise sauce and winter mushrooms.The steak was cooked perfectly and so flavourful. All of the different components of this dish worked really, really well together; it was a definite home run.
Next out was the Fresh Pasta, which was a potato and onion agnolotti with cheddar cheese, braised beef short rib, confit tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. This dish was tasty, however if I had one small complaint it is that I think I would have preferred if the beef had been shredded rather than cubed.
The Yellowfin Tuna Crudo was served on a fried tortilla and topped with avocado, orange, cucumber, spicy mayo, cilantro and pickled red onion. Unfortunately the picture I took really didn’t capture how incredibly beautiful this dish was, but it really was a sight to be seen; gorgeous red tuna, glistening orange slices, and bright green cucumber made for a pretty spectacular looking plate. And more importantly, this dish tasted just as good as it looked.
The last item to come out were the Crab Toasts, which were bite sized crostini topped with crab tossed in a lime mayo, bacon, lettuce, tomato and chives. The crab toasts were tasty, but we couldn’t help but feel that we were expecting just a little bit more.
I had read really good things about the Banoffee Pie, so considering that, and the fact that it was my birthday dinner, we ordered a piece to share. The Banoffee Pie was a wonderful combination of toffee, bananas, chocolate sauce and whipped cream in a graham cracker crust and an excellent way to end our meal.
There were some definite hits and a few slight misses at Allium. We absolutely loved everything about the delicious Flank Steak and really, really enjoyed the gorgeous Tuna Crudo. I could very happily indulge in both of those dishes again. However, we also felt that a few of the dishes were a little off the mark; the Shrimp and Foie just didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and while the Crab Toast and Frito Misto were tasty, they were a little underwhelming.
But, at the end of the day, that is the beauty of Tapas Night; because each dish is a small, reasonably priced portion, you are given the opportunity to try a variety of items and if you don’t love one, it isn’t as upsetting as if you had spent 30 to 40 dollars on a full sized entrée. Of course, it’s even better if you end up loving everything you order, but that isn’t always how it works when you try something new.
Overall, we had a really lovely evening at Allium; it was a great restaurant to celebrate my birthday and I am sure we will be back to try some of the other offerings.