A summary of recent IMAGE restaurant reviews and food features, plus other advice from our contributors about where to find great food in and around Sandy Hill.
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Alirang, 134 Nelson St.
Could it be said that Alirang is the most successful restaurant in our neighbourhood right now? The challenges of getting a table, even on a chilly weeknight, suggest that it might be so. The restaurant has recently renovated its facade, so entering is now a much more pleasant experience and no longer threatens to freeze the diners who are already enjoying their bulgogi, kimchi and bibimbap.
Ariana Kabab House, 426 Rideau St.
Our party of four enjoyed dinner at Ariana recently. An order of stewed lamb shank and an assortment of side dishes provided plenty of variety. The vegetarian in our midst especially enjoyed the sabzi (spinach cooked with onion, garlic and spices) and the savoury eggplant puree. Plenty of perfectly-cooked rice, crisp salad and tender, chewy flatbreads sent us home full and happy.
Happy Goat, 229 Rideau St.
It’s won hearts on Wilbrod Street; now we can look forward to enjoying Happy Goat coffee at a second, soon to open location in the neighbourhood, the corner of Rideau and Cumberland, the former premises of Hakim Optical. There’s no official indication of when it will open, but to judge by the chairs at the window counter, it won’t be long.
Jackson, 10 Daly Ave.
A recent brunch at the restaurant in the Ottawa Art Gallery was lots of fun. From 10:30 to 2:30 on Saturdays and Sundays, Jackson offers an interesting menu that ranges from the fairly familiar (ricotta hotcakes with bananas and maple whipped butter) to the quite unexpected (red velvet soup, a thick puree of beets, garnished with sautéed apples, toasted seeds and a poached egg). We went for the “little bit of everything” brunch for two and, although there were three of us, this turned out to be plenty of food presented in an entertaining progression of treats and new flavours. The aforementioned soup, the buckwheat crepe with caramelized onions and mushrooms, and the Jackson Classic (poached egg on focaccia with smoked salmon and roasted vegetables) were particular standouts and would be a start to the day on their own.
Jerkies Chicken, 105 Mann Ave.
Curried goat, jerk chicken and plantains; the food in this new family-run restaurant will bring Caribbean warmth into your winter. If you’re lucky, you may find a seasonal specialty like the Guyanese hot pot or pepper pot that’s traditionally served at Christmas, but you’ll find a warm welcome no matter what time of year you drop by. Open 7 days a week from noon onward; a full menu is available on Uber Eats.
Rideau Bakery, 384 Rideau St.
Our most venerable neighbourhood bakery is taking some creative new approaches to sweets these days. A recent dessert taste test at our house determined that the chocolate hazelnut “breakup ball” is satisfyingly sweet and gooey and the apricot-glazed doughnut with pecans is a pleasantly crunchy take on the faithful classic. The cronut (soft croissant dough, presented in doughnut form with a light icing) vanished almost instantaneously; not a speck was left.
Syrian Kitchen, 48 Nelson St.
So you have finished your midday workout at the Champagne Baths, or are walking home from a gruelling bit of shopping in the market. You are hungry, you are tired. Here’s a tip: head home via the Portuguese Bakery on Nelson (north of Clarence) for a clamshell of their corn salad. The Syrian Kitchen, based in the bakery’s front shop, offers a variety of healthy choices, including an excellent hummus, baba ghanoush and more. But the corn salad is really worth the trip — enough for a famished person, or two as a side dish, the ingredients are beyond reproach: corn, kidney beans, shredded carrots, red cabbage, lemon juice (in a separate cup, to dress the salad) and salt. Pretty, filling, quick to consume, nutritious. For $14 I picked up a salad for lunch, package of hummus for any time of day and two tarts (custard, pecan) for tea. Well, it IS in the Portuguese Bakery!
Working Title Kitchen + Café, 10 Blackburn Ave.
(enter through the red doors on Laurier near Chapel).
At last allsaints Event Space has the zoning that is needed to open a full restaurant in its basement. For now, the space could best be described as a café, with soups, sandwiches and salads on offer from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day from Sunday through Friday. On Saturdays, the café caters private events. Working Title’s chefs are skilled and imaginative; we were impressed by our hearty chicken soup with barley and vegetables, and the Veg Bomb sandwich, with portobello mushrooms, sauerkraut, white bean puree and other tasty morsels, was delicious. A chocolate cookie at the end of our meal was heavenly; crisp on the outside, chewy within, and full of crunchy particles of espresso beans. And if you’re lucky, those cookies will make it to day-old status and be available at half price; still delicious and a great bargain!