New restaurant Citizen (207 Gilmour St.) opened its doors around the corner from established big sister town. last month, offering a respectable culinary addition to Ottawa’s Centretown strip. With and without company, I’ve penciled this joint in as a regular date night in my schedule.
The stylish pane glass storefront, wood and neon adds an understated modern elegance to the overlooked side street off the Elgin Street thoroughfare – a hopeful sign that the Elgin strip may expand as a boutique neighbourhood with off-Elgin options.
The façade opens onto a long bar hugging the right wall, facing dark leather banquette seating that makes the most of a narrow but airy space. An adjoining “back room” features a clever moving wall, allowing overflow dinners to be part of the bustling atmosphere on busy nights or providing private dining another night.
There’s a no reservations policy. We arrived at half-six to score a table for four, on a busy Thursday evening. Cocktails are around the $10 mark and I’ve already been back for the Lato Nord – a warm twist of gin with Cynar. Whisky buffs would like to order the Horse with No Name.
The wine list comes in at $7-12 for a glass and a boasts a healthy selection of bottles above and below $50. The server was friendly, helpful and astute in guiding our selection.
Dates. Did I mention the dates? Okay, here is the thing. I could eat the dates and only the dates with my Lato Nord and be fully sated. The rich, gooey fruit wrapped in bacon – dripped in sauce and topped with crisp, sliced almonds – are luscious, blending sweet to savoury, viscous to crisp to great effect. It is a shame that there are only three per $9 serving and I hope the kitchen reconsiders a more respectable four or five, which would only encourage me to order more to my table.
The menu features a dozen offerings that work well as shared dishes, ranging from $8–16. Among the most successful were the generous and well-seasoned steak tartar, the charred broccoli, the crisp potatoes, and the sweet, fruity melt-in-your-mouth scallops crudo (ceviche). The star, however, was the yams and chorizo – a creative selection proving the sum of combined ingredients: crunchy tortilla chips, cream and coriander – and will always elevate. Less successful, though respectable, were the falafel, lasagna and most unfortunately, the borscht and brisket where the absolutely beautiful meat was offset by a soup which to my taste was more bitter than sour.
Citizen delivers a casual, creative and quality dining experience. The staff on both visits enhanced the soirée with comfortable, professional service. See you again soon for date night!