Town and Oz were followed by El Camino, Datsun then Pure and Whalesbone opened branches; Elgin Street is experiencing a full-on foodie renaissance, and its latest contender comes in the arrival of new-to-Ottawa gem .
The restaurant, which opened several weeks ago, is part of wider collective aptly named that includes the Common Concept Shop next door, Le Petit Salon, and the Eatery itself. The Eatery only opens in the evening, operating as Morning Owl coffee during the day. The idea is for it to be an inclusive experience, and what a pleasure it is to amble over to browse fashions between courses.
The Eatery, fronted by a glass wall overlooking the pedestrian-favorite strip, is casual urban-chic with impressively simple design details. Polished mahogany chairs flank long shared tables, and a bar runs down one side of the restaurant with brushed gold stools from which you can watch mixologists and chefs work their craft. White walls are minimally adorned by internationally renowned graffiti artists (wow!) while oversized wheel-lights hang heavily overhead, creating a relaxed loft/resto effect. Even the well-appointed toilets get some clever art that carries the ambiance gracefully throughout.
To the fare: skillfully constructed drinks, paired with a delicate yet ferociously flavoursome menu served at a price point reflective of Montreal and Toronto rather than Ottawa’s frequently overvalued offerings.
The cocktails ($9-13) are creative, colourful and complex. With quality ingredients and skilled staff, a well mixed, artistically presented concoction is assured. There is a range of beers and ciders from $5-$8, a limited yet reasonable wine list and a flute of Veuve Cliquot (hurrah) is an absolute snip at $8.
The menu’s shared dishes are handsomely presented: as much a treat to the eyes as to the palate. The varied flavours include seafood offerings, Asian bites, a Caribbean salad, southern vs Korean ribs and a fantastically artistic tenderloin.
Firm favourites around our table include the vegan Flashed Wontons ($6) –large stuffed wontons with a rich, even meaty, texture – a lovely and generous shared starter. The Toke salad ($8) offers a burst of fresh flavours with jicama fragrantly sweetened by mango and peppered nappa enhanced with a chilli-ginger vinaigrette and topped with crisp wontons and nuts – conclusion: we could eat a salad bowl full of this outstanding dish, we’ll be back for more and surely trying to recreate a version at home.
Squid Ink Ravioli ($12) gets full marks for presentation but was one of the less overwhelming plates with the lobster filling needing greater seasoning. However, the Crab Cakes ($11) were a resounding win, making this late 90’s dish a new star for 2016 in Ottawa. Each delicately fried bite was rich with luxurious crab meat and the accompanying aromatically flavoured mayo was a perfect complement. The Scotch Egg ($6), light, gooey, and topped with chorizo, was one of the best I have had in the capital. A meaty challenge, the 2-Way Ribs ($12) pitted Louisiana vs Korea in double-header that will delight any carnivore.
If this first visit is anything to go by – and we will be back to ensure the extraordinary quality and price point remain – then rest assured that Common Eatery is uncommonly brilliant and an outstanding choice for a quality evening.