Throughout the year, Apartment613 will be partnering with the National Arts Centre to bring you restaurant reviews by musicians who are part of the new all-Canadian NAC Presents concert series. In this edition, we sent wife-and-husband duo Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet of Whitehorse to a classic Ottawa haunt: The Green Door Restaurant. And each wrote their own review! How nice.
The next NAC Presents review will be by noted Canadian singer-songwriter Danny Michel, who will be playing the NAC Studio on March 27-28.
|By Luke DoucetThe first rule of healthy eating on the road is basic: stay away from restaurants. They use more salt and sugar than anyone’s grandma and more butter and fat than anyone’s mémère. Yet, for us, avoiding restaurants is as realistic as avoiding dressing rooms, airports or hotels — that is, it’s impossible. Even when we have a few days off in a row and a rented apartment with a kitchen to “play house” in, we still struggle to put together a decent meal that won’t give us diabetes. We rarely have the basic kitchen staples (garlic, ginger, cooking oils, etc.) at our disposal unless we buy them for every use. And when we do buy a kitchen’s worth of staples for a single meal, it’s out of resigned frustration with how our musical lifestyle affects our diet.
So it makes sense that Ottawa’s Green Door Restaurant has been a destination spot for us for a number of years. This humble little vegetarian buffet might seem like a strange priority for two road weary travellers, but the combination of healthy options and the “choose your own adventure” menu has made it a rare oasis in the great desert of culinary monotony that’s the rock and roll road.
Broccoli and tofu stir-fry
Similar to what you might find in most Chinese restaurants, but it lacked the ginger kick I’m accustomed to. I don’t mind the simplicity; the broccoli was cooked perfectly (almost undercooked, in fact) so the crunch factor wasn’t reduced to a limp squeak. I would have enjoyed more flavour but to be able to load my plate up with the perfect portion of this iron-and-vitamin-C-rich super veg was perfectly satisfying.
Like the broccoli, the spicy parsnip wasn’t so spicy. Parsnips have enough flavour as it is, though, and the light tomato garlic sauce didn’t overpower. Again, extra points for not cooking the bejesus out of the poor things.
Cuban black turtle beans
A simple bean dish is hard to come by in restaurants. Some Mexican restaurants will serve them without refrying them (in the US, you are commonly given a choice — in Canada, not so much). I’m not sure what made this dish Cuban — perhaps the fact it was “light on the spice,” which was certainly a popular culinary strategy on my last visits to Cuba.
Your basic side dish pile of mashed yams. Not much to say; they were a bit watery, but I did enjoy the hint of cinnamon, if that was what it was.
Beets and carrots
If there’s one dish that defines the Green Door for me, it’s this one. I appreciate that the beet dish they used to feature is gone — not because I didn’t enjoy it, but rather because beets are heavy and inexpensive, making them a poor choice in a pay-by-the-weight establishment. The new beet offering is a shredded beet salad essentially, one that includes a dash of carrot (not sure why) and more importantly, is generously seasoned with dill. This is the one dish where I felt they really committed to a flavour.
As cheesecakes go, replacing real dairy with tofu is a tough sell. Today, I don’t really mind since I’d normally avoid heavy desserts while training (seven weeks till the Boston Marathon!) so the chance to lift a fork full of what at least bears a resemblance to cheesecake is enough to give me a bit of a thrill. I’m a fan of tart fruits and berries, and the consistency of tofu was pleasant — if not quite as decadent as real cheese.
|By Melissa McClellandThe Green Door is my vegetarian restaurant of yesteryear. When I was 18 and first discovering the joys of vegetarianism, the culinary options I had available to me were few and far between.
Much like Le Commensal in Toronto and Montreal, Green Door offers buffet style, pay-by-the-weight, vegetarian fare. As an 18-year-old, nothing went better with my Value Village threads than my plate piled high with the tastiest-yet light-as-a-feather options (pro tip: always leave the weighty roasted beets behind to save a few pennies).
While I’ve outgrown the Green Door’s cafeteria-style setting, I still love to enjoy it from time to time. I guiltily admit I’m one among the foodie herd; I love deliberating over a scrumptious menu, choosing from a wine list, listening to the attractive waiter tell me the specials, and then making him repeat them again. So while the Green Door falls flat when it comes to being fashionable, it’s also refreshing to just grab my cafeteria tray and getting in line with the rest of the hippies. As Luke’s mom would say, “No fuss. Nothing fancy. Simple, simple, simple.” Amen, Twinkle.*
Tofu and broccoli
I am a broccoli addict. It is my champion vegetable by far. And the only way you can truly ruin a broccoli floret is by overcooking it — so thank you, Green Door, for not overcooking your broccoli. Pairing it with some fried tofu cubes and teriyaki sauce makes this nutrient-deprived musician is one happy road warrior.
Nothing spectacular about this quiche, but I certainly gobbled it up. I’m not even really sure what was in it, and it certainly didn’t have some crazy twist of a secret hipster ingredient like faux bacon or Jon Oates’ mustache shavings. No, just your standard quiche, and I’m grateful for it.
They really could have put more effort into this caesar salad — like a punch of garlic, maybe. I heard one of the cooks shout from the back that it’s all made with love. I appreciate the sentiment, but surely love tastes better than this?
For me, dessert often looks better then it tastes (salty girl that I am) but I never fail to succumb to the alluring optics. The spread of sweets at the buffet was way too overwhelming for me, so I asked the woman behind the counter to point out her favorite. The answer? Rice pudding. Sure, it’s not the flashiest of desserts (and I’ll spare you the photo) but I do in fact enjoy a good bowl of rice pudding. And this brown slop actually tasted pretty good, especially paired with the dried fruit and fresh-made whipped cream. So don’t be fooled by the majestic chocolate cake…it’s slop all the way!
*yes, Luke’s mom’s name is Twinkle