I am just home from my Ottawa 22-hour 'Staycation' with the ladies. We gathered together downtown Friday at 3:00 pm (check-in time) and started the activities in suite with a quick launch into our own version of Happy Hour. Or as it turned out, Happy 3 and Half Hours, complete with flavoured soda water for the thirsty/healthy crowd, wines, cheese and crackers and other nibbles.
One of our fellow consorts, only joining us for the dinner portion of the party, came by to taxi us to the Market. Our destination of choice was Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, an aboriginal inspired restaurant at 108 Murray Street in the Byward Market.
Chef/co-owner, Warren Sutherland, was one of the 10 contenders for the Gold Medal Plates competition in Ottawa in October 2009. A prestigious experience to be short-listed, I am sure. All that to say we sensed that we were in good hands. Warren works the restaurant with his wife, Phoebe Sutherland also chef/co-owner.
Because we were deeply engaged in socializing and 'catching up', I barely noticed much about the decor, except that it was not brightly lit. I tried to take some pictures of my friends but found the lighting was beyond my photography skills, so I quickly abandoned the camera, as documentation of our time together was not first and foremost on my agenda.
We were promptly served 2 bowls of popcorn in wooden parquet salad bowls. I was taken aback as the popcorn was a bit burnt and actually tasted a bit stale. I read on the Ottawa Foodies site of two similar popcorn comments for this restaurant. And we seem to feel uniformly that they are somehow 'messing' with us but not sure how or why. It was all very odd.
The popcorn was followed by a bannock bread bun with whipped herb butter.
I quite enjoyed our server. She was so patient with our many questions, informative in the details of the menu, flavours, food preparation and portion management. Her steely but oh so pleasant demeanor lead us aptly to confident decisions. I only regret that I didn't remember her name because I would love to publicly acknowledge her.
The menu is set up as Starters, In Betweens and Mains. And once we figured out the rules of engagement and how to manage our portions to hunger level, we became reasonably decisive.
The choices selected in Starters were the Soup of the Day (Vegetable and Barley) and Gathering Nations Salad.
The choices selected in In Betweens were Mahnoomin and Duck Spring Rolls and Wabush (Rabbit) and Spring Onion Risotto.
The choices selected for the Mains were the Wild Sustainable Caught Pickerel and the Awazibi Maple Glazed Roasted Wild Boar.
There had been a pre-plan for at least one dessert and the rest were with pause. But when the time came to commit, we all teamed up against Warren’s Jamaican Rum Bread Pudding served warm with butterscotch ice cream and caramel sauce. The serving size was handsome and everyone enjoyed a solid taste of what proved to be a wonderful dessert.
Again, still quite fixated on 'girl' conversation, there wasn't much 'food' talk. Though, I did note low level moans on those working the Spring Rolls, Risotto and Pickerel dishes. I know this doesn't make for a meaty restaurant review but in some back-handed way, I think it speaks well of our gastronomic experience.
Closing comments of the group as we headed to the car, was that the food was quite enjoyable and all felt they had good value for money. I am not sure that individually this restaurant would have been sought out by any in this crowd, but I had heard such positive things about Warren Sutherland and Sweetgrass, that I just had to give it a try. Being prime Staycation organizer gave me some privilege on setting our in-Ottawa getaway agenda. I am glad it worked out so well.