Thursday, July 2, 2009

Savouring Sustainable Seafood in Ottawa

Before a recent trip to Ottawa, I asked around about restaurants serving up sustainable, local or organic fare. To my pleasant surprise, it turns out there are a lot of them in Ottawa, including a small seafood restaurant serving up sustainable fare. At the suggestion of FoodiePrints, I headed off to check it out.

The Whalesbone Oyster House is a tiny, rugged-looking but tastefully decorated little place located on Bank street. It is completely devoted to serving sustainable catches and is a member of the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program, a program that helps consumers identify restaurants serving sustainable seafood. (Wilfrid's Restaurant in the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa is also a member of Ocean Wise.) In addition to being its own restaurant, Whalesbone supplies fresh fish and seafood to several Ottawa area restaurants and hotels. It also offers a catering service.

Oysters are the obvious focal point Whalesbone. So while we browsed the menu, we sipped on an oyster Caesar, a basic Caesar served with a fresh oyster. We also ordered a couple of oysters to sample. Being new to oysters, our hostess suggesting trying an east coast and a west coast choice and foregoing the sauces so we could enjoy the full taste of the shellfish. The PEI Colville Bay oyster, our east coast choice, was sweet and subtle; whereas the west coast Outlandish Gems from BC were smaller, meatier and saltier. Now I understand why our server suggested enjoying the east coast ones first!

My friend opted for the catch of the day: east coast lobster. It was served without its shell on a bed of Swiss chard and delicate finger potatoes. The sauce was slightly sweet with just the right amount of butter and garlic. Since eating scallops is a very rare treat for me, I opted for the hand-picked Qualicum Beach scallops from Vancouver Island served over bitter greens, garlic sprouts, and a mixture of white beans and bacon. The scallops were large and perfectly seared. Their natural sweetness, augmented by a light maple sauce was a perfect compliment to the bitter greens. A truly brilliant combination.

Unfortunately, we only had a bit over an hour to dine, so we didn't have time to try their new sundae bar featuring Pascale's Natural Ice Cream. We also passed on the wine list, which is divided in light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied and sweet wines, making it easier to pair them with your meal. That's okay. We'll just have to go back!

Whalesbone Oyster House
430 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Head Chef: Charlotte Langley
Owner: Joshua Bishop

Dinner for two, including oysters and drinks ~ $100

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