Ottawa's food scene in 2017: what's heating up, what's cooling down

Had enough of kale and beet salads? You're not alone. Two Ottawa restaurant critics have their say on trends they want to see more of in 2017 — and what should be dumped.

Had enough of kale and beet salads? You're not alone

(Shutterstock/Leonardo Izar)

Which trends do Ottawa foodies want to see more of in 2017, and what should be dumped?

Kent Van Dyk is a chef and high school culinary arts teacher who also reviews restaurants for CBC Radio's In Town and Out, which airs on Saturday mornings.

Anne DesBrisay is a restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine and author of the book Ottawa Cooks.

They were guests on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday to discuss what's coming up and what's on the way out in Ottawa's food and drink scene.

What needs to stop

DesBrisay thinks beet salads should be shown the door this year.

"Don't get me wrong. I could eat beets until the cows come home. It's just, I'm tired of a beet salad on every menu, honestly. Can we move on? I hear kohlrabi is the next big veg," she says.

Van Dyk, meanwhile, has had enough of kale salads.

"I'm a fan of cauliflower as the next big veg, an oft-maligned and underused vegetable that has lots of potential. I am getting a little tired of the ubiquitous kale salad. And I love kale, I eat kale salads a lot at home ... but every menu doesn't have to have a kale salad on it. There's lots of other interesting, dark leafy greens that are high in folic acids and good for you and very versatile, and I think we could explore a few of those here and there," he says.

Had enough of kale salads on restaurant menus? Kent Van Dyk sure has.

What's coming this year​

Both critics agree it's been exciting to see established chefs and restaurateurs — such as Stephen Beckta (Play Food & Wine, Gezellig, Beckta), Matt Carmichael and Jordan Holley (El Camino, Datsun, Riviera), Jon Svazas (Fauna, Bar Laurel) and Marc Doiron and Lori Wojcik (Town, Citizen) — continue to open new restaurants.

"There's more of that, I think we will see. That's exciting to see, that the next one will be for them, for sure," DesBrisay says.

"People are really interested in the provenance of where they're getting their food and where they're eating," Van Dyk adds.

Preventing food waste — by using beet greens in addition to the beet root, as one example — is another growing trend, DesBrisay says.

Listen to the full interview here.

About small plates and tapas

DesBrisay, from a "purely selfish perspective," says she likes small plates because they allow her to taste more dishes for her reviews.

"It allows me to go out, say, on my own and really taste what a chef is capable of, because I can have seven or eight little dishes rather than the traditional progression of starter, main, dessert ... and that's all I can eat, sadly."

But she says small plates menus can be confusing for people, and that it's annoying to have to get long-winded explanations about how the menus work.

Van Dyk, meanwhile, thinks some small plates and tapas places aren't doing a good enough job of honouring the Spanish tradition, which is supposed to be about low price points and bar food for drinking.

"I love tapas. I worked in Spain, I cooked in Spain. I feel like a lot of restaurants that want to be tapas restaurants have never been to Spain and don't know what tapas are because they are small bites of salty, fried food that are very inexpensive that go with alcohol and drinking and revelry," he said. "And when you go to a tapas restaurant and spend $17 on your tapas, that's not the point of it.

"I'm an authenticity person. I don't mind people taking world influences and applying them in bits and pieces ... but if you're going to do ethnic cuisine, make sure you're being true to the actual cuisine and you know what you're doing and you're not just dabbling."

New foodie haunts on the horizon

Both DesBrisay and Van Dyk are excited for Marc Lepine's new restaurant (he's the guy behind successful Atelier). Lepine has been tight-lipped about it.

Citizen, from the team behind the popular Elgin Street eatery Town, just opened Thursday. It has a focus on world-influenced, high-end bar food.

Stella Luna is opening up a second location in Hintonburg.