No. 46: Fairouz
343 SOMERSET STREET WEST, OTTAWA, ONTARIO
WITH ITS MODERN, SOPHISTICATED TAKE ON THE CUISINE OF THE MIDDLE EAST, FAIROUZ IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO HAPPEN TO OTTAWA’S FOOD SCENE IN YEARS.
It honours the long-gone Lebanese restaurant of the same name and address, but there’s no sign of Fairouz the first in either the look or the food. The brick frame of the old Somerset Street house remains, but inside all is chic and pretty. The white rooms have been opened up, and the light plays off mirrors and chandeliers, carved Moorish screens and sparkly splashes of turquoise. In the kitchen is chef Walid El-Tawel. His last work in Ottawa was at the venerable Restaurant E18hteen on York Street. With this second Fairouz, his focus is on the food of the Middle East, the flavours of his childhood. Dinner should begin with bread. Here, the pita comes out all plump and puffy, studded with cumin seed.
There are gutsy dips to go along, in portions meant for sharing. A Turkish-style spoon salad is a pretty mound of flavour and crunch, brightened with sumac and mint. Vegetables are treated with reverence. So are the rice dishes, meant to go with things, but good enough and interesting enough to order on their own. But the triumph is anything done with lamb, including a tartare with harissa boldness, tempered with the juicy pop of pomegranate and a tart gelée of hibiscus flower. The wine list is short and well-priced, with interesting choices from Niagara and Lebanon, and there’s a small collection of creative cocktails and mocktails. The service is kind and knows its stuff.
Tuesday to Friday
11:30 AM until 1:30 PM
Tuesday to Thursday
5:30 PM until 10:30 PM
5:30 PM until 11:00 PM
IMAGES COURTESY OF FAIROUZ