Bus: OC Transpo 2, 14
Visit: July 10, 2014
Every city has their fine dining options and the restaurants that pattern themselves after that formula. These days, you don’t have to put on a tie to eat at these places and that opens up a world of possibilities for people like me. The place that you definitely need to keep an eye on in the city of Ottawa is Absinthe Cafe.
My recent day trip to Ottawa was a fruitful one, as I started off with possibly one of the top places to have a burger in Chez Lucien. But, as good as that burger was, that wasn’t the main reason for the trip. This brings me to Absinthe Cafe, a restaurant that has been on the top of my list of places to visit for quite a while.
I made my way into the restaurant a little bit after opening and once again, I was delayed due to traffic. The worry was that with the traffic, that I wouldn’t get a table. Well, that disappeared when I happened to be the first person in the place. As time passed, a few other tables showed up and business picked up.
If there was one thing that I can take away from this visit, it would be the service. The day before, I experienced pretty awful service. This was a new day and another visit, so I couldn’t dwell on that. From the second I walked in, I felt like the most important person in the place. High marks go to both the servers who were working that evening. When a dish showed up to the table, it was carefully described, something I haven’t seen done in a long time. I had the chance to observe the other server and with that, the level of professionalism was quite impressive.
Chilled Asparagus Velouté with a Fennel/Asparagus Salsa ($7)
To begin with, I had the soup. The fact that it was chilled was different for me. I never had a cold soup like this in the past and this was quite the experience. With that fact, you could really taste the asparagus and nothing was bland.
Benevolent Burger ($23)
Before I get to the food, I can’t go on any further without mentioning the main reason I had to have this burger. You’ll notice the fine print and since 2011, Absinthe has donated a dollar to Cornerstone Housing for Women with each burger that it sold. I’ll stop right there, as there is no other reason you need to order the burger.
The burger normally comes with two sides. So, you get a salad and a poutine. They were gracious enough to hold the salad, as I don’t think I could have eaten all that. The poutine includes pieces of bacon and mushrooms. It should be noted that the server informed me that all the dishes were made from scratch.
With the delivery of the burger and poutine to the table, I had a little banter with the server. Since I’m from the province of poutine, I would be a harsh critic. The server assured me that the chef/owner took his poutine very seriously. With the curds, you could tell that the poutine wasn’t half bad. The pieces of bacon and mushroom were generous. The sauce was the only thing I didn’t really get much from, but the other ingredients made up for that.
This burger contains lettuce, an onion ring, a thousand island sauce, cheddar, and house smoked bacon.
My first impressions of the burger when it arrived to the table was somewhat a surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to be as small as it was. Then again, my definition of small might differ from normal human beings. Also, I was intrigued by the additional piece of bread which easily reminds you of a Big Mac.
When you take a bite of the burger, you do get the feeling that the burger was designed after the Big Mac. After that very first bite, that’s where the comparisons end. You have the bacon, which provided the punch you needed. I could taste just how good it was. The sauce was also pretty good.
In the view of ingredients I didn’t get much of, I only just realized now, while writing this, that there was an onion ring. I think it’s just a testament to how good the other components were. The sauce and bacon were the stars. The meat patty let me down a bit, as I found it a little too well done. Since the other ingredients were good, my disappointment in the patty was subdued.
After all the anticipation, the burger wasn’t half bad. While I might have made it to be more than what it was, I was glad to have completed it. The fact that the dollar is donated to a charitable cause makes it a burger that you must try. Even without that fact, I wouldn’t mind trying that burger again.
I found this line on the bill to be quite amusing and that’s all I’ll say.
My visit to Absinthe was, by far, one of the most comfortable ones of 2014. The service was top notch and the food wasn’t too far behind. They’ve been in business for just over ten years now and I’m sure they’ll be an important part of the nation’s capital for a long time to come.