Where do I begin? Andrew, our youngest brother, and I planned to go downtown to meet up with Lucy for lunch. Richard was invited by declined to complete our sibling quartet. We arrived early to ensure that we'd have a choice of everything available at the food trucks and stands. We got their a little too early and got hungry, so we tucked into the Olly Fresco's Market inside L'Esplanade for a little appetizer.
Holy! It took every ounce of self discipline not to splurge and buy and eat everything in sight. There were pierogies with sautéed onions and bacon in their buffet pans, a few kinds of soups, lots of sandwiches, and sweets. Everything looked so good. I walked around and took it all in -- the sights I mean. I'll be returning for lunch in the future. Walking around that beautiful place while hungry was a bad mistake. In the end, Andrew and I shared a pastrami sandwich on a toasted sesame seed bagel.
There were a few spots that were burned, but other than that, it was a great snack. It made us feel less antsy. I picked up a few desserts for later too. There's a date square, a red berries square (I say it's raspberry, someone else said it was strawberry rhubarb, so we'll just generalize and call it red berries), and a piece of carrot cake.
After our snack, I went to get some cash on Sparks Street, while Andrew went to pick up some dolla drinks at McD. I had planned to grab some lobster mac and cheese from the Ad Mare food truck, but by the time I returned from the bank, they were sold out. My fault. Andrew and I met back up at the Streat Gourmet food truck on O'Connor and Albert.
Based on what I've read and seen first hand, Streat Gourmet's menu changes daily. The chef, Ben Baird, is constantly tweaking and experimenting to cater to more people. I admire him for that. It takes guts but he clearly knows what he's doing. Despite not having a regular dish on the menu, he's always keeping it interesting. Some of the main offerings in the past have included things like peameal bacon sandwiches, tacos, tandoori salmon burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and soups. Dessert options he's offered has been things like butterscotch pudding with bananas, graham crumbs, Streat cinnamon buns, cookies, donuts, and rhubarb upside down cake with whipped cream. Lots of variety.
When we arrived, they had the roast beef with potato roesti, horseradish gravy, with a salad of spinach and carrot ribbons. Andrew wanted to grab something else, so we continued to walk.
We met up with Lucy at the Bap by Raon Kitchen stand on Bank Street (between Albert and Slater). As their name suggests, they serve a Korean mixed rice (could be a mix with other grains too) dish called bibimbap.
For the protein choices, they offer tofu, beef bulgogi, spicy pork or spicy chicken. You choose to have all the toppings like egg, veggies and kimchi, or you can adjust it to your taste by telling them to leave stuff out.
Once they finish making your bibimbap, you can personalize your bowl furthermore by adding some toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, and gochujang (aka Korean red pepper paste or Korean spicy sauce, as it says on the label). I'm not sure if other people like having to dress their meals themselves, but we love it because then we can adjust it to our taste.
If you aren't familiar with seasoning your bibimbap, I recommend using only a few drops of sesame oil, a few swirls of the gochujang, and a few shakes of sesame seeds. Soy sauce isn't necessary, in my opinion.
There was a bit of a line but it was moving steadily. Lucy went with the tofu bibimbap, while Andrew took the beef bulgogi route. We took our lunches and retreated indoors to a nearby food court to enjoy.
My lunch from the Streat Gourmet food truck was still warm when we began to eat. The tender slices of roast beef sat on top of the potato roesti, which was a potato pancake, was quite enjoyable. As a gravy snob who loves gravy made with pan drippings and fond (the sticky caramelized stuff left on a tray after baking), I was disappointed with the gravy. I couldn't taste the horseradish at all. The gravy, which was packed in a small cup, also had a slight sweetness. I kept going back to it throughout the lunch because I tried to like it. In the end, I left the rest of the gravy alone. The final element of the lunch was the spinach and carrot ribbon salad. The salad was crunchy and the simple vinaigrette cut through the heavy flavours really well. Despite the gravy letdown, lunch was great. Other than the gravy, I finished everything -- before Lucy and Andrew even finished eating -- which is unheard of! (I'm the slowest eater of the family.)
Andrew dressed his bibimbap with all the toppings. Once he mixed everything and tucked into his lunch, he mentioned that he would've loved to add less soy sauce and more gochujang if he could redo it. Lucy used everything but the soy sauce and happily devoured her bowl of bibimbap, with the help of the Streat salad.
It's only the second season for a lot of the food trucks/stands, so they're still working out the kinks. Even if there are bumps along the way, I'll try to support them. You should too. Go Ottawa!
Olly Fresco's (Located inside L'Esplanade Laurier Building)
181 Bank Street