Friday, June 25, 2010

*UPDATED* Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010

*UPDATED* with Lucy's comments in lavender.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 4
You can find these ribs at the 2010 International Chicken-Rib Cook-Off in Ottawa in the next two days. Sunday (June 27th) is the last day, by the way, so get dressed and go get some!

We went down to the smoke-filled Sparks Street earlier today and bought a few orders of ribs. We started lining up around 5:00 PM, so the flocks of tourists hadn’t yet arrived. The crowd was predominantly federal government employees picking up Friday night dinner. The longest line-up was about 15 minutes for Uncle Sam’s and the Silver Bullet.

Then we took a ride down the Ottawa River Parkway and stopped at the Deschenes Rapids (the last place you can park your car before the Parkway ends). We only went to four places for ribs: Silver Bullet, Billy Bones, Uncle Sam, and Camp 31.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 1
A full rack of ribs with a side of coleslaw and beans from Silver Bullet.

Lucy's comment: Over the past few years, Silver Bullet is probably my favourite lunch. The ribs were very tender and lean, making it very easy to eat. The sauce was the sweetest in comparison with the others, which also meant that their beans were super dark (in colour) and sweet. The smoky flavour was wonderful, permeating the meat to the bone. The stall was generating huge plumes of smoke while I waited in line. Overall, it’s a solid rack of ribs, and the flavours won’t offend your palate unless you can’t stand a sweet sauce.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 2
Ribs and pulled pork combo from Billy Bones. The pulled pork was really sweet. After two bites, I couldn't eat anymore.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 3
Half a rack of ribs from Billy Bones.

I actually don’t remember much about this one. The meat was rather tough, so it involved more chewing action than the other ribs. The sauce was sweet and spicy but it balanced well with the other flavours. I thought the pulled pork had an excessive amount of sauce. I would have liked it more if they added half as much sauce and offered the other half on the side. If I had known how delicious the sauce was going to be, I would have definitely bought a few bottles of it for myself.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 6
Full rack of ribs with coleslaw and beans from Uncle Sam. The first image in this post is also from Uncle Sam.

These ribs were fall off the bone tender, but they were also ridiculously fatty. The grease really put me off when I looked at my hands and saw the grease and not the sauce. The sauce was standard – nothing was offensive. The beans were rather bland, so I ate them with the beans from Silver Bullet. It actually rounded out all of the flavours quite nicely!

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 5
Half a rack of ribs with coleslaw and beans from the defending champions of the best ribs, Camp 31.

At first, I was skeptical of the ribs from Camp 31. Where would the flavour be hiding if there’s barely any sauce on it? It was amazing. The meat was lean, and the flavour was strong. There was a harmonious balance of sweet, savoury, tangy, and smoky flavours in each bite. We were quite disappointed that we only bought half a rack, but that meant we were fighting over the ribs, making it taste even sweeter with victory, MUAHAHAHA! This was also easy to eat, leaving us wanting more.

Lucy, Jimmy, Richard, Andrew, and I have collectively agreed that the best ribs came from two places...
The best "wet" ribs came from Billy Bones.
The best "dry" ribs came from Camp 31.

We couldn't name an overall winner because they were two different styles. Billy Bones' sauce was awesome! No wonder they've won the award of the best sauce, at this competition, these past two years. Camp 31 were very gutsy by not using any sauce, but hey, the meat was full of flavour. No wonder they are the three-time defending champs of the best ribs and BBQ sauce.

Update: Camp 31 has successfully won the best ribs and sauce again.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 7
There's also one lemonade stand (Alabama's Freshly Squeezed Lemonade) on Sparks Street, which is alright. We packed some drinks in our cooler this time. Last year, there were two younger guys running this stand. I was surprised not to see them there anymore. They must not have sold enough last year.

If you aren't familiar with these sorts of competitions, all I can say is bring an empty stomach, cash, and patience.

Ottawa's Chicken-Ribfest 2010 - 8
The prices for all of the different competitors look similar to Silver Bullet's prices.

Last reminder, Ottawa's ribfest ends this Sunday! I'd suggest you go for lunch instead of dinner. Even though it looks like we'll be getting rain this weekend, it's worth lining up for. For some tips on how to prepare yourself for the event, check out my list here.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father's Day Sushi - June 20th, 2010

Word has gone around Ottawa that Hockey Sushi has amazing sushi. But after our lunch, we disagree.

While my parents arrive in Paris, Lucy, Jimmy, Richard, Andrew and I are left wondering what to have for lunch. Pizza, pho, dim sum, and Indian food all came up as choices. Instead, we settled on Hockey Sushi. Yes, it was Father's Day and we were aware that we'd probably have to wait a bit longer, but what we went through was not fun.

Once seated, we began filling in our order form for Round 1...

Father's Day Sushi 1
A bowl of miso soup for everyone (Jimmy had two).

Father's Day Sushi 2
A piece of salmon nigiri and spicy salmon roll was ordered to gauge their rice and the rice to fish ratio. The rice was seasoned well, but the slice of salmon was too thin.

Father's Day Sushi 4
Cucumber rolls were ordered to help "cleanse our palate". I know there were a lot of people in the restaurant, but that doesn't mean you have to send out these. One of the first things that popped into my head was, 'that's so sloppy'.

Father's Day Sushi 5
A large plate of our sushi rolls arrived. Notice how thinly they packed the rice? Spicy salmon, spicy tuna, California rolls and shrimp tempura were some of the rolls on the plate.

Father's Day Sushi 6
Shrimp and sweet potato tempura arrived after the plate of rolls. Andrew's piece of shrimp tempura contained a very small piece of shrimp. The sweet tempura was alright. I felt like our order sat on the counter for 5 minutes too long.

Round 2:

Father's Day Sushi 7
The fried tofu we ordered wasn't what I expected. I thought it was going to be agedashi tofu, but alas, it wasn't. It was okay after we put soy sauce and a bit of the tempura dipping sauce.

Father's Day Sushi 8
Another big plate of sushi containing salmon, shrimp tempura, crunchy (tempura bits), and spicy salmon rolls.

Father's Day Sushi 9
These deep fried breaded scallops were okay.

Father's Day Sushi 10
I needed this stir fried udon with chicken. I needed a filler. The udon was actually slightly smoky. The sauce that they used for this stir fry dish was slightly sweet, but I needed a bit of sodium, so I dunked some udon in the soy sauce.

Father's Day Sushi 11
The last dish of the second round was a fish egg salad, which Jimmy wanted to try. It looked like coleslaw with some fish roe. I thought it was pretty funny.

We had our scoops of ice cream for dessert, paid the bill and left. We were at the restaurant for about two hours, most of it was spent waiting for some service. You'd think that because it was Father's Day weekend, that the restaurant would bring in more staff to serve the rush of customers. But no, the 4 waiters and however many kitchen staff were all overwhelmed - thus the long wait times. The kitchen was a bit slow to get out orders, which slowed down the turnover. It's too bad people had to wait so long for their food. We watched one table wait over 30 minutes for a savoury dish, only to arrive a few minutes before their ice cream.

I'm not sure why people are so in love with this sushi place. True, this was our first time there, and it was Father's Day. But what happened to quality control? We were all disappointed with lunch. We had a pretty fun time at the restaurant, but that was only because we were there too long - so long, in fact, that we all became hysterical. We'll have to give Hockey Sushi a try again to give a fair assessment, but it's not looking good.



Hockey Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ottawa's Ribfest... Starting Soon! (Updated)

Just a heads up to everyone who loves ribs in the Ottawa valley: the 2010 International Chicken-Rib Cook-Off begins in just two days!

Lucy and I will definitely be heading down for a visit or two.. or more. We hope you can come out for some chicken and ribs, too! Here's what we had last year.

Two days everyone!

Updated on Friday, June 25th, 2010:
Check out our thoughts on this year's competition HERE.

Sea King Dim Sum - June 6th, 2010

Sea King restaurant is a relatively new to me, but it has quickly risen up to be one of the top Chinese restaurants in Ottawa. The consistency of their cooks and the decent priced menu have been attracting people for a few years.

We had relatives over from France recently and had brought them out for some dim sum. Here's some of the spread:

Dim Sum at Sea King 1
The pork siu mai was juicy and didn't have too many shiitake mushrooms chunks, which I liked.

Dim Sum at Sea King 2
The shrimp siu mai was okay. I've had better shrimp siu mai elsewhere, where the shrimps were plump with sweet juices, but maybe we just had an off day. These tasted better with their hot sauce and tasty soy sauce. Their soy sauce is similar to the ones found at Yangtze and Chu Shing - perfect for dim sum and noodles that need a bit of extra boost in the flavour department.

Dim Sum at Sea King 3
I didn't have the lo mai gai, but Lucy looked like she enjoyed them.

Dim Sum at Sea King 4
The plate of the beef and vegetable fried rice noodles (aka 'my noodles'). There was enough wok hei, the beef wasn't over tenderized, and the vegetables were cooked perfectly. Only the flavour of the sauce was lacking. I unfortunately had to resort to adding a bit of soy sauce.

Dim Sum at Sea King 5
The shrimp rice noodle rolls weren't that impressive. The shrimps just weren't that plump and juicy - just like the siu mai. We had the beef noodle rolls as well, but there was nothing special about them. One of my younger cousins said that Sea King makes the rice noodle rolls with the youtiao, but we sadly forgot to order it.

Dim Sum at Sea King 6
The last thing that arrived at our table was the deep fried taro dumplings. We had to wait quite long for these, but once the two plates were on our table, they were quickly devoured. These weren't that great that day.

Overall, dim sum was okay. Our whole family started eating around 1:30pm, though, so I want to go back and try their dim sum while it's their lunch rush. Also, the 'kids' table was in the back corner of the restaurant, whereas the table for the elders/guests was located right beside the hallway to the kitchen. That meant that the other table had first pick whenever a dim sum cart came out. The way the tables were layed out towards the back of the restaurant, we were pretty much trapped in by a smaller table. There was an attentive waitress that noticed this. She came over and told us that she could take our order, which was impressive. Other than her, the service wasn't great.
Oh man, I could go for some dim sum right about now...



Sea King on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quick Update

It's been a while, but it's time to get back to our blogging groove. I'm baaaack!

Let's look back and what we've done so far:

Toronto Trip: April 28th - 29th, 2010

At the end of April, Lucy and Jimmy came down to help move the rest of my things back home. We went to the Northern Dumpling Kitchen again. Lucy had been craving the chicken dumplings since our last visit. Heheee! If you're in the Toronto area, this is the place to go for dumplings

Lucy and I could've been happy with just soup dumplings (xiao long bao) and the pan-fried chicken dumplings, but since Jimmy was here, we needed more at the table. Jimmy did the ordering. A bowl of dan dan noodles for himself, a plate of Shanghai noodles, and two portions of both the soup dumplings and chicken dumplings.

Jimmy didn't enjoy the bowl of noodles at all. The soup was so-so. The noodles were overdone. There was just not enough flavour. For someone who usually consumes everything, Jimmy was not able to finish the bowl. In fact, he didn't even attempt to.


Soon after his bowl of noodles arrived, the plate of Shanghai noodles came. The dish had a slight smokiness. The shrimps were plump, juicy, and sweet. The shredded cabbages, carrots, and finely sliced wood ear mushrooms added a nice crunch - perfect contrast to the soft noodles. One thing I appreciate about the restaurant is that the cooks have a light hand in seasoning this plate of noodles. There's just enough salt for it not to be bland, which makes the flavour and texture of everything else much more important. The plate of rice cakes that I've had were seasoned the same way. Very gutsy!

I think the term for the smokiness to the noodles is wok hei. For those who don't know, you need a really hot wok and quick hands to achieve this. You can actually see the wok hei in some cases. Look for some dark bits around the edges of the noodles. Here are some examples:

My noodles @ the House of Gourmet: here

Rice cakes @ Northern Dumpling Kitchen: here
Lucy's Toronto Vacation15

Out came the delicious soup dumplings from the kitchen.


Just look how fat they are. That's hot!

As expected, the soup dumplings were very tasty. I have only one knock against this particular batch. I found the soup filling a bit too oily this time. Not enough broth. But hey, these are still better than the ones you find at Din Tai Fung.

Last, but not least, the chicken dumplings!


Uh... yeah. It was a heartbreaker when they arrived. Lucy and I were expecting the giant golden-fried chicken dumplings, but staring back at us innocently was a plate of steamed chicken dumplings. I definitely cried on the inside. For those who have tasted the pan-fried version, you know what I'm talking about.

It just wasn't the same. The smaller steamed chicken dumplings weren't as flavourful and outstanding as its pan-fried sibling. It was definitely a disappointment. The reason we had ordered the steamed version was that when we hyped the chicken dumplings up, we never mentioned that they were the pan-fried version. Or maybe we did... in any case, we now know for next time. =]

Overall, dinner at the Northern Dumpling Kitchen was a success. Yummy cheap food is always a plus. I will definitely be bringing my parents up here the next time we visit Toronto.

The next day, we dropped by Mr. Sun's former location for lunch. With low expectations, the three of us went inside and sat by the window. We had to order the Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Moreover, just in case it was another big letdown, I ordered the pork spare rib noodle soup to share with Lucy. We ordered some little fillers as well; pan fried dumplings and green onion pancakes.


Jimmy's bowl of Taiwanese beef noodle soup tasted okay. It was much better than the last time the two of them tried it, though. Two steps back, one step forward. I still loved the beef chunks. So tender and full of flavour!


The pork spare rib noodle soup broth was different. This was more like a broth than soup. The mustard greens that were on top of the bowl had a bit too much sesame oil and overpowered the balance of flavours. The pork spare ribs weren't as tender as I hoped and didn't really taste like anything.



The green onion pancakes weren't very good. They weren't very crispy and didn't have the layers. These were definitely frozen ones. The dumplings were a disappointment as well. I don't know why we even thought about ordering this, as we just had the best dumplings the night before. We paid the bill and headed back to Ottawa after we dropped by to pick up some drinks at T&T and bubble tea at Assamiea's Ten Ren.

Mirage still has some tweaking to do, but until then, it will still be a kid trying on their mother's stilettos.


Random Italian: May 23rd, 2010

Richard randomly craved pasta and made a large pot of 'spaghetti' sauce in two hours. After fixing Richard's sauce (roughly crushing the meatballs, so that the some juice is in the sauce, adjusting the seasoning), all that was left was for the pasta. A package of linguine was cooked and strained off. A bit of oil/butter, to make sure the pasta didn't dry out, and all that was left was to fix your own serving.


The accompanying bread was homemade. My mom had made some dough for pizza, but I couldn't help but think that it would make a great garlicky cheese bread for the pasta. Playing around with the temperature too often created a thick crust that wasn't that desirable. If only we had some Italian wedding soup to go with this.

A bit of parmesan and it was ready to be consumed.


That's what the "kids" of the house can make on a whim. I hope this inspires you to cook something unplanned with your siblings, friends, and/or family.



Northern Dumpling Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mirage Noodle House
4186 Finch Avenue East, Unit 25
Scarborough, ON
*Cash Only

Ten Ren's Tea Time on Urbanspoon


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