Easter Weekend Part 1: A’roma Meze

Neither Rich or I celebrate Easter, but it is a good time to enjoy some wonderful food and drink, given that we have several days off in a row. For our first foodie experience of the long weekend, we decided to hit A’roma Meze, located downtown, in the space where Fiore once was. According to this article from the Ottawa Xpress, A’roma is owned by the same guy who ran Fiore, but wanted to return to his cultural roots. Whatever the reason for the change, I was glad to hear a potentially good Greek restaurant had opened in Ottawa, given that there are so few of them.

The place is pretty cute on the outside, and is comfortable without being stuffy on the inside. We had a table for four, and behind us was a table for six or eight, but it didn’t feel crowded in there at all.

We started with cocktails; our dinner companions got there a bit before we did, and were already half way through gin martinis when we arrived. I decided to join them and Rich ordered a Manhattan. Then we settled in with the menus, which are admittedly confusing for a first-time visitor, but easy to run with once you get the idea.

The wine menu was simple enough, but fairly extensive, so we went with a red Greek wine as recommended by both our server and our dinner companions. It was called Ampelou Gis, and was a mix of cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. Easy choice that went well with the food, so we were pleased.

As for ordering food, our server explained that the concept here is of sharing plates. Every plate is really designed to hold four small tastings of the food, so we were fortunate enough to have the perfect number at the table. Generally people will order two or three rounds of one plate per person, and then dessert if they are still hungry.

The food? Amazing. I don’t recall all the proper names for the dishes we ate, but I can tell you what we ordered:

First Round: Just some of the awesome flambeed cheese that came highly recommended by both the server and our dinner companions. They flambee it table-side, for full effect.
Second Round: Shrimp served with gnocci in a nice white wine cream sauce; Shrimp cooked with ouzo; Fresh figs served with foie gras and a candied walnut; Gigantes (giant lima beans) served in a tomato-herb sauce.
Third Round: A spinach-garlic dip with home-made pita, Deer served in a white juniperberry sauce; Yukon-gold fries with melted cheese and garlic aioli dip; skewers of sea bass cooked in olive oil and garlic and probably other spices I’ve forgotten; spanakopita.
Dessert: Two plates we all shared. One was called ‘My big fat Greek dessert’ and the other was ‘Heavenly Trio’. Both were so good. I recall there was yogurt with honey and nuts, baklava and halva, and three other things that were delicious but I don’t recall at the moment.

I had a taste of everything and can honestly say I’d order all the dishes again and would recommend them to others. Both shrimp dishes were perfectly done and well matched with their sauces, the skewers of sea bass were flaky and buttery, and even the old standbys like fries or spanakopita were impressive.

We were completely stuffed by the time that last dessert was finished. I think we probably could have gotten away with ordering one or two less plates and one less dessert and still have been full, but that would not have been as much fun.

Will we go back? Absolutely. I think I’ve found another favourite in Ottawa and we’ll probably frequent when we want something a little nicer and a little pricier than our usual haunts.

(239 Nepean Street in the Downtown core; 613-232-1377. Dinner for two with wine $100-$150, depending on how many plates you order.)

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