Dinner at Westboro’s Village Cafe

Posted in Ottawa, restaurants

Candice and I went to the Village Cafe for dinner last night, in part to celebrate her graduation (yay!) and in part just because we hadn’t been there for a while and I was craving their marinated tofu and latkes. It’s on the same side of the street and block as Fratelli and Trio, and it falls in between them in atmosphere and price: a comfortable little bistro with an interesting but not quite adventurous menu.

They had renovated a bit since the last time we were in — replacing brown paint and copper with cream and birch, which took away some of the coziness and contemporary feel — and had rotated out about half of their menu, which meant no marinated tofu for me. (The menu on their website, which framesets frustrate my attempts to link, is nearly up-to-date but not entirely.) I had made reservations but they weren’t necessary last night, although I imagine the cold, rainy weather had some effect there.

The Village Cafe’s menu promises “global fusion”, which is a little misleading, since there isn’t much fusion within dishes; it’s more of an eclectic menu than fusion cuisine. Candice and I started with cocktails, but my attempts to stave off our appetizers until they were done met with failure. My shrimp spring rolls were crisp, refreshing, and just shrimpy enough, and came with an addictive soy-sesame-ginger dip and unusually spicy pickled ginger, but didn’t really complement a Manhattan, and Candice’s smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber rolls were probably not intended to be accompanied with a Kir Royale. Nevertheless both appetizers were more than good enough to interrupt our drinks instead of joining them.

The timing problem on the appetizers was one element of a general service confusion that continued all night. For some reason servers at The Village Cafe share tables; we had two servers all night who clearly weren’t keeping track of what the other was doing, which led to us being asked by one for our food order less than a minute after ordering drinks from the other, and the other bringing our main courses without knowing who ordered what. Both servers seemed unfamiliar with the restaurant’s cocktail and wine offerings, the sort of scenario where you give up asking and just wholesale nfl jerseys China point.

(The wine list, incidentally, has some of the silliest tasting notes I’ve ever read, and is yet another local wine list which omits vintages. How can you go to the trouble of putting together a wine list that reaches the $60 range without providing vintages? To their credit about half of the wine list is available by the glass.)

Our main courses were excellent. I’ve never been disappointed with anything from the kitchen here at brunch or at dinner, and my pork tenderloin accompanied by fieldberries and pears was done perfectly and the fruits well-chosen to complement, with some simple saffron rice and cheap jerseys steamed broccoli to round things out. At first I wished for a bit more interest in the vegetable, but it’s rare that I order a meat-and-sides sort of dish like this, and too much variety would have competed with the fresh fruit on the pork. Candice’s walnut-pesto eggplant “cannelloni” was an interesting take, with thin-sliced rolled eggplant taking the pasta’s role.

Dessert was another story. I think they bring in their desserts, and while their refrigerated case full of cakes and pies looked good, something went seriously, seriously wrong. The cake part of my carrot cake was acceptable, a bit heavy on the coconut but coconut is one of those foods I don’t like to be surprised by, but the icing was not the cream-cheese based type you’d expect on carrot cake. I think it was supposed to be buttercream, but it was the sort of buttercream you’d make with shortening instead of with butter, and it tasted like shortening. I should have sent it back right away, but I was so surprised by it that I wasn’t entirely convinced it was the cake and not just my taste buds playing tricks on me.

The service and dessert problems were far from enough to completely take away our enjoyment of the rest of the meal, but they did manage to bring what could have been an excellent meal down to merely good. If you’re thinking of trying the Village Cafe — and you should, especially if you are already in the area — I would recommend insisting on a single server and sticking with liquid desserts.

(295 Richmond Rd, just east of Churchill; 613-728-2162. Dinner for two with wine, $100.)

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