Grazing is an great way to eat. It means skipping from dish to dish, tasting different things without committing to a single one. It’s about creating multiple dishes that work together as a meal, that all share a theme, an aesthetic. When she entertains, or even pulls together a quick dinner for just two, food stylist Suzanne Lenzer enjoys this tapas-style of eating—and with her guidance, you can too.
When it comes to making small plates at home, start with cheese and charcuterie, but then combine this classic with a few easy dishes that make a meal special. Try your hand at recipes like chickpea fries with Meyer lemon-scented aioli; roasted beet tartare with cheese and pistachios; kale, spinach, and Pecorino pizza slivers; sardine bruchetta with fennel and preserved lemons; scallop and plum ceviche with tarragon; and lemon-lavender posset—to name just a few.
You quite literally have to enter the side door to get into Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen + Bar. Pretty cheeky. Once inside it’s rather expansive. An open-air patio this way to your left, a groovy bar thataway to your right and a mutli-level restaurant straightaway.Consistently noted as one of Ottawa’s finest eateries, Sidedoor is an Asian-fusion restaurant celebrated for two very distinct dishes that are seldom associated with Asia or with fancy-pants dining: tacos and donuts. Although, as we were about to discover, these two dishes have been cleverly brought to inspired levels.It’s essential to remember that the food at Sidedoor is tapas-style, is meant for sharing and is portioned accordingly. The tacos are quite mini, actually. Two bitefulls and it’s over. But it’s not always about how big things are. In this case, the emphasis is on flavour. We sampled the spicy beef, Korean pulled-pork and the Bajan crispy fish tacos. Arranged on soft corn tortillas, they are at once flavourful, delicious, tender, juicy, messy, sinful, dreamy and triumphant. Our personal favourite was the spicy beef tacos with just enough heat and a rightful amount of cool radish and avocado toppings.
Next up, we went for the Coconut-poached halibut. The buttery and tender fish was topped with mango, Thai basil and fresh chili giving every bite an elegant and complex mix of fresh, spicy and sweet.
Finally dessert time had arrived. I’ve never had donuts at a sit-down restaurant, but I was ready. Bring on the white chocolate mint and the white chocolate with cranberry mini donuts. Served pipping hot, they were light and airy with a sweet thin glaze. Easy to eat and share, they were very much worth the wait. I can see myself becoming obsessionally passionate about these swoon-worthy creations.
One thing I observed as the restaurant passed from buzzy happy hour to more serious dinner service, the space retained an almost serene atmosphere, a calmness that can only be described as a pleasure to the senses. We were able to have a conversation without resorting to hollering at each other. Very refreshing.
As for the food, it belongs in rarefied circles. Sidedoor’s chef Jonathan Korecki has been able to elevate the lowly donut and taco and make them so good that they transcend mere adjectives. Having now dined there, regular appearance on the “best-of-the-best lists” come as no surprise. Consider this food blogger’s taste buds amazed. My dreams are now occupied with tacos and donuts!
Korean pulled-pork taco
Spicy beef taco
Spicy prawn taco
Green papaya salad
Duck leg confit w/ red apple curry, crispy shallots and mint