Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.
I quite liked ThaiPas, the restaurant/lounge/nightclub that used to call this address home. But I quite like its replacement, Quan Viet Fusion, too. Still with a clubby vibe about it — dark walls, dark tables, matching wooden benches and stools, a pink-lit bar, racy red bar chairs — though the ‘tapas’ formula of Thaipas has been replaced with an appetizer heavy, grazing-friendly, pan-Asian menu. More Vietnamese dishes, on balance, but the menu also delivers popular Chinese (salt and pepper squid), Japanese (sushi, sashimi, teriyaki salmon), Korean (bulgogi), and Thai (pad Thai) plates as well.
Lunch was a filling pleasure and something of a bargain (at $12) given the shareable quantity of food. We ordered the Quan Viet Special — pho and rice rolls — and though the rare beef wasn’t rare, it was very tender and heavily scented with ginger. The pale broth tasted clean and meaty, perfumed with cinnamon and star anise. Rice noodles were firm. A plate of the usual stuff — bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, bird’s eye chilis — added bulk and options. All lunch specials at Quan Viet Fusion are packaged with a choice of fryer spring rolls or fresh rice rolls, both impressive.
An evening here began with a mango salad, bright and lively, sweet but with good acidic balance, zinged with mint. Then a pretty plate of salmon crudo in a light wasabi-fired mayo, piled on rice crackers and topped with tobiko. This turned out to be a favourite.
Also easy on the eyes was a seared beef salad with plenty of roughly chopped mint, red onion, and garlic chips doused with a lime-soy vinaigrette and packed with flavour. The salt and pepper shrimp (stripped of their shells), topped with grilled onion and peppers was so good we ordered it on our second visit, just to be sure.Beef Salad from Quan Viet Fusion. Photo by Anne DesBrisay
In the “acquired taste” camp we slot the house-made pork sausage (with mint, cilantro, mung beans, dried shrimp), which is presented as a long log, sliced and fanned on the plate with a chili fired dunking sauce. It had a funky, peppery flavour and a fishy finish. By the time we’d worked our way through half of it we were sold on its merits. But it took a few tries — our shortcoming, not its.
There is calamari, of course, battered and fried, or barbecued. We ordered the latter, having already downed many battered, peppery shrimp. Though it was a looker on the white plate — the white rings framed in black, the tentacles gathered in a ponytail, a mound of beet ribbon beside — we found the meat tough and the flavour wan.Squid at Quan Viet Fusion. Photo by Anne DesBrisay
The only main (or main-ish) dish we ordered were the Korean short ribs, shaved thin, well grilled, tender enough and infused with the comfort of sesame. They came with rice and a perfectly okay green salad.
We agreed that the flan we had for dessert was more like thickened pudding than custard, but we managed to finish it all.
Service was warm and kind. The cocktail list is a bit longer than the wine list, but both seem to me fairly priced.
Appetizers, $5-$12; Mains, $9-$20.
Open daily, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday)
424 Preston St., 613-680-6638