By Anne DesBrisay
It doesn’t happen often that we can sit down at Restaurant E18hteen and say “I’ll have one of everything.” Generally speaking, that would involve much moolah. But the stylish York Street restaurant — now a dozen years old — announced a few months ago the opening of a raw bar.
The concept: everything would cost six bucks. They call it “Five for Six ’til Seven” — that is, five cocktails, five wines, and five raw items all priced at $6 each, available from five until seven weekday evenings in its lounge and on its patio. Seemed to us a pretty good deal, given E18hteen tends to be a pleasant place to spend some time and given we tend to push open its hefty front doors for typically wallet-popping dining. Here was a chance to test the waters for a pittance.
The waters tested began with a cocktail called Zest, made with in-house citrus-infused gin, splashed with riesling, and finished with lemon and orange zest; we accompanied that with a plate of oysters served with a charming cucumber-ginger-cilantro vinaigrette.
Next up, some Arctic char, served sashimi-style, with lengths of in-house pickled daikon and a soy-dashi dipping sauce.
Two dishes came next, both strikingly pretty: a summer slaw of jicama, kohlrabi, and leaves of New Zealand spinach, sweetened with some summer watermelon; and a pink puck of salmon tartare scattered with scallion rings and crowned with deep-fried chips of elephant garlic.
Fresh local peas arrived embedded in avocado purée, scattered with black sesame seeds and crisped strips of nori. On the side, a purple mound of umeboshe purée (Japanese salt-pickled plums) and then a bit of molecular fun with a scattering of sesame oil powder to melt on the tongue. Other than what I suspect was a quick blanching of those magnificent peas, there wasn’t a cooked element in our E18hteen evening.
Except, of course, for the russet fries, which we ordered last. It was past seven, after all, the raw goods officially over, and they came with the promise of black garlic aoili. How does one resist black garlic aoili? Raw food may well be heating up in Ottawa, as options for slurping oysters and forking up tartares suddenly abound, but a girl can handle only so much virtuous living. The fries were superb. $6 per item. Open nightly for dinner; raw bar available Tuesday to Friday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Restaurant e18hteen, 18 York St., 613-244-1188.