By Anne DesBrisay
It had been my plan to eat Vietnamese for this weekly lunch report. But after navigating the crusty banks of blackening snow in Chinatown, finding a spot to park, then walking the three blocks to the noodle house I had targeted, I was met with the Closed sign. It was Tuesday, a typical (well deserved) break day for many Vietnamese restaurants. Including this one.
So I turned the car west and headed to Plan B.
Canvas Resto-Bar-Etc. on Holland Avenue does a brisk lunch trade. It benefits from the constant traffic from Tunney’s Pasture to its north, and from the shops, galleries, condos, and theatres to the south.
Examining the menu, I was troubled with a need for grease. I had been in the mood for those Vietnamese, spring rolls and the mood was holding. I was craving the hot crunch, the soft guts, the messy crumbs of the crackling rice paper, the glistening path of oil on my chin. Can’t quite explain it. But once they grab hold — those oily thoughts — they’re hard to dislodge.
But Canvas delivered in spades with its lunch dish of panko crusted shrimp. There were four of them, beauts all, served with a simple, effective salsa. They not only curbed the urge, they turned out to be the best thing I ate all week.
It helped that the shrimp were so juicy, so fat and delicious, their brown wrappings crisp and fried just right. But it was the topping that so brightened the dish. (Even with mango substituting for the pineapple that was supposed to star in the salsa.) It was a pretty salad, nothing wildly innovative, just chunks of the orange fruit, perfectly ripe, with chopped cilantro, green onion and red pepper. It covered the shrimp, like a sunny blanket, while drizzled on the sides of the long squared plate was a house-made sweet chilli sauce, well balanced and with a welcome belt of heat.
It cost more than spring rolls, these shrimp. But not much. And I’ve been craving the dish ever since.
Cost: Panko shrimp, $14
Hours: Open Sunday through Friday for brunch/lunch; daily for dinner
Canvas, 65 Holland Avenue, 613-729-1991,www.canvasrestobar.ca.