As part of our Think Global, Eat Local feature, we bring you the tastes of the Americas
THE WHALESBONE OYSTER HOUSE
The world is their….
By Riva Soucie
Joshua Bishop got his “sea legs” in Toronto at Rodney’s Oyster House, a large, raucous restaurant that boasts thousands of oysters shucked each night. After he learned the ropes, he took off for a one-year trek across East Asia, scribbling business ideas in his journal as he went. By the time he returned to Ottawa in 2001, he was ready to start a catering company, but low funds had him working out of his parents’ basement. Didn’t seem to matter, though, because Bishop was focused on building a brand and a loyal customer base. His approach clearly worked. Open since 2005, The Whalesbone truly embodies the spirit of the new Ottawa, where local, creative expression is experiencing a revival in a way that forces even the critics to admit that we have something great going on in this city. The food is simply prepared and fresh, the wine and beer lean toward the local, and the busy bartenders favour the likes of Marley, U2, and Steve Earle.
The Whalesbone kitchen has been manned by a handful of popular chefs (Steve Vardy and Steve Wall each did brief stints in the kitchen), but for the first time, the new kid in the kitchen is a woman. Charlotte Langley is another former Becktonian. Bishop is thrilled that Langley has interpreted his vision for the business — hillbilly, rustic, nostalgic, and funky — exactly as he had hoped someone would. The menu reads like a down-home kitchen party — coleslaw, poached eggs, soft white bread with traditional beurre noisette, pan-fried trout, and ice cream sundaes (toppings include mini made-to-order doughnuts, crunchy granola, Berg En Dal honey, and passion fruit curd). But for Bishop, it’s all about the oyster. “We’re like stonemasons. We have a niche. We give people the chance to try something different without being too formal.” Still afraid of the slippy gippers? Dip your toe in the water with fish po’ boys, available at Whalesbone’s wholesale warehouse. And keep your eye out in grocery stores for Whalesbone-brand smoked fish. Bishop says that just might be his next big venture.
430 Bank St., 613-231-8569, www.thewhalesbone.com.