Ottawa’s Social: the place to be seen AND to eat [classic article]

In Baltimore, don’t you find that some of the “places to be seen” are often not on point when it comes to the food? A little, shall we say, overrated? Some of those places have even gone out of business, because – as one-time Baltimore resident Gertrude Stein said — there was no there there. I have a solution. Hop in the car for the day like I did and head to Ottawa. Social is the place to be seen and has culinary artistry, too. My server was quite expert with wines. I was glad to be able to check it out!

social-thai-ottawa-foodie-thai-restaurant-bank-street-eatery
Tamar Fleishman

The atmosphere of the restaurant is lively and chic. With its Jeffersonian ceilings that look out onto the street, as many people are checking you out as you are checking out. Modern pop music plays quietly in the background. The décor is muted glossy bronze, black and red.

I’d describe the menu as modern, creative takes on bistro fare with an emphasis on things to share with a group of friends. This not only includes small plates, but also “social canapés” – larger orders for the whole gang – and “social plates”, good for 2 or more to share. I learned that they’ve just overhauled their menu.

Social is great about using local ingredients and carrying local microbrews. I tried an excellent local beer, Beau’s, which I’ve been having difficulty ordering in Baltimore. It’s malty and smooth.

Even Social’s bread service is well-considered: their wheat bread had a caraway and anise flavor.

For an amuse bouche, the chef sent a creation with fried sage, fried squash, scallop and fried kale cooked in brown butter and olive oil.

The Social Plate appetizer can include all kinds of little things, including “chef’s addition”. This night, it included meatballs with half veal, half pork, goat cheese, tomato and chef’s seasonings, including fresh herbs. They’re quite tasty and remind me of some Tyler Florence recipe meatballs that I like to make at home. They’re mild but still savory. They were perfectly cooked, retaining their juiciness and tenderness. It was accompanied by a hot spicy mayo.

Also on the plate was white seared British Columbia tuna with house-made wasabi mayo and house-made soy sauce. The tuna was perfectly mild and fresh. It was garnished with cilantro, radish and avocado. The house-made soy sauce was fruity, with a citrus note – not just brown, salty fluid. It inspired me to buy an upscale soy sauce when I came home.

The plate also had fried calamari: whole calamari that was very tender with a delicate batter.

The “chef’s addition” was fois gras! I try to never miss an opportunity to dine on fois gras, especially as it’s not so easy to find on Baltimore menus. It was buttery and tender, garnished with house-made cherry preserves and flaked sea salt.

For an entrée’, I indulged again in fois gras, this time in the Fois Gras Burger: ground Alberta beef burger, salt cured Quebec foie gras, grillled onion, Kate’s chili chutney, Yukon Gold frites and lettuces. The burger was smoky and the cured fois gras enhanced it. The tangy mustard added a kick to the rich meats.

Their cheese plate is worth getting: filled with varieties you won’t find even at your local gourmet store. Here’s what they current serve – Cheeses

8 for each selection – Served with cranberry bread and grapes

BLUE HAZE

smoked, hints of butermilk and burnt caramel, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Québec

RIOPELLE

cow milk, thermalized, triple cream, bloomy rind, isle-aux-Greus Quebec

CHEDDAR

Pine River, 7 year old, yellow cheddar, Ripley Ontario

SEINE D’HELENE

Saint Helene Quebec, cow & sheep’s milk, semi firm, rich, creamy, mildly acidic

LE 1608 8

washed rind, fruity flavor, barny aroma, Laiterie Charlevoix, Quebec

LE GRANDE FROMAGE 29

A selection of our artisan cheeses

BUCHEVRETTE 8

pasteurized goats milk, bloomy rind, mildly acidic, Papineauville Québec

The cheese plate was served with a very complimentary slice of toasted cranberry foccacia and spicy candied pecans. The 7 year old cheddar was a fascinating cheese! It was salty, crumbly, tangy and wine-like. It’s still moist and bursts on your tongue, tingly.

The Blue Haze is like a blue meets Gouda.

That night, their carrot cake was served with a magnificent spiced plum sorbet, which lighted and made seasonal the traditional dessert.

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