Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro (Ottawa) – Great concepts but stumbles here and there

I was in Ottawa to drop J off as she started a secondment. We’d spent a lot of time apart recently so I wanted to take her out for a fancy (read “expensive”) meal. On Chow, Sweetgrass was highly recommended. They were also booked full. We ended up eating at 8pm. I hate eating that late because essentially I eat, go home, then sleep.

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro is touted as the only Aboriginal bistro in Canada. It is located in the lovely Byward Market. It reminds me of the Calgary Farmer’s Market but way bigger, way cooler, and with lots more interesting stores. There are countless restaurants and cafes throughout that beg you to come in for a drink. I wish Ottawa wasn’t associated with pain for me. Each time I am there, I am usually on a critical care rotation that totally stresses me out. Now, even on a weekend, when I go there, my heart races a little bit.

This is the Bison Bone Marrow for $12 (chili rubbed, Adobe bread, mushrooms, garlic, and onion puree). What a great start to the meal. The bone marrow was so fatty, gamey, and fragrant. The sea salt on top was really savoury and the whole dish smelled awesome. The mushrooms were slightly acidic and salty. The bread was also really nicely toasted and if you made an epic bite (marrow + bread + puree), it was quite a lot of flavour in your mouth. I wasn’t sure I would like bone marrow (especially since I love performing bone marrows) but this was really delicious.

This is the Red Deer Shanks for  $26 (slow cooked with fresh thick cut pasta, hearty tomato and great Northern bean sauce). The meat itself was tender, fell off the bone, and plentiful. This dish really gave me the meat sweats (when you eat too much protein, I tend to sweat. That’s normal right?….). Where this dish fell apart was the noodle. I know it was fresh and made in house. But it was really quite mushy, dry, and starchy. Not sure if that was the intention but I really didn’t like it. I found the whole dish made my mouth quite dry.

This is the Duck, Duck, Goose for $30 (roasted goose breast, crispy duck leg, duck giblet, mushroom, wild rice and parsnip ragout). The duck leg was delicious. I love crispy duck skin and meat that falls off the bone. The duck giblet was interesting. It had a springy texture and the flavour combined with the rice and mushroom was very full in your mouth (sort of like an umami flavour). The goose was disappointing. It had the distinct texture of being cut too early without being rested or being cut and let to run dry. The meat was warm, and cooked medium – medium-rare but it was just very dry. The taste was good but I didn’t care for the texture.

This was the Rosemary Creme Brulee for $8 (with raspberry compote). An interesting idea but execution was a little off. The crispy sugar layer was really over torched. It was quite bitter. The rosemary was nicely paired with the raspberry compote. I really would’ve liked this if it wasn’t so bitter.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro. The food was interesting but I found it stumbled here and there. I would probably check it out again in the future as I’ve heard awesome things about it on Chow. I might have just been an off-day for the chefs.

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, 108 Murray Street, Ottawa, ON, (613) 562-3683 www.sweetgrassbistro.ca

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro on Urbanspoon

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~ by Russ on March 3, 2010.

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