After a long restaurant-eating hiatus, and numerous calls to the various restaurants in Byward (note to self: ALWAYS MAKE RESERVATIONS!), my new foodie partner-in-crime Dylan and I made our way to Play! Food and Wine, the first restaurant we called on the master list that had tables available for the evening. They were extremely accommodating and were able to seat us at the kitchen bar where we could enjoy all the cooking action.
Play! is a small plates centered restaurant, almost like tapas, where each plate is a little larger than appetizer sized portions with dishes from $12-$16. Also available were charcuterie and cheese platters.
the pork belly with parsnip puree, cranberry topping and apple slices
The sweetness of the cranberries and apple slices went quite well with the more savoury flavor of the pork belly. The skin was thick with a light layer of crunch but the meat was a stringy and was a little tough. It was good but relatively the worst dish of the evening.
Next was the roast quail served over an apple raisin and pomegranate risotto.
The risotto was delightfully creamy and was very well balanced by the tart pomegranate seeds and mild sweetness of the apple raisins. The roast quail was perfectly moist and tender with a slightly crunchy skin full of flavor. it was overall a very well balanced dish.
The last small plate was the gnocchi with truffle cream, enoki mushrooms and edamame.
this was love at first bite. It was quite surprising as to how well the flavors melded together in this relatively simple dish. Every component was well represented and none of the flavors overpowered the other. The truffle cream brought it all together very well. The gnocchi themselves were pleasantly soft and chewy with slightly browned crusts that gave them a smoky flavor.
banana panna cotta
a quad layered cup with a banana amaretti flavored bottom, a thin layer of thicker and more chewy kind of crust, topped by coconut cream and a streusal like topping which I had no clue as to identifying. The banana flavoring was subtle and the consistency was a bit spongy. The dessert overall though was a bit too bland for my tastes and the only flavor I really tasted was banana.
chocolate pate with a miso-caramel sauce and toffee biscuit
my favorite of the two desserts, the chocolate pate was a cross between a mousse and fudge. The sauce added a salty sweetness that really brought body to the dessert. With the light sweetness and crunch of the toffee biscuits, the chocolate pate was a wonderful combination of both standard and unusual textures and flavors.
Sitting at the kitchen bar was great. Being able to see all the dishes being rolled out (and helping us make some ordering decisions!) was nice. It was less intense than previous kitchen bars I’ve eaten at, but it was still pleasant to engage in some small conversation with the sous chef who barely had enough time between preparing dishes to ask for clean pans.
Price to quality ratio was actually pretty decent and service was superb. Overall a good first foray into some of the top new restaurants in Ottawa.
1 York St.