The much anticipated November/December issue of Ottawa Magazine hit the stands at Brittons in the Glebe today. Inside it’s cover is the 2011 Top 10 restaurants list by food editor, Shawna Wagman. Apparently I was customer number 3 to scoop up this hot edition.

The cover bore such catchy phrases as: “WHERE TO EAT RIGHT NOW” and “10 RESTAURANTS WITH IMAGINATION”. A hint of what would be revealed inside.

Here is the list (and it appears to be numbered):

1. Black Cat Bistro (Patricia Larkin)
2. Navarra (René Rodriguez)
3. Town (Interesting, there was no talk of who is doing the cooking now. Steve Wall recently moved to Luxe)
4. OZ Kafe (Jamie Stunt and Simon Bell)
5. Canvas Resto Bar (Charles Beauregard)
6. Fraser Café (Fraser brothers)
7. Restaurant E18hteen (Matthew Carmichael)
8. The Whalesbone Oyster House (Charlotte Langley)
9. Murray Street Kitchen Wine Charcuterie (Steve Mitton)
10. Sidedoor (Matthew Carmichael and Jonathan Korecki)

Repeats from last year: Town, Fraser Café, The Whalesbone Oyster House.

Returning from the 2009 list: Navarra, Restaurant E18hteen.

I have munched at them all but Sidedoor. And I have been holding off for all the reasons Shawna outlined in her piece, making it quite a surprise pick for a Top 10 list. She is upfront about Sidedoor‘s “uneven quality of the food” and the sense that “the service has gone from bad to worse”. Not mentioned by her are the grumblings about the prices. The choice leaves me wondering. I liken it to then newly minted President Obama receiving the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize before the work was done.

There are others on this list that have been “uneven quality” in my first hand experience. Though I do try to abide by the ‘try 3 times’ rule before making named declarations.

I almost always order seafood when I eat out – app, main or both. For me, it has been a steady test of the mettle in the kitchen. Perhaps a theme for next year’s article.

I am not as familiar as I would like to be with good eateries on the other side of the river. Bistro St-Jacques was a wonderful addition to last year’s list. (I made it there 3 times already over the past 12 months.) I had been secretly hoping that Shawna had mined another nugget from across the way. It just can’t be a barren eating wasteland, can it? (Nice to see the nod to Marysol Foucault’s Edgar.)

This list is a mixed bag alright and I am still trying to make sense of it.

For me, any kind of Top 10 list for such a significant city as the Nation’s Capital, would be a list of ‘home run’ picks – not necessarily high end (in fact a mix is nice), but a ‘pride and joy’ list. If someone’s coming to town, then you would hope they wouldn’t leave without giving a selection of them a try.

Maybe this list fits the “restaurants with imagination” tag (though the write-up on Canvas seems to contradict), but for my buck I still want solid value each and every time. A number fit that bill in my experience but certainly not all.

For anyone asking, Allium (on Holland) is still my favourite in this town.

Pick up the magazine. The article is a great read. Shawna has given you fair warning and has quite accurately depicted the pros and cons of her 2011 picks.

Are you looking for adventure? Then you now have a decent list to start from.

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