Since the Winter Bites menus started pouring into the “WinterBites by Ottawa Magazine” Facebook page, I have been spinning through the wall photos like some kind of roledex. Constantly reading and re-reading.
I love eating seafood when I go out, since I find most places do a better job than I can do in my own kitchen. I appreciate the fresh, well chosen selection. And I appreciate the fuss that goes into making a special dish.
It should be no surprise then that I fixated on the Pelican Fishery & Grill’s lobster bisque, which was being offered on both their lunch and dinner Winter Bites menus.
I admit this sudden cold snap has kept me cocooned the past few days but when I had to head out for my bi-annual visit to the dentist, I stole the opportunity to stop in at the Pelican being nearby.
The Pelican Fishery & Grill is located in the Blue Heron Mall, a strip mall anchored by Farm Boy on Bank Street just north of Heron Road. The outside is the usual unassuming look you can expect from a restaurant located in a strip mall. But once inside you see the wide display cases loaded down with the latest catch laid out on crushed ice. Sharing the space is the restaurant, which seats about 40 on copper topped tables.
I arrived at lunch just as they were opening at 11:30 am. Some food critiques will say never eat fish on a Monday, questioning its freshness. Imagine my surprise to see 9 reserved signs dotting almost half the tables. I appeared to be a lucky walk-in. As the first to arrive, I was still able to get a seat reasonably close to the windows.
I took note that the steady flow of clientele following me were greeted by name and ushered to their ‘regular’ seats. A strong following of repeats! For sure a good sign of things to come. For a moment I actually felt a little awkward. Was I sitting in someone else’s ‘pew’? I might have expected such a crowd on Fridays with those faithful to their strong Catholic traditions, but on a Monday? Impressive.
Warm multi-grain buns arrived promptly. No whipped butter! Thank you. Lactantia happens to be my favourite of the big butters.
An advantage of being first for lunch, I had all the attention of the wait staff for some moments before the busyness set in. I lapped it all up. Right down to the unsolicited coaster slipped under the northwest leg of my table to take away the ‘teeter’. I wouldn’t have asked, not wanting to be a bother. Thanks for noticing the small things.
I knew I was there for the lobster bisque and dessert was already established to be maple crème brûlée. Now to pick between Coconut Shrimp or Wild Pacific Halibut. I went for the fish, though quite concerned about portions. Thankfully I took a pass on breakfast.
The bisque came in a small cup. A perfect starter size. The texture was velvety smooth. The flavour, deep with the heat of cayenne and a swish of brandy to embolden the seafood broth. Parceled secretly at the bottom of the bowl were 3 or 4 bite-size morsels of lobster meat. A pleasing treasure to uncover. The small helping of bisque was deceivingly fillling.
Then onto the main.
The lunch size portion of halibut vanished but I came up shy on the fries. A shame too since they were great fries. A creamy, buttery potato flesh with a crisp outer layer. Not too crisp though. I liked the dressing on the slaw as well. I tend to use more onion and Dijon but I think the more mellow flavour was a better complement to the mildness of the battered halibut. The same could be said for the tartar sauce. I was left wanting for a more relishy zip. This fish was very nicely done. I like my batter a bit more crispy, more of a tempura. I think that is a matter of preference. Overall, I really enjoyed my main.
The problem with a 3-course prix fixe menu is that your appetite can run ashore before you get to the pièce de résistance. In this case, the maple crème brûlée. I have had many crème brûlée in this town and this one rates in my top 5. Besides the silky custard, I was happy for the deeper, more narrow dish. With less surface area to ‘brûlée’, there is a better custard to sugar ratio to my way of thinking. The brûlée was still reasonably thick and very evenly fired. The maple flavour shone through but was not overpowering. The garnish of the raspberry and blueberries freshened each bite. I was satisfied with my decision to forgo a good portion of my fries.
The Winter Bites ‘deal’ at the Pelican means the dessert is essentially free. I was delighted to be tempted back to this gem of a place as it has been years since we have been there, not being in our neighbourhood.
If you are considering the Pelican Grill for your Winter Bites adventure, you will be pleased you made the trip. All round it was a top notch experience.
Winter Bites runs until January 28th. Check the Winter Bites website for details on the 29 participating restaurants.
Pelican Fishery & Grill
1500 Bank Street
Facebook: Pelican Fishery & Grill