Alternating bands of solid chartreuse, stripes, grey damask, and a silvery geometric pattern, Restaurant Medzes' wall treatments merge the classic with the contemporary—creating an apt visual representation of their menu. Flambeed saganaki, moussaka, and lamb skewers anchor the kitchen's repertoire of traditional Greek fare and can be assembled into a miniature battle map of Thermoplyae, if you're a child. The Hellenic influence also permeates unexpected dishes: feta and tzatziki sauce tops burgers, and black olives, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes are tossed into fettuccine. Cannelloni, veal parmesan, and artisan pizzas further extend the Mediterranean's reach into the dining experience.
When lauded Ottawa restaurateur Ion Aimers turned his attention to pizza, he didn't want to reinvent the wheel—just upgrade and transform it. Some of his pies at ZaZaZa Pizza With Pizazz are indeed reminiscent of Italian classics: there's the Bo Derek, which is decorated with pesto oil, feta cheese, and tomatoes, as well as the French Kiss, whose brie, artichoke, and caramelized onions work as a harmony of flavours.
Other pizzas, however, get a little more audacious. One is named the Scary Roommate, in reference to its classic dorm-room toppings of hot dogs, cheddar, and Kraft Dinner. The Shangri La Di Da, by contrast, takes its culinary cues from the east, dappling the crust with a tomato tandoori sauce, goat cheese, sweet peppers, and honey drizzle. Every pizza is served on one of three types of crust—dusted cornmeal, honey oat, or gluten-free—with sauces made from scratch. Other menu items have likewise undergone refreshing makeovers. The lemonade, for example, arrives freshly squeezed in a sugar-rimmed glass with mint, rather than still trapped inside a lemon.
Nestled in ByWard Market, Casa Do Churrasco’s chefs carve up meaty platters of chicken, pork, steak, seafood, and sausage, prepared with traditional Portuguese recipes. Framed in white tile, a cutout window provides glimpses into the bustling kitchen—and an order of sizzling steak on a stone recreates it at the table. The earth-toned dining room houses a buffet between 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. during weekdays, ensuring that no market-goer leaves hungry. Libation artists stand by prepared to whip up mixed drinks for parties toasting to birthdays, Tuesdays, and anniversaries.
When executive chef Toyoji Hemmi surveys the restaurant's daily deliveries of fresh seafood, he envisions how the fish can be used to create exciting, new sushi entrees instead of just the widely expected staples. Food & Wine magazine praised this dedication to inventive flavor combinations in 2005, labeling chef Hemmi an "innovator" and calling him one of its "favorite iconoclasts" in the United States.
He accentuates maki with seemingly disparate ingredients—including rosemary, walnuts, and cherry tomatoes—that add new dimensions to the rolls' familiar tastes, textures, and pronunciations. Established Japanese flavors remain at the forefront of other items though, such as the wasabi-rubbed filet mignon and the organic cha-soba noodles. This distinctive interplay between contemporary and traditional approaches helped to earn the menu a score of "very good to excellent" from Zagat.
The dining room's vaguely industrial setting also toes the line between contemporary and historic, featuring rustic brick walls and exposed wooden rafters as well as chic, low-slung chairs and modern track lighting. Diners can peek behind the stone-countered sushi bar and watch the chefs assemble platters of maki and nigiri, or join the bartenders, who pass their evenings pouring tastes of sake and shochu.
Behind Sopra Ristorante’s exposed-brick walls, which are covered in framed art, chefs craft authentic Italian cuisine, such as mushroom risotto, homemade veal and beef meatballs, and chicken doused in an aged cognac cream reduction. Bartenders, meanwhile, complement meals with a lineup of classic cocktails and martinis. They craft each drink, which can range from a light and playful tom collins to a richly complex manhattan, with exactitude—2 ounces of top-shelf spirits. Those include Dewar’s scotch and Disaronno amaretto, which blend to create The Don, a signature Sopra Ristorante libation that, like a foreboding message from the Tropicana mafia, arrives with a flaming orange peel. Bartenders can also serve up imported and domestic wines by the bottle.