Inside Santé Restaurant, the piquant scents of globally inspired cuisine mingle amidst the work of local artists, whose pieces fill the dining room's walls. This eatery and gallery is the brainchild of owner Donna Holtom, who believes that "beautiful art serves to heighten the dining experience," as she told Ottawa at Home magazine in 2009. Diners also get a better sense of this while dining among majestic and historic views of Ottawa and the four diamond vistas at the corner of Sussex Drive and Rideau Street.
Inside the kitchen, Chef David De Bernardi demonstrates his own artistic skills. David’s unique style of presenting food has earned him much acclaim as he perfected his craft in some of the finest kitchens, including CAA Five Diamond Langdon Hall, Stagiare/Montelimar, France, Reds of Toronto, and Toca at the Ritz Carlton. His seamless integration of European and Asian ingredients has effectively elevated Sante’s traditional signature cuisine alongside David’s visionary dishes to appeal to all palates. Using a palette of free-range chicken, organic salmon, and locally sourced produce, Chef David paints plates with aromatic curries and ginger-spiked stir-fries. To accompany these fragrantly seasoned dishes, Santé Restaurant stocks its subterranean vault with a selection of Canadian and international wines. The elegant, intimate space and inventive cuisine earned the eatery Diners' Choice awards from OpenTable for Best Ambiance, Romantic, and Fit for Foodie.
In Japan, many people end their workday with a stop at an izakaya, a bar where the happy-hour crowd can grab a stool and order some sake and perhaps even a steaming bowl of ramen. In that spirit, Izakaya has developed strong cocktail and food menus, each of which is rooted in Japanese preparations but integrates international flavors as well. For instance, the cocktail list has 10 kinds of sake and cocktails such as lychee mojitos, but also includes sangria and several varietals of wine. The food menu is mostly small plates, with hot servings of miso soup and tempura prawns or cold plates of oysters and sashimi. And despite its inspirations, Izakaya invites guests to linger beyond just an after-work drink—they often host special events such as sushi-making lessons, sake pairings, and sommelier-led wine tastings.
The din of slurping straws fills the soundscape as enthusiastic customers polish off the last bits of chocolate-milk tea or extract the final tapioca balls from the bottoms of their cups. Others sip intently on fruity frozen slushes and creamy coffee floats, pausing only to laugh at friends' jokes or take nibbles of rice cake. Servers emerge from the kitchen with Asian and Western specialties, including spicy noodle soups and sizzling teriyaki dishes, as well as crunchy sandwiches and juicy hamburger steaks. Come morning, the cooks replace these savoury main-course ingredients with eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit to create hearty breakfast spreads.
Customers perch on cushy black booths in the cozy seating area, where flat-screen televisions glimmer with entertainment such as K-pop music videos. This cheerful space plays host to regular variety shows, when local artists dazzle audiences by singing and reciting poetry.
Thai Express fuses the familiar flavours of Thailand's eateries with the convenience of the New World's quick-service restaurants, presenting patrons with a vibrant dining alternative. The cooks add personalized amounts of spice to most of the entrees, complementing the aromatic combinations of lemongrass, coriander, and thai basil without overwhelming them. These ingredients, among others, can lend their distinctive flavours to everything from tom yum soup and stir-fries to pad thai and red, green, or yellow curries.
Tom Yam Goong Thai Cuisine delivers a crowded menu of elegantly presented authentic Thai dishes. Steaming bowls of coconut and milk-laden tom gar gai soup ($4.95) plunk down on dark wood tables and fly spoonward into the mouths of hungry diners, regardless of whether they've been naughty or nice this year. While curry brings heat to taste buds with dishes such as the beef and chicken keang keawan ($13.95), lively stir-fry feasts invade plates with crisp delights that include pad med mamuang ($12.95), in which the guest's choice of protein is joined by fresh veggies, pineapple, and dried chili topped with cashews. Meals can be capped with hard-to-resist desserts such as homemade deep-fried cheesecake ($5.95) or 16 varieties of bubble tea as patrons enjoy the ambience of traditional Thai decor that includes intricate coloured wall hangings, handsome statuettes, and authentic Thai teleportation hammocks.