The Branch Restaurant nourishes responsibly by brandishing a menu of delectable organic fare conceived by a published cookbook author. Within The Branch's art-ensconced confines, sate the most gargantuan of lunch appetites with the restaurant's signature rubber boots buffet, which includes a spread of homemade bread, two soups, salads, a hot entree, and a hot date ($9.99; Sundays $12.99 with extra options). Or, reserve digestive energy for the third-pound Branchburger ($13.99) made with 100% local, naturally raised beef. Dinnertime beckons worldly fare to congregate on the menu with an array of hunger-hobblers such as stir-fry ($15.99), which adorns tofu with seasonal veggies and a sweet-spicy sauce, or cheese fondue ($9.99), coating veggies with a more delicious veneer than their natural briefcases. Hunger cowers before the eatery's Austin City Limits platter of Texas-style barbecue, the fruits of which run a gut-sating gamut of house-smoked beef brisket, spicy house-smoked beef and pork sausage, barbecue sauce, beans, and jalapeno-cheddar cornbread ($22.99). House-made desserts ($5.99–$6.99) and kiddie offerings such as grilled cheese and a chicken wrap ($5.99–$9.98) complement the menu's conscientious cornucopia.
Going to 222 Lyon Tapas Bar for the first time feels more like going to an old friend's house than visiting an unfamiliar eatery. The restaurant inhabits a 19th-century home, where small tables pepper a 30-person dining room that bears a carved-wood fireplace. A larger booth rests in a nook framed by stained-glass windows, which filter ample sunlight onto a tabletop strewn with Spanish-tinged plates of pork tarragon and smoked salmon. Daily offerings and shape-shifting fonts enliven the regular menu, whose smaller portions encourage ordering several plates to share with dining companions. Fresh fruit, chocolate, and real cream build a succinct selection of desserts, and a litany of wines balance out overseas spices via 6- or 9-ounce glasses or bottles.
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Head chef Pablo Robaina is out to change minds. “Many people think Latin American food is just beans and rice,” he said in a 2008 interview with the Ottawa City Guide, “but there are so many other ingredients that can blow your mind with flavour.” Though the restaurant’s small plates, such as rollos de pollos, tacos del norte, and chorizo tostado, stay true to the chef’s Mexican and Venezuelan roots, Robaina also looks to other continents for culinary inspiration in such dishes as the Spanish-style tapas and the curried rack of lamb. Since being opened by the creators of Kinki Asian Fusion in 2007, Mambo Restaurante Nuevo Latino has embodied a multicultural culinary tradition as if it were built on the international date line.
Chefs Dominic and Mohamed draw their culinary inspiration from the Old World, crafting a menu of predominantly French cuisine with occasional Italian influences. Garlic-cream sauce lends a flavourful richness to orders of escargot, and tender filet mignon emerges from the kitchen decorated with sauce aux poivres and a latticework of freshly tattooed grill marks. The chefs embrace Mediterranean flavours by baking rustic pizzas and glazing penne and linguini pasta with bolognese or carbonara sauces. On Friday and Saturday evening, the dining room echoes with the live piano performances of Yvon Farmer, who effortlessly transitions between iconic standards and contemporary compositions.
Santa Fe Southwestern Grill's menu draws inspiration from both sides of the Tex-Mex border, concocting hearty eats with all-fresh ingredients. Submerge talkative tortilla chips in a telepathy-silencing pool of peppery Southwestern Con Queso cheese dip ($3.99–$6.79) before training your tractor beams on the eatery's specialty fajitas. Diners select a hunger-appropriate pile of grilled chicken, steak, or combination of the two, then wrap the savoury protein in warm flour tortillas, sautéed spanish onions and bell peppers, homemade guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and iceberg lettuce (from $14.95 for 1/4 lb. to $36.95 for a full pound).