A few weeks ago Canada’s 100 best restaurants for 2017 was announced, with 5 of the top restaurants being in Ottawa including Fairouz, Beckta, Atelier, Fauna and Riveria. As such, I decided to try out the top ranked restaurant in Ottawa, Fairouz which offers upscale Middle Eastern dishes.
Located in the same heritage mansion in Somerset Village, the new Fairouz has the same name. flavors and location as the original Fairouz which was open until the early 2000s, but the new restaurant expertly moves from rustic to a more opulent decor and sophisticated dishes.
In addition to being listed as one of the top 100 restaurants in Canada for 2017, Fariouz also won Open Table’s award for top 100 romantic restaurants in 2017. Upon entering the restaurant it is easy to see why, as sleek Moorish wrought-iron dividers help to give intimacy to tables, while intricate chandeliers, marble, and turquoise accents (Fariouz means turquoise in Arabic) for a luxurious yet comfortable dining environment.
Chef Walid El Tawel, former executive chef at Restaurant E18hteen, offers beautiful colorful plated dishes with tantalizing flavor combinations designed to share. On Sunday and Mondays, the restaurant offers an exclusive mezze menu (small sharing plates), but my visit took place later in the week when larger plates are available. As the dishes are designed for sharing, for two people the server recommended 1 dip, 2 grazing dishes (smaller plates), 1-2 sharing dishes (larger plates), and dessert.
For the dip, I had the outstanding Muhammara which is made out of ground cashews and has pomegranate seeds mixed in served with 2 warm and puffy pitas that had cumin seeds. The dip was an excellent way to start the meal, and I did adore the still hot pita. If you need more pita for your dip it costs $3 for 2 additional pitas.
Fairouz offers a diverse wine, cocktail and craft beer menu but this time I tested out the mocktails. The Karkada blended hibiscus syrup, lime, mint, and soda for a refreshing beverage that is similar to a mojito, and the Pink Sphinx is guava juice with ginger and grapefruit which is just as delicious as fruit cocktail.
For my first grazing dish, I tried the Monforte Halloumi which is served with seasonal accompaniments. When I visited the halloumi cheese was topped with a sweet date puree and apricot amardeen that wonderfully contrasted the salty flavors of the cheese, in addition to green almonds that added some contrasting texture.
The next dish was the Kushbashi kebab, a platter with marinated red peppers, sumac onions, eggplant puree, served wit thin slices of lavash bread.
Off the sharing plate dishes, I tried the sumac glazed chicken which is plated on top of a sweet puree of taarind and caramelized onions which wonderfully contrasted the bold flavors of the bitter sumac on the chicken and braised turnips.
Finally for dessert as two of the desserts sounded particularly intriguing I ended up sampling two of them. The first was a different ice cream bar than the one listed on the menu, it was chocolate and argan oil ice cream popsicle with a hardened chocolate shell topped with red peppercorns. The rich and bold flavor combinations were outstanding, and I certainly hope they add this dish to the menu as it was the best popsicle I’ve ever had.
For the other dessert, I had another dish with halloumi cheese, but with a very different flavor profile. The halloumi cheesecake which has a pistachio crust, and is topped with candied pistachios, a rose and hibiscus gel and rosewater meringue spheres was intriguing as it were flavors I’ve never had together, and end slice of cheesecake looked very beautiful. I highly recommend trying this dish, which is the server informed me is one of the most popular items on the menu.
I’m delighted to say that Fairouz met my high expectations set from finding out it was listed as one of Canada’s best restaurants. Later in the evening, the full restaurant managed to still give a more intimate dining experience through the use of the screens which divide up the restaurant. I’m a huge fan of the trend of small sharing plates in restaurants as I can sample a variety of dishes and at Fairouz small plates cost $6 to $17 with larger plates costing $24 to $32.
Throughout my time at the restaurant I was impressed by the amazing customer service, decor, and flavors and can see why it making headlines, it is a welcomed addition to Ottawa’s culinary scene who helped me explore Middle Eastern food beyond the shawarmas that can be found in abundance around town.