C’est Japon à Suisha – Ottawa (Canada)

It’s been over 25 years since I visited Ottawa so a trip to Canada’s capital was long overdue. It’s a city I took for granted whilst living in Montreal and Toronto but now that I’ve been in England for over a decade, I decided to squeeze in a quick visit between Canadian cities. Besides, Paulo had never been to Ottawa before.

I did no foodie research before arriving (very unlike me, I know) and decided to go with the flow. On our last day in Ottawa, I surfed the ‘net and found recommendations for a great Japanese restaurant: C’est Japon à Suisha, formerly known as Suisha Gardens. I noted it has been around for over 40 years – always a good sign! Interestingly, I noticed the address was on the same street as our hotel but what I didn’t realise was that it was right across the road. There’s some irony in discovering a place online that was in front of my face all along!

The establishment’s name, C’est Japon à Suisha, is a bit of a mouthful but it works. “C’est Japon” is French for “this is Japan” and reflects the authentic menu and setting. “Suisha” is the water wheel gracing the front of this traditionally styled restaurant and a nod to its previous name. The whole place oozes charm, from our warm and welcoming greeting to the short walk to our table past a badger, a brook babbling over stones, a samurai helmet and a lucky cat sitting on the sushi bar.

Wait, what? A badger? Yes, it seems the tanuki is traditionally a symbol of business in Japan. TA-NU-KI also means to excel over others. Not so random after all.

The basement has Japanese-style tatami rooms and private rooms for parties, gatherings and meetings.

We weren’t seated at the sushi bar but could observe the chef from our table. The stunning bar, complete with sushi floating on boats, is the crowning glory.

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Pie’za Pizzeria – Niagara-on-the-Lake (Canada)

Pie’za Pizzeria opened a little over a year ago in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a picturesque town and top tourist destination in Ontario. The restaurant was once a house and has been converted for commercial use. It’s a fitting location for a pizzeria that serves homestyle fare, namely Neapolitan pizza.

The Pie’za name is a reflection of this too. Even though it works with pie (as in pizza pie) and ‘za (slang for pizza), it’s really the colloquial pronunciation of paesano (paesà) that truly reflects the pizzeria’s ethos. The definition of paesano is “fellow countryman” but it also means “rustic, homey and genuine”.

This ethos is apparent in Pie’za Pizzeria’s menu as it follows the principles of the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) movement, namely the use of certain types of ingredients, approved equipment and the traditional method of making pizza. Pie’za Pizzeria’s own version of Napoletana pizza includes specific ingredients such as Italian ‘00’ flour, San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte (mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk), a custom-made wood-fired oven from Naples and a trained/certified pizzaiolo (pizza chef). The dough is handmade daily using purified mineral water, single variety yeast and sea salt with a 24-hour natural fermentation process.

Photo courtesy of Pie’za Pizzeria

This background is all well and good but Pie’za Pizzeria really delivered on our visit. From the ease of booking through their website to the friendly service, it was a great experience from beginning to end. We sat at a lovely table by the window and took in the ambience with its colourful walls, interesting art, vibrant plates and even traditional good luck charms like the roguish figure Pulcinella and the corno (red horn) to ward off the evil eye. If you look closely at Pie’za Pizzeria’s logo, that little red horn serves as the apostrophe. Other playful details included a poster of Sophia Loren and the staff’s Straight Outta Napoli t-shirts.

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Pig Out BBQ – Pickering, Ontario (Canada)

Where do you go when you want to pig out on some good barbecue? Well, a great place would be the aptly named Pig Out BBQ in Pickering. If that’s too far east of Toronto for you, there is also one on Spadina Avenue near the University of Toronto that picked up on the success of this first location.

Pig Out BBQ Outside

The menu features comfort food staples such as pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken wings, burgers, ribs, smoked sausage, tacos (fish, chicken, beef or pork), sweet potato fries, onion rings, poutine, baked beans, mac n cheese, corn bread, warm banana bread pudding and more pig-out worthy dishes.

Collage Pig Out BBQ

Although located on a busy road in Pickering, it’s a real hidden gem. Or should I say, it was… until Food Network Canada’s hit TV program You Gotta Eat Here featured Pig Out BBQ on one of their episodes, which aired in 2014. Canadian readers can watch the episode here. The show airs in a few countries, including the UK, so keep an eye out for it.

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