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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Issho – Leeds (UK)

Leeds’ booming food scene now includes Issho, a contemporary Japanese rooftop restaurant and bar located at Victoria Gate. This latest venture by luxury restaurant group D&D London is accessed via a lift to the third floor or up a spectacular spiral staircase.

The whole development is an architectural stunner but Issho’s presence is understated, giving it an air of exclusivity. Once we spotted the signs on the ground floor and again at the entrance, we felt as though we had found a hidden gem.

The interior design is simply breathtaking, punctuated with bamboo accents and muted colours that flow into the separate dining areas. Issho boasts a restaurant space, a terrace with views over the city centre, the Kori Bar and an open kitchen with counter top seating.

A curved wall of wine links the bar and restaurant areas and the abundance of windows ensures the whole space is bathed in natural light. I may be going on about the beautiful design and décor but Issho is definitely not a case of style over substance. The menu is a real winner with its selection of tantalising Japanese and pan-Asian dishes as well as extensive list of wines, sake and cocktails.

Issho’s Executive Chef is Ben Orpwood, an acclaimed chef with an impressive culinary resumé spanning more than a decade of experience. He has created his modern yet authentic Japanese dishes in cities like Istanbul, Dubai, Sydney and London and has travelled extensively throughout Japan. He came to our table to say hello and thank me for the Instagram pics I was posting live. And he’s from Cambridge. Two pleasant surprises!

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Japas – Cambridge (UK)

There is definitely a demand for good sushi in Cambridge so when Japas opened its doors back in September 2010, it was a welcome sight. Located on Saxon Street, it’s slightly further afield from the hustle and bustle of the town centre but still walkable. Japas was once the Cross Keys pub and when it first started trading, it was known as Japas Bento Box.

Japas Outside

I’ve been going to Japas for my sushi fix on a regular basis. I find that the fish is always fresh and the servings are substantial. Food comes out fast, but not rushed, and I always leave with a happy and full belly.

Collage Japas

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Etsu Japanese Restaurant – Liverpool (UK)

Craving sushi and a quick lunch, we headed off to Etsu Japanese Restaurant when we arrived in Liverpool. Etsu turned out to be a bit of a find, in terms of food and location. Nestled in the concrete jungle that is Beetham Plaza, there it was… a little oasis of delightful flavours and aromas.

Etsu

We immediately forgot we were in the middle of bustling Liverpool and enjoyed the relaxed ambience. We were greeted warmly and shown to a table at the back of the restaurant by our friendly and helpful waitress.

Counter

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No.77 – Caxton, Cambridgeshire (UK)

Once the old Cross Keys village pub in Caxton, No.77 has been transformed into a freehouse and Thai kitchen. It’s been described as a pub full of “local loveliness and faraway flavours” and I can see why. The pub retains its village feel whilst offering a taste of the exotic. There was a gap in the market for a good Thai restaurant just outside Cambridge (this place is only 13 miles from the town centre) and No.77 certainly delivered. A complete refurbishment was commissioned by the new owners, not only inside but outside as well. It is now definitely eye-catching!

77Sign

As soon as we entered, we were struck by the tantalising aromas emanating from the kitchen as well as the sumptuous ambience and decor. Cosy and atmospheric with its dark blue and copper tones, we immediately relaxed as we were shown to a table with surprisingly comfortable velvet cinema seats.The crystal decanter chandeliers illuminated the place and reflected light onto the furnishings, including the stunning copper bar. All of our senses were intrigued.

Tables

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