Located just northwest of Dunrobin, La Osteria boasts a quaint, romantic location on Constance Bay Road. From the second I pulled into their parking lot I was enchanted. Walking in, I felt almost like I was in a massage studio. A very quiet kitchen, dim lighting and soft voices of the other patrons greeted my weary self and family quite happily. Before too long we were greeted by the hostess with the menu for the night and a high chair was situated for the Sprout. I made my usual pleasantries, talking of the menu and the background of the restaurant itself. I had a hard time deciding on my entree, but none on our starters. We ordered Marinated Eggplant, Green Olives & Sun-dried Tomatoes and an order of Mini Meat Pies with Fresh Tomato Salsa. I went from wanting the Maple, Mustard Pork to wanting the Spaghetti with Shrimp... When it became known they were from Argentina my decision was made...Steak a la Plancha....rare. If the people cooking my food were from Argentina, I knew my ticket to bliss was going to be beef.
Not too long after taking our order a lovely basket of focaccia and olives were on our table, looking and smelling fabulous. The Sprout didn't make it through the prayer before he was motioning to the bread with some...ahem...fervent urging...for us to give him some of that yummy looking, great smelling stuff.
The olives were pitted, but that only added to their robust flavor. Their focaccia was unbelievably soft and very aromatic. We all loved it, the only thing that could have bettered it was to have been given MORE of it. We made short time of the business of devouring it. After this delightful beginning to the evening I decided that although it was a small place by any standards, I wanted to see what there was to see.
Not too long after taking my seat again our appetizers were in front of us; a visual delight! But would the taste equal our anticipation?
Mini Meat Pies with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Marinated Eggplant, Green Olives & Sun-dried Tomatoes
The requisite "OOOOOOhhh!" jaculated from the Sprout when the plates had been parked in front of me and my Mister. As quickly as we could we cut up the mini meat pies into child sized bites the Sprout was making short work of them; my mister and I shared one between the two of us. I can hardly identify the all seasonings that were in the meat other than to guess at cinnamon and/or cumin. It really doesn't matter, their representation of an empanada was spectacular and done without flaw. The pastry enveloping the meat was flaky and soft with a crisp texture that complimented the meat so well. It was a perfect starter... My Mister and I next applied ourselves to the marinated eggplant, green olive and sun-dried tomato tapas. It is hard to describe in words the flavors and textures that literally exploded in my mouth. The marinated eggplant was deliciously seasoned and the olive added the saltiness that the eggplant lacked and it was all highlighted with the sweetness interspersed throughout by the sun-dried tomatoes. The balsamic reduction added a depth of flavor I didn't expect but thoroughly enjoyed. Halfway through this course our entrees came out...
Steak a la Plancha
I have had steak ONE time since I have been in Ottawa before last night. Previous to that and since that particular steak at the Empire Grill, I have been living in utter disbelief that only ONE place in this town knew how to cook a steak properly; I was glad that La Osteria was able to change my perception on the matter. Ecstatic! The only description of this dish was "sirloin steak seared in a cast iron pan"...no mention of its accompaniments. I thought that was awfully risky and leaves the door wide open, through lack of description, for someone to pass up the opportunity to order it. Some patrons don't like the work of having to ask what something "comes with", easy as it may be. As you can clearly see, it came with potatoes in a rosemary & butter sauce and a vegetable combination of broccoli & carrots; also well buttered and seasoned. The potatoes were smooth in texture and cooked to perfection. The vegetables were tender crisp and obviously fresh. The carrots were particularly sweet which was a nice surprise. My steak was succulent, cooked to order and seasoned impeccably. I couldn't think of a thing my dish was missing or that I would have done different. In point of fact, this is only the second time since I have been in eating in this town that I haven't reached for the salt or pepper shaker for any reason during my meal.
La Osteria was one of the most pleasant dining experiences that we have had since we've been in the Ottawa area. Don't let the size of their establishment fool you, their food is packed with flavor and they have a chef in their kitchen that means business. I've heard this place described as a "best kept secret in the outskirts of Ottawa". After experiencing it first hand I cannot argue and would add to it that it is NOT to be missed if you're ever in the Constance Bay area. I highly recommend the steak; rare. If you go, let me know what you ordered and how you liked it. I will definitely be going back to try more of their dishes!