Every time I have had Vietnamese or Korean it has been at some "Asian Fusion" type restaurant where their menu couldn't be typified into any certain Asian category...not Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese...their menus featured some of each. Fast forward to moving from the U.S. to Canada... You have all of those countries represented and MORE! Either way we were on our way to Ox Head in Kanata, the "BEST" place in "all of Ottawa" for Vietnamese.
We arrived just a bit before the dinner hour which didn't end up making much of a difference here. People were coming in and out all night for phone orders and to dine in while we were there. The way things work is you walk in, pick a table, look through the menu and write your own order ticket and take it to the front counter. We didn't know that until we were ready to order our main entrees. Oops... The manager came to our table with some tea and I asked him what he would recommend to someone who has never had Vietnamese. I already knew he was going to recommend pho (pronounced "fa") because everyone does, but I was more interested in some of their Vietnamese specialty dishes. We placed an order for a large serving of some deep fried spring rolls with fish sauce and we went to work figuring out what we wanted for our entrees.
The flavor of the tea was just okay, it didn't knock my socks off...but I really appreciated having something warm to drink now that the first flurries have landed in Ottawa. It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted. I knew I was in the mood for spice (as per usual) and I wanted something that wasn't too heavy but would still keep me feeling full for a while after dinner. Sometimes when I eat Chinese...I am hungry less than an hour afterward. I flipped back and forth between pho and their specialty page. I finally settled on Stir-Fried Beef with Lemongrass on Vermicelli. That is served with julienned lettuce, cucumber, and onion; bean sprouts, peanuts and their fish sauce. It sounded like a substantial amount of food. The hostess brought our spring rolls to the table and the order for our main entrees went in.
Deep Fried Crispy Spring Rolls w/ Fish Sauce
When I got back to the table the spring rolls were cool enough for me to eat. They were surprisingly delicious. I say surprising because when you pick them up you are immediately inundated with oil...even the Sprout was holding his hands out asking for napkins. But...you dip those rolls in that fish sauce and BAM...greasy gone and only yummy remains. They were pretty darn awesome. Crispy on the outside and savory on the inside; every bite was as good as the last. The hostess came with our main entrees just a couple minutes after this.
Stir-Fried Beef w/ Lemongrass on Vermicelli
Ox Head definitely hit it out of the park with my food. When I walked in and started asking questions and saying I was a flogger...that can get to feel like an enormous amount of pressure to ANY normal person. The manager was calm, knowledgeable about his menu and seemed very confident during our interaction at the beginning of the night. When we were leaving and I let him know his food was great, he was very gracious; their service during the meal was spot on. Behavior like this before, during and after a meal goes a very long way with me. I can't eat much in one sitting, so the experience as a whole (lighting, service, comfortable seats, noise level...) really makes a huge difference on how I view the experience of the food. Of course, my bottom line will ALWAYS be how the food tasted, but I am sold. I totally believe that Ox Head is one of the best places for Vietnamese in Ottawa. C'mon down to Ox Head in Kanata and check 'em out for yourself. Let me know what you think. Enjoy your meal!