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Whalesbone oyster shucker

Shucking oysters for one of many oyster platters served at Whalesbone.

The Whalesbone Oyster House gets positive press and comes highly recommended by friends. I finally made it there last week and it was love at first bite, literally. Soon after being seated, we were served bread and butter. The butter was different. It had a nutty, toasted flavour. Beautiful. Turns out they heat butter until the milk solids caramelize (make brown butter/ beurre noisette), then mix it back into softened butter. Wow, what a great start!

Although there were several tempting dishes on the menu, we chose the four-course tasting menu. When asked if we had any allergies, I suddenly realized I had a dilemma… I don’t like seafood. Fish, yes. Seafood, not so much (and I’ve tried). But either the whole table takes it or no-one gets it. So, I went for it (no mussels or clams) and thankfully so! Not only did I try new things, but the meal was simply sublime.

Scallop tartare

Scallop tartare with cucumber. A delectable mouthful, captured just before the last bite disappeared.

First, tender and sweetly of sea-tasting scallops contrasting with the sweet crunch of cucumbers and the salty crunch of fleur de sel, balanced by the acidity of a blood orange vinaigrette, rounded out by soft, creamy goat cheese.

Second, bright green spring peas and asparagus with grilled morels and fresh herbs hosting the red-speckled flesh of a lobster claw.

At this point, all the tables around us were getting fresh oysters. David couldn’t resist. We ordered a four-oyster palate cleanser. The XL Angel from B.C. was the size of the palm of my hand. We discovered the difference in taste between farm bed-raised oysters and ones finished on the beach, i.e. left to roll in the surf. The latter have more flavour. We also learned how baby oysters are made.

Then, salmon on a bed of pre-summer succotash (corn, tomatoes, small gnocchi, ramps). And, to end it all, sundaes with Pascale’s vanilla ice cream and deliciously fun and fresh toppings.

As I left the restaurant, I almost felt guilty. Did I cheat on the Wellington Gastropub, my other favourite restaurant? Blushing yes. My first date at Whalesbone was such an exceptional experience, that it now shares first place for favourite restaurant on my palate.

Why I ♥ Whalesbone Oyster House

  • The food is fresh and perfectly prepared. I want to say that you can tell there are women in the kitchen, but there’s no way I could prove that!
  • It’s Ocean Wise certified. The fish, oysters and seafood come from sustainable sources.
  • Staff is friendly, attentive, patient, and knowledgeable.
  • The kitchen is tiny and open. You can see the chef at work. The counter that divides the kitchen from the restaurant is home to fresh sprouts. Snip and plate.
  • The restaurant is cozy. The atmosphere is happy, warm and welcoming. There’s a sense of humour in the décor.
  • Chances are high that you’ll have a friendly conversation with the people at the next table.
  • It has a retail store, where you can buy fresh fish, oysters and seafood, smoked fish and a brown bag lunch.

Things to be aware of:

  • It’s snug. Not much space for private conversations.
  • Seating is limited. Best to make a reservation.

Story from our evening at Whalesbone Oyster House

On May 12, La Presse published an article about Ottawa, which listed some of the great shops and restaurants in Ottawa. Whalesbone was on the list. As we were digging into dessert, two older gentlemen came into the restaurant with this article from La Presse. No tables available, so they took two seats at the bar. It turns out they had come from Montreal to eat at Whalesbone! No doubt, it was worth the drive.

Epilogue

It’s May 23 and I just found a blog post by Lynne Frappier—from inside the kitchen on that same evening—about the same two gentlemen!

Whalesbone Oyster House on Urbanspoon

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