Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Play Food and Wine Restaurant

Pork rillette / purple mustard 7$
Crispy oysters / pineapple hollandaise / sweet chili 10$
Ricotta gnudi / brown butter / squash tempura 9$
GMS, Old Bush Vines, Schild, Australia, 2007 (5 oz)
Zinfandel, OVC, Four Vines, California, 2006 (5 oz )

I have been anticipating the opening of Play for months now! As many of you are, I am a huge fan of Beckta restaurant on Nepean street. It was said that Play would be more casual, and somewhat more affordable. Beckta, for us mere mortals, is kept for very special occasions. So I was delighted to hear that I would be able to feast on Michael Moffat's creations more then once a year!

However, in the back on my mind I had doubts, how could Moffat be in 2 places at the same time and if not, how would he manage to keep the quality of the food consistent... Unfortunately I was right.

First, I love the building and location. Could not be more perfect, the stone building is a beauty in the Byward market. But how disappointed I was to see no stone was exposed inside, but instead covered with baby blue walls and a white ceiling! Not very "playful" or warm. Actually, my fiancé hit it right on the head when he said; it felt like a sterile, cold hospital room, enough said... The room itself amplifies conversations so it is loud and it sounds like a bunch of people speaking in a cave.

Our waiter was nice, but not up to Beckta's standard yet. When he came over to our table he sort of "crouched" down but almost behind me to ask what I would like to drink... so I had to twist into an uncomfortable position in order to see and face him.. Minor detail, but still strange.

We ordered 2 glasses of wines 5 oz each, I think they were 9$. I had the Zinfandel, it was a cold night and I was in the mood for something bold. It did the trick and not only that the wine was the perfect temperature...wow! Finally someone in Ottawa gets it! Now, something else that caught my attention was the price difference between a 3 oz and 5 oz. As an example, if the 3 0z serving for a specific wine was 6$ (I cannot remember the exact amount), the 5oz was 9$. I noticed that another 3 oz wine was 6$ as well, however the 5oz portion was more then 9$.... you see what I mean? I brought it to the attention of our waiter, he agreed that it was strange and left it at that...no explanation.

Food. Many reviews raved about the food, it is a tapas style menu, (small plates). I love this concept, it enables you to try many different dishes. Ottawa is finally catching on to that trend, better late then never. I have always found that chefs try to "wow" you with the appetizers. I remember many moons ago, I would only order appetizers, I was either refused or looked at like I had 3 heads. Times have changed..thank goodness. However I still like to get a bang for my buck and the small plates were overpriced for the quality and quantity presented. I know the hot trend is small plates but four "plates " later your down $40.00. Mind you if the quality is good then fine but it has to be competitive with the other eateries out there and it didn't meet my expectations.

Sooooo, we ordered the Ricotta gnudi / brown butter / squash tempura that everybody raves about. The gnudi was good, so was the brown butter sauce, but nothing to brag about. The squash tempura was limp, smal and greasy . Second was the Pork rillette with purple mustard. My better half and I are big fans of rillette and will drive a ridiculous amount of kms to buy it! So we expected something spectacular from this kitchen, alas.. it was more of a pate texture, no big pieces of pork to be found. It also tasted and had somewhat the texture of bread crumbs... very disappointing. Third was the Crispy oysters with pineapple hollandaise and sweet chili sauce. Finally something tasty! The oysters were plump and juicy, the batter crispy and not too oily. Too bad the portion was so small and pricey. The chili sauce was nice, however the pineapple hollandaise tasted of tin... pureed canned pineapple??? At that price, it should not be...Moffat was certainly not in the house that night

Oh! one more thing, we ordered 3 small plates and asked the waiter to bring them at intervals, he agreed it was the best way. Well, all 3 plates were brought at the same time and the table was too small to accommodate everything...

All in all, not a horrible experience, but far from memorable. For that amount of money, Murray street and Aroma Mezze are a much better value. Sorry Stephen and Michael, I expected so much more from the both of you.

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