I had been anxious to try Stephen Beckta's latest venture, Play Food and Wine, since its opening in January 2009. I had read mixed reviews on Ottawa Foodies - several praised the food but quite a few thought portions were small/prices were high and that it was too noisy. I finally got the chance to try Play last Friday as I met with friends for food and drinks.
I had made reservations online, requesting a table on the second floor as I had read it was more quiet than the main floor. Upon arrival, my friends and I were greeted by two hostesses who offered to take our coats. One of them then led us to our table on the second floor. My first impression of the decor was that it was urban and chic, somewhat cold, perhaps because of the blue walls and black chairs. I later noticed red fabric swatches hanging canopy-style from the ceiling and which I later learned were installed to muffle the noise. Speaking of noise - yes, it was noisy but not so bad as to be unable to hear our waiter or my dinner companions. However, I did find it to be quite warm, too warm. Maybe it was me - the food, the alcohol, being tired after a long day at the office - who knows but I was starting to feel uncomfortable by the end of my meal.
But on to the food! Our waiter was very helpful in explaining the concept of the restaurant - several small plates, to be enjoyed by one or to be shared. He told us most people order between 2 and 4 plates. Offerings on the menu are loosely ranked based on substance - each item is more substantial than the one before. As well, each menu selection has a wine recommendation - you can buy wine by the bottle, by the glass or a smaller "taste" size which would allow to pair a different wine with each course.
Despite the large selection of wines, I decided to order a Beau's Lug Tread. I had heard good things about Beau's but had never tried it before. (It was quite good though it gave me a bit of a buzz after only half a glass.)
For my first course I ordered the Pork Rillette / Apple Butter from the Charcuterie menu. Soooooo good! The pork rillette was perfectly salty and the apple butter provided a sweet contrast. I thought the portion was quite substantial; I was a very happy camper. I also had a taste of my friend's Beef Shank & Foie Gras Terrine w/ Red Wine Jelly - yum!
For my second course I ordered the Lamb Panini w/ Potato and Harissa Onions and Raita - also very good. The lamb practically melted in my mouth!
By the time I had finished these two courses I was pleasantly full. The dessert menu was tempting but I was reasonable and only nibbled on cheese (Thunder Oak / 3-year Aged Gouda, Smoky, Caramel Flavour) from my friend's cheese plate. The Thurder Oak was good but unlike any gouda I'd had before - it was very dry, almost like parmigiano reggiano.
The total bill came to $31 including tax and tip - extremely reasonable. On our way out we stopped by the coat check and were greeted by owner Stephen Beckta (a celebrity in his own right) who inquired about our visit and who explained the improvements he had made since the restaurant's opening. We told him that we had greatly enjoyed our meal and that we were pleased he was taking customer feedback so seriously.
I very much enjoyed my experience at Play Food and Wine and I look forward to going back soon!