As dawn approaches on Boxing Day, thousands of people across the city line up outside Best Buy, Future Shop, Staples, Walmarts, and other big box stores. Others still head to the shopping malls, looking for bargains. Meanwhile, I am fast asleep in my nice warm bed with a turkey hangover. After our annual big Christmas dinner, Don and I have no appetite when we wake up and have no desire to take part in the frenzy within and without malls. However, we do have our Boxing Day traditions, which includes making a stop for a late lunch/early dinner at our favourite neighbourhood Lebanese restaurant, Les Grillades. It is usually our only meal on boxing day.
The tradition started after Christmas 2007. As with Christmases hence we were feeling exhausted from weeks of shopping for gifts, weeks of baking for care packages, and several days of preparing Christmas dinner for my family. Feeling lazy and hungry, we set out with the goal of eating something delicious in a nearby eatery, preferably a quite one. Walking only a few metres, we found the perfect place at Les Grillades. We frequent Les Grillades somewhat regularly, but never on a holiday. Its food is always tasty and the service, friendly, but slow.
With healthy appetites, I ordered an appetizer of potatoes and the Kafta Lamb plate while Don chose the grilled boneless half-chicken plate.
After placing our order with the server, small bowls of pickled turnips and fresh garlic were soon brought to our table, standard accompaniments for Middle Easter meals. While the turnips tasted like they came from a bottle, the garlic sauce was fresh, incredibly light, and airy.
Our server also brought us a basket filled with a sandwich bagged pita bread, two to a bag, quartered, and warm. Judging from how the bag felt, the pita bread had been heated by microwave. It went very nicely with the condiments, which we were encouraged to eat as we awaited our mains.
Next, a small bowl of humus came. Made in-house, its texture was coarse, but it was tasty. It was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with finely chopped parsley. I should mention that all this was served before our appetizer was brought to our table.
When it did arrive, the potatoes resembled halved wedges. Fried and seasoned with coriander and garlic, they sported a nice tang. However, we were a bit disappointed with the somewhat soggy texture. For $3.50, we had been expecting something more, at least freshly fried. Soft and warm, these potatoes had been fried some time ago and warmed via microwave.
Approximately an hour after placing our order, our mains finally arrived. Rather famished, we could not help, but take a few minutes to simply inhale the smell of food before us. The smells of freshly charcoal grilled chicken and lamb was heavenly. Both plates came with generous helpings of seasoned basmati rice with golden sultana raisins and freshly dressed salads of shredded romaine lettuce, green peppers, hot house tomatoes, and cucumbers.
The chicken was a bit salty, but it was beautifully de-boned, tender, smoky, spiced and deliciously moist. With garlic sauce, chicken, vegetables, hummus, and pickled turnip, you can make your own mini shawarma sandwiches. Don’s perfect bite paired brightly dressed lettuce with dark meat chicken, a little rice, and a drag through the garlic sauce. I could not help but steal a few pieces of chicken when he was not looking. At $11.99, this platter was a steal.
My order of lamb was also a delight. The matched pair skewers of hand shaped grilled lamb was very moist, smoky, well-seasoned, and lovely crusted on the outside. At times, I made my own mini lamb sandwiches with the pita, but also found my perfect bites pairing lamb with rice and salad. Unable to help himself, Don insisted on trading some chicken for lamb. With the Kafta lamb plate at $11.99, this too was a great deal.
Two complimentary boxes of chicklets arrived with the bill.
Reminding me of those small boxes of gum I used to get in my Halloween bag, these pieces of gum are called Cheques and come from Lebanon.
As we have mentioned in previous posts, service can be rather slow, especially when ordering full platters. Often times, the wait from order to plate is an hour. However, it is often worth it. Les Grillades lives up to its reputation of serving the best charcoal grilled chicken in Ottawa. Its food is always consistent and with generous portions, many customers request boxes so they can finish their leftovers later.
If you have some time free time and are looking for some great Lebanese food, you will not be disappointed here.
In fact, our neighbour insisted we go again later that week. Pictures of kebbe and grilled sujok sausage from that dinner follow after the jump.
Aside: For Boxing Day 2009, we returned and discovered that the prices were still the same.
Boxing Day 2008, itemized
- 1 hot garlic potatoes
- Grilled Boneless Half-Chicken plate
- Kafta Lamb plate
Total (after taxes before tips): $31.06
Boxing Day 2009, itemized
- 1 hot garlic potatoes: $3.50
- 1 Sanbousk (cheese-filled dumplings 4 pcs): $4.50
- 1 soft drink (can): $1.50
- Grilled Boneless Half-Chicken plate: $11.99
- Kafta Lamb plate $11.99
Total (after taxes before tips): $37.85
Generously accompanied by salad and basmati rice, the sujok platter was just as filling as the half chicken and the kafta. The difference from the kafta, added spices. Besides cumin, we tasted red pepper in the sujok.
For appetizers, we ordered kebbe (or kebbeh) croquettes.
Kebbe is a traditional middle eastern dish of seasoned minced beef and/or lamb and bulghur that is hand-shaped and cooked.
Kebbe can be shaped into patties and baked. It can be shaped into balls and boiled in stock. The most popular, shaped into torpedo shapes and deep fried. Ours tasted of cumin and had whole pine nuts in them.
The croquettes developed a nutty crust in the oil. Inside, the kebbe mixture was loosely packed.
Again, we were served large enough portions we boxed leftovers to take home.