This week, we pointed to Chef Robin Bowen’s recent segment on A-Channel’s morning show to highlight a dish he will include in SPIN Kitchen & Bar‘s (100 Kent Street) new “Bar Eats and Munch” menu, to be released in July. The “Braised Quebec duckling quesadilla” that was featured (and subsequently served Thursday evening at Ottawa Human Society fundraiser “In the Doghouse”) is a classic dish from Chef Bowen’s repertoire. He has been making it since he was an apprentice, working in professional kitchens in his hometown, Calgary, Alberta.
The Ottawa Marriott hired him to transform the menu at SPIN, essentially, imprint his brand of fresh, crisp, and edgy food onto the restaurant. At the same time, SPIN’s menu, be it for lunch, dinner, or bar “nibbles”, must appeal to both hotel guests and Ottawa locals. Besides the duck quesadilla, the “Bar Eats and Munch” menu will feature crab sliders, tempura shrimp, and grilled lamb “lollipops”, dishes that are easily recognizable.
The drafts of the menus we have seen are very understandable. You needn’t be a well-read food enthusiast to decipher what you will be served. There are no esoteric culinary terms on the menu. Descriptions are refreshingly concise and informative. Take for instance another “Bar Eats and Munch” menu item, “Spin Mac’s”.
Spin Mac’s mini burger
“1000 island aioli”, cheese & pickles
It is rather clear the slider-style burgers will borrow aspects from the large-chained fast food sandwich with a very similar name (Big-…).
Chef Bowen chose the menu item to be functional as well. Mostly, they facilitate one-handed eating, to be enjoyed in SPIN’s lobby. Unencumbered, the other hand is free to shake hands, work a smart phone, or hold a drink.
SPIN’s lobby was transformed during recent renovations to create a lounge space business travelers can sit down in and order a snack, while connecting to the Ottawa Marriott’s complementary WIFI. There are electrical outlets and network drops, cleverly concealed at the long tables.
The hotel even lends out Apple iPads to guests.
The space is likewise intended to attract office workers from nearby complexes after a long day. Already, the lobby was chosen by the Government of Canada’s Web 2.0 Practitioner (#W2P) community for a casual meet-up (tweet-up). Wednesday afternoon, approximately 50 young public servants gathered in the lobby to network and discuss new and innovative ways to better serve Canadians, using cutting edge technology.
Here are dishes next month’s guests can look forward to:
When we sat down with the Ottawa Marriott and Chef Bowen to chat about covering the menu-makeover, he had us try his then experiment with chilled lump crab dip and potato chips.
Think sweet crab and mayonnaise flavoured with crab boil seasoning on a crunchy chip.
Now imagine something similar, loosely shaped together, breaded with panko crumbs and deep fried.
The black bean aioli is an emulsion made with fermented black beans, roasted red pepper, ginger, sambal oleak, sesame oil, egg yolk, salt and pepper and a “touch” of lime. It provides umami, salt, slight brightness, and a little spice.
Tempura Gulf Stream Shrimp
Having attended our fair share of cocktail receptions, food on sticks is surprisingly convenient. How about carefully shelled tempura shrimp?
Chef Bowen shared how he made the shrimp’s thin coating wonderfully crisp. First, the shrimp tempura employs Louisiana white shrimp, which is reputed to be sweeter. Carefully peeled so only the tail fins remain, Chef Bowen coats each in an egg batter made with equal parts by of volume of rice flour and cold soda water. To fry them, he employs a method well-read food enthusiasts will recognize as coming from celebrated former Toronto-chef Susur Lee. The shrimp are fried twice in hot oil, the first time for 15 seconds. The second, for 30 seconds. The result, a glassy tempura-style coating. It is paired with a mojito-inspired sauce that reflects Chef Bowen’s signature, a combination of sweet and spice.
Grilled Lamb Lollipops
When was the last time you ordered a rack of lamb at a restaurant? It is a bit of a holdover from decades past to have an entire rack on the menu, something decadent. Here is Chef Bowen’s answer for modern dining, grilled lamb “lollipops”
Lamb lollipops aren’t something you’ll find at the Royal Oak pub two streets over. Especially, paired with a tomato marmalade that features cinnamon, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar. Think carefully grilled rib-chops of grass-fed New Zealand lamb, paired with sweet from the marmalade and heat from the pesto. Chef Bowen essentially manages the gamey-ness of the lamb with paired flavours.
Also on the menu, obligatory bar eats chicken wings in two flavours, either tequila lime barbecue or Chef Bowen’s hotter than hell sauce. And, a take on American chain P.F. Chang’s China Bistro’s lettuce wraps with crisp veggies (carrots, celery, fennel radishes, and red and yellow bell peppers), Shanghai noodles, spiced cashews, and a ponzo dipping sauce.
With a menu like this, well executed, we envision SPIN will be quite the contender for happy hour on Fridays.