By: Saema Nasir
Peering into the dark and dusky Middle Eastern resto lounge, 70 Down, one would not expect it to hold the culinary treasures it does. Masculine décor accented by low lighting, dark walls and leather chairs prompt expectations of cigars and whisky.
I arrive at 70 Down in Yorkville hungry and skeptical. I have enjoyed excellent Middle Eastern fare at a wide variety of restaurants in my hometown of Ottawa and during my travels in Dubai, where I sampled fresh, authentic dishes. I wasn’t sure that this swanky restaurant with its posh location could provide the tasty ‘modern Mediterranean tapas’ its event invite promised.
Boy was I wrong.
As the roomed buzzed with other bloggers and eager foodies, the first course arrived. The montu, beef filled dumplings, were expertly presented in their own spoons topped with a creamy garlic yogurt sauce. It was an Afghani dish I instantly recognized from having tasted it at a local Ottawa mom and pop shop. These little meaty morsels were delicious! Spicy and savoury, but not too salty, the dumplings were mouthfuls of heaven.
Next came the most succulent lamb chops I have ever had. They were moist, garlicky, tender and buttery. The melt-in-your mouth chops were perfectly cooked and delicately spiced with rosemary and thyme; a must have for anyone visiting 70 Down.
To accompany these dishes, 70 Down offers several specialty cocktails. I highly recommend the 70 South Side. Infused with cucumber syrup and accented with lime juice, the gin based cocktail is topped with pepper and provides a nice contrast to the rich, meaty dishes. Its light, fresh taste is exactly what the menu calls for.
The mini joojeh, or chicken skewers, were refreshing with a zing of lemon flavour that accompanies the first bite. Exotic saffron only added to the zingy, tangy taste and I could not get enough.
The Moroccan fish tacos had a crunchy shell and were served with fresh tomatoes and savoury, crispy fish. While not as exciting as the other menu items, it was still above average and tasty.
The menu also had a vegetarian offering in the form of seared halloumi cheese with micro shirazi. These spoonfuls of cheese and veggies tasted like fresh spring. The creaminess of the cheese contrasts nicely with tomato, parsley, cucumber and watercress.
The head chef came to speak with us and as explained his menu choices, it became obvious that he was passionate about his food and mission.
"I wanted to provided a modernized and revolutionized take on the classics. That's my take on everything. I traveled extensively to create these recipes and I think I brought a lot of new flavours,” he said with conviction and passion.
70 Down’s re-launch was a pleasant surprise and if the food remains as excellent as it was when I visited, I would definitely recommend this unexpected gem to all foodies.
To find out more, visit 70Down.ca.