Roku bar + bites
Address: 610 Somerset St W, Ottawa
Hours: 6 – 10pm (Tue – Thu); 6 – “late” (Fri – Sat); 11am – 3pm (Sun); closed Mon
Procrastination rarely works out, and that’s certainly true for food bloggers as memories fade, and all you’re left with are vague feelings and a bunch of pictures on your phone. Such was my case after my first (very enjoyable) visit to Roku with my wife, enjoying dumplings and drinks…but then not writing anything down in a timely fashion.
The silver lining to that cloud is that Roku was very worthy of another visit. Not only did it have tasty food and libations, but it’s within a short walk of our apartment, has a cool vibe with plenty of hip hop and ’90s tunes, and fun decor.
I did visit number two alone, as my wife was overseas, and I just needed to get out of the house after a few days of rain. It was pretty quiet on a Wednesday evening, with just a couple other tables occupied by my fellow 20/30-somethings. Roku has a happy hour from 6-8pm on Wednesday to Saturday that they call “Sabai Sabai”, or ” happy happy” in Lao.
The Sabai Sabai menu has many of their usual menu items, like dumplings, satay, and jerky, but at slightly smaller portions and prices. Having been a fan of their dumplings on my first visit, I eagerly went for their pork gyoza and their Big Mak dumplings. The dumplings are listed as five for $8 on the Sabai menu (regularly six for $10), although they were only $6 per order on my bill. No complaints here, as it’s not actually a deal at $8, just a smaller portion size if you’re only feeling snack-ish.
For a drink, I started off with one their cocktails, a flavourful mix of mango juice, whiskey, ginger, and mint. The mint dominated a bit more than I’d like, but it was dangerously drinkable and tasty.
The kitchen crew at Roku knows what they’re doing with their dumplings – pleasantly chewy wrappers get finished on the flattop for a crispy contrast, and the fillings are always moist and tender. The pork gyoza were topped with a sprinkle of red cabbage, green onion, and some crispy bits (possibly fried onions) and sat in a splash of soy sauce.
The more novel Big Mak dumplings get the whole McTreatment – but in dumpling form. The beef dumplings are topped with diced pickles, crispy onion bits, shredded iceberg lettuce, black sesame seeds, melted cheddar, and of course, some Mac, er, Mak sauce. It’s got a lot going on – especially for dumplings – but it’s fun, funky, and it works.
Wanting to get a few vegetables into my system, I ordered the Roku salad ($8) – a mix of cucumber, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, onions, and matchstick taro chips, with crushed peanuts on top. The salad was fresh, easily chopstick-ed and the levels of flavour in it put basic bitch lettuce salads to shame.
Service here has always been super attentive and genuinely friendly, without being that fake nice that we all know/have done while working in the service industry.
With a review finally in the can, I can now just come back to Roku and enjoy their dumplings, drinks and decor on my own terms, and come back I will (and have).