Address: 420 Preston St, Ottawa
Hours: 5-11pm (Tue); 12-11pm (Wed-Thu); 12pm-12am (Fri-Sat); 12-10pm (Sun); closed Mondays
As a voracious consumer of both food and food-related media, I was excited when I found out that there was an izakaya called Kuidaore on Preston Street in Little Italy. If you’re not familiar with izakayas, they’re effectively Japanese tapas bars, specializing in sake and small plates for sharing.
I made lunch plans to finally try Kuidaore with my sister, and we strolled into their cool (figuratively and literally) confines on a hot summer day. There’s a mural running the length of a whole wall with fun depictions of various parts of Japanese culture – a geisha, koi fish, a samurai, Gundam robots, and of course…Godzilla. It’s fun and colourful, and makes for a laidback atmosphere. A very pink, artificial cherry tree by the bar further adds to the vibe.
The menu had me somewhat worried when I first saw it, as they don’t just have your typical grilled and fried dishes that izakaya specialize in, but also sizable sushi and ramen sections. It was hard not to think about the “jack of all trades” figure of speech, but to be fair, Little Italy may not be the best location for a pure izakaya.
I was intrigued by the skewer section of the menu, as this is a feature of many izakayas, some of which will go so far as to master just a single type of skewered meat. Kuidaore offers several – from the more approachable beef and shrimp skewers, to more adventurous ones like chicken hearts and baby squid.
It was very quiet despite being peak lunch hours, so we were able to order from our very friendly waiter quite quickly once we were ready. The omakase (chef’s choice) skewers seemed like a great way to try a few, and I specified that I’d eat anything so that the chef wouldn’t pull any punches. I tacked on an order of vegetable gyoza to have something other than just meat in my lunch. My sister went with the tonkotsu ramen.
After some catching up with my sibling, it wasn’t too long before our food came out. My omakase skewers ($10) were comprised of a fish balls, shrimp, chicken hearts, and beef – a nice mix, and slightly cheaper than ordering them all separately would have been.
The fish balls were lightly fishy and spongey, like any fish ball, and had a hoisin-type sauce on top. My shrimp skewer with two lone shrimp seemed a bit bare compared to the other skewers, but the meat was fairly tender for what was likely from-frozen shrimp, and had gotten some nice love on the grill.
Chicken hearts can be incredibly chewy if overcooked, but these were tender and had a great flavour. The beef was equally tender, with a lightly sweet marinade that was conservatively applied.
All told, I really enjoyed the skewers, although I would have liked more char on them, and even more so if they were to be cooked on real charcoal.
My veggie gyoza (five for $7), were fairly large, but came with too light of a sear. The filling was cabbage-heavy, but still helped balance out the pure-protein of the skewers.
The tonkotsu ramen was a big hit with my sister. She may have been ruined for ramen in Ottawa by what’s available in Vancouver, but she said this is probably the best that she’s had here in the capital. The soft-boiled egg had a wonderfully creamy yolk, and the green onion, nori, and wood ear mushrooms added layers of flavour.
The pork belly was a meatier cut than is my preference in ramen but was generously thick. Tonkotsu ramen is known for its creamy broth, which is made from slow-cooking pork bones, and while I wasn’t blown away by Kuidaore’s, it was a respectable entry.
Kuidaore, which roughly translates as “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food”, gives a lot of options to carry out its namesake action, and executes the ones we had surprisingly well. I’m looking forward to coming back to try out more of their skewers and other izakaya fare, and perhaps ruining myself on their $5 sake bombs.