Address: 1644 Bank St, Ottawa
Hours: 12pm – 7:30pm (Daily; hours may change during/after the pandemic)
Alhuda Restaurant, a Somali takeout place, can be a little awkward to get to if you’re not familiar with the location. It’s tucked away in a commercial building that despite its address, is actually setback from Bank Street on a laneway that runs in behind the Canadian Tire at Bank and Heron.
Now that you know about its geography, let’s get on to the important part: the food.
Their menu is very compact, although from what I’ve seen of their social media, it was larger pre-pandemic. You can get beef, lamb or chicken (drumsticks or breast), with either rice or spaghetti. That’s right, spaghetti. There are also a couple salads, and beef samosas.
On my first visit, I ordered the lamb and rice ($14.99), since I was running was errands solo, and wouldn’t have to worry about sharing with my wife who isn’t a fan of lamb’s more…pronounced…flavour. I also tacked on a beef samosa ($1.49), as why wouldn’t you at that price?!
I soon had my food in hand and found a place outside to eat, albeit somewhat awkwardly; the southern parts of Bank are NOT pedestrian friendly. (They have since added picnic tables so you can eat on site.)
Upon opening my bag of delicious-smelling food, I was greeted by a complimentary banana. I’m down with that.
Alhuda’s lamb and rice (and all their meals) come in a standard, three-part Styrofoam container, with the front section packed with seasoned basmati rice. A garden salad and the lamb took up the other slots.
I was very impressed with the lamb. It’s an easy meat to overcook, and Alhuda doesn’t use a heavy sauce to mask any poor cooking technique. The hunks of lamb were lightly seasoned, and very tender and moist, with a mix of lean and fat-capped pieces.
I’m a sucker for nearly any kind of rice, and I appreciated the style here, with the basmati topped with raisins and sautéed onions. There was a hint of citrus-like flavour that may have come from a dusting of sumac, while the onions’ vibrant orange/yellow hue suggested that they spent some time with turmeric. All things told, it was a flavourful side that I eagerly devoured, although not all of it because it was a seriously large portion of rice.
Basic garden salads just aren’t my thing. While I appreciate POC entrepreneurs trying to add some vegetables to their dishes while catering to local tastes, they’re just so generic, and they’re everywhere. Please, give the people a taste of your own cuisine. We’ve had more than enough iceberg lettuce in our lifetimes!
The beef samosa was a wonderful little addition to my meal. It’s not one of those hefty samosas as big as your fist, but it was filled with a tasty mix of ground beef, potato and onion, and had a pleasant hit of spiciness to it.
On visit number two to Alhuda, I ordered the spaghetti and beef ($13.99), as well as a samosa.
The small cubes of boneless beef had been sautéed with onions, with a subdued seasoning that let the savoury ingredients stand out. Some pieces were a shade overcooked, but not so much that it wasn’t still enjoyable.
Spaghetti as a side at a Somali restaurant might seem a bit odd, and it is, as it’s a cultural leftover from Italy’s time as a colonial power in eastern Africa. Unfortunately, I couldn’t discern any Somali twist to the spaghetti, and it was just classic ol’ spaghetti with a beefy red sauce. There was a lot of it though, and this whole platter was enough for two lunches for me! If you’ve got kids who are picky eaters, this could be a good gateway dish for them, otherwise I’d suggest sticking with the rice.
As one of just a handful of Somali places in Ottawa, Alhuda Restaurant adds another layer to the culture of our city, with its flavourful, well-executed dishes.