Ever since I learned that Hey Kitchen in Chinatown has a dish that’s fairly unique in Ottawa, omurice, I have been wanting to try it out. And there was no better time than during the pandemic to support this Asian-owned business!
Omurice is just one of several menu items at Hey Kitchen which are known as yōshoku in Japan. These are Japanese dishes which have been heavily influenced by Western cooking. The dish itself is comprised of an omelet filled with fried rice, and it is often topped with some other sort of protein and/or sauce.
Hey Kitchen has a variety of omurice to choose from, and I went with the tonkatsu with a spicy curry sauce ($14.49). The omurice itself was pretty hefty, and gained even more mass from the breaded and fried pork cutlet on top. As takeout, my curry sauce came on the side, which I appreciated for preventing my food from getting soggy.
The fried-rice filling was a good texture, with plump, medium-grained rice that was dotted with flecks of mushroom, and stretchy bits of melted cheese. The egg exterior was lightly fried, without a hint of browning, and held up surprisingly well to its plentiful filling.
I was impressed that the tonkatsu still retained its crispness after a short walk to find a place to sit down and eat in Chinatown, and it was sliced up into easily-chopstickable pieces.
The curry sauce was in the traditional Japanese style – not as big and bright as a typical South Asian curry sauce – and despite its “spicy” label, only had a hint of underlying spiciness.
Despite the omurice alone being more than enough for lunch, I also ordered the Taiwanese wings ($7.99) to try more of their menu. I don’t know what characteristics define a Taiwanese chicken wing, but if Hey Kitchen’s are a good example of them, I’m on board! Six large wings – evenly split between drumettes and flats – come with an order.
The batter was impressively crisp, with a lightly sweet and spicy seasoning to it that made them irresistible. The only thing that kept me from eating them all right then and there was the big pile of omurice and tonkatsu that I also had to sample. Although they came with a spicy mayo for dipping, the wings were so good on their own that I barely made use of it.
My second visit occurred after I saw on Instagram that Spark Beer was collaborating with its neighbours Hey Kitchen and Chili Chili to allow their food to be served on the parking lot behind all three that serves as Spark’s patio. You can peruse the two restaurants’ menus at a table near their backdoors, then ring a wireless doorbell to get service.
I was planning on having a couple beers on a hot summer day, so I planned my food to be protein-heavy to help me handle the booze.
The braised bean curd ($5.99) was simple in its preparation and presentation, but it worked. Rectangular slices of firm tofu braised in a soy-based sauce come stacked in a pyramid for your snacking pleasure. They were tender, salty, and although they likely aren’t what most Westerners (including this Chinese, but born in small-town Nova Scotia, blogger) think of as drinking food, but I really enjoyed them!
Popcorn chicken ($8.99) definitely falls into the category of cross-cultural drinking food. It was a generous portion of breaded and fried pieces of chicken, and their irregular shape and size seemed to suggest that they weren’t just from a freezer bag. A hint of Chinese five spice comes through in the breading, which gave them a nice depth of flavour, and the dipping mayo added further umami.
Hey Kitchen is not only doing dishes that are hard to find in Ottawa, but they’re also doing an amazing job on their execution. Whether it’s takeout, patio eats, or eventually dine-in, you’d be doing yourself and your taste buds a favour by giving them your business.