nullnullAddress: 225 Preston St Unit 3, Ottawa
Hours: 5 – 10pm (Tue – Thu, Sun); 5 – 11pm (Fri – Sat)
Like everything in the pandemic, the opening of Vivaan in Fall 2020 seems like it was both a long time ago and that it only just happened. Similarly, while I’ve been wanting to try this upscale Indian restaurant for a while, it was only earlier this year that I finally pulled the trigger.
Chef-owner Teegavarapu Sarath Mohan opened this Little Italy eatery as the next step in his career after his first, more casual venture, NH44.
Vivaan’s menu is larger than many these days, but it’s far from overwhelming in size, with a handful each of apps, curries, rice dishes, breads, sides, and street food-style dishes that Mohan brought over to his new restaurant – which are right up my alley.
Everything is quite share-able, and as my wife and I were dining with my sister and her husband, we ordered several dishes from across the menu.
Cone chaat ($15) were fun little apps that packed in a lot of flavour and textures into small little cones – spiced chickpea and potato, a yogurt topping, cilantro and tamarind chutneys, and pomegranate seeds. They were such a fun and tasty start to the meal!
Next up was the paani puri ($15). This other entry in the street food section of the menu was comprised of light-as-air semolina shells which came atop six different flavoured waters in shot glasses. To eat them, you poured the waters into the open tops of the shells and popped them into your mouth. They were a bit messier than the chaat cones, but we found them to be delightfully playful and enjoyed the variety of flavours from a savoury tamarind to a fruity mango.
Pav in India are small sandwiches which use pillowy, dinner roll-esque bread, and the Bollywood Pav ($15) at Vivaan were a delicious take on this street food classic. Filled with seasoned ground lamb kebabs in their house-made bread, the lamb was wonderfully tender. With its heavy seasoning, even my lamb-adverse wife was a big fan! The buns were lightly toasted, airy, and soft. With a dusting of crisp bits of noodles, and fillings that were barely contained by the bread, it was another dish that made us thankful there was no tablecloth to make a mess of on our outdoor table!
Completing our sweep of the street food menu at Vivaan was the burrata paapdi chaat ($15). This gorgeous hot mess was made up of house-made paapdi (a large, thin cracker), spiced potatoes, burrata, cilantro and tamarind chutneys, and pomegranate seeds. The texture of the ultra-crisp paapdi made for the perfect contrast against the milky burrata, and the mix of sweet and savoury flavours – and the sheer depth of flavour of the dish as a whole – was a winner.
The fried chicken biryani ($19) was a refreshing take on a common South Asian dish. While I’m used to densely-packed takeout containers, Vivaan’s iteration was light and fluffy, and the chicken was tender and flavourful, without being overcooked. Prepared the way it is though, the chicken unfortunately doesn’t maintain its crisp skin.
Black lentil dals are one of my favourite curries, and Vivaan’s dal makhana ($22) was a wonderful example – rich and hearty, with a silky-smooth texture.
Somehow, we managed to have room for dessert, and I am so glad we did. The visually stunning shahi tukda ($10) was something I’ve never had before, and my life is a little more complete now that I have. The lightly crisp bread was poached in flavoured milk, and topped with cream, pistachios and dried rose petals. The result was a delectable dessert that was lightly sweet, with subtle flavours from the pistachio and rose petals that eased your taste buds back down to earth after the highs of the savoury dishes.
Vivaan provided some of the best food that I’ve had in Ottawa in a while, and is commendable for its creativity, execution, and the unique dishes that they bring to the city’s food scene.