Address: 853 St. Laurent Blvd, Ottawa
Hours: 4:30 – 9:30pm (Wed – Sun)
Before I moved back to Nova Scotia, I made certain restaurants a priority to visit, and Coconut Lagoon was on top of that list.
I’d never made it to this east-end restaurant before, and I was all the more glad to come by once they’d reopened after a fire back in 2020. The space is now airy and refined, and there was a full crowd there midweek.
Chef Joe Thottungal revamped not only the interior of his building, but also the menu. In the past he helped attune Ottawa palates to true Indian flavours and he used this challenging time as an opportunity to rethink his own cuisine. The menu hasn’t gone way out there in left field into some sort of soulless, modernist take on Indian cuisine, but rather it uses familiar and comfortable dishes as new and unique delivery vessels for Indian flavours, textures and colours.
We started our meal with the pappadum basket, which had several of the famously crisp crackers and a few vibrant chutneys to top them with. I really enjoyed the deep tomato-y flavour of the red chutney, although my surprise ingestion of a chili pepper at the bottom quickly reversed my opinion of “Oh, this one isn’t that spicy!”. The green chutney had a mix of vegetal brightness and a more even, medium heat, while a thick tamarind sauce was lightly sweet and savoury.
Next were the mushroom and sago tiki. Pearls of sago (palm starch) replaced the more familiar aloo (potato). They held together better than aloo tiki typically do, and the mix of mushrooms gave a woodsy air to the dish.
After a bit of a wait in between courses, our mains came out in rapid succession.
The cardamom vegetable kurma had a pleasant mix of tender (not mushy) veg, in a rich sauce that, to no one’s surprise, had a noticeable layer of cardamom to it.
Averaged across the two of us, the kadala charu was our favourite dish. The black chickpeas still had a pop of crispness to their exteriors, and a unique taste of their own. The roasted coconut sauce was deeply rich and flavourful and can/should be sold in stores on its own.
I was a big fan of how Coconut Lagoon did the duck biryani, which utilized eastern Ontario’s own duck superstar purveyor, Mariposa Farms. Tender pieces of the meaty fowl, as well as cashews and frizzled onions, dotted the savoury pot of rice, while a cluster of micro greens added a splash of light, vegetal flavours for contrast.
Ghee rice was suggested by our server and did not disappoint with its prominent butteriness and a tangle of fried onions for another layer of flavour.
Pliant parathas had a pleasant char and flaky layers that made already delicious bites all the better.
Dessert had some very interesting options, but we eventually settled on the cardamom-infused baked yogurt. The yogurt itself was thick and super smooth and that vibrant punch of cardamom was front and centre, while some fruit and nuts mixed things up some more.
Wine and cocktails were also top notch, and their sommelier was a great source of information.
Don’t call it a comeback, Coconut Lagoon has been here for years – and will be for many more with this fresh update and spot-on execution.