As the resident foodie, it’s not often that you’ll find me discussing one particular restaurant. This restaurant just so happens to be one of my absolute favourites, so my lack of discussion to this establishment on nutshell may see unfitting. Perhaps my silence could have some negligible connection with my current employment at this same establishment and may, to some readers, indicate a bias. However, Play has long been one of my favourite spots in the Byward market. Fashioned around tapas style cuisine, Play focuses on small plates – some to be shared and some to be devoured independently. While offering an assorted and diverse menu of small plates, Play also offers the opportunity to taste wine, by glass, in 3 or 5 ounce pours. This sweet little spin on wining and dining allows the diner to enjoy a wine that will precisely complement the existing dish. A novel idea? Unquestionably. Play’s approach to wine and food pairings enhances the entire experience, from the moment you peruse the menu, to your first taste and the quickly followed sip of meticulously matching wine.
Although Play consistently rests in my list of top 5 restaurants in Ottawa, it has been around for a little over 3 years now. Nothing new to report, or so it may seem. But as the seasons change, so do the available herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables and what remains is a titivated menu reflecting all things that are seasonally sought after. I love seeing new items replace old ones on the menu: it keeps working there as lively as the first day on the job and it allows eating there to never suffer a dull moment.
The next time you’re in the market, here are a few new plates to taste:
Scallops are not usually my go-to when it comes to ordering the fruits of the sea, but these perfect petoncles are not to be missed. Seared to perfection, they rest on a bed of carrot, jicama and apple slaw, topped with a sizzling, bacon vinaigrette.
Play has really hit the jack-pot with this one, probably their best fish dish to date. Lightly breaded, the filet of cod is topped with a zesty, olive aioli. Coupled with soft erdingi mushrooms, textured edamame and mouth-watering chorizo.
Similar in texture to pulled pork, the rabbit is a delicacy that doesn’t tend to grace many menus in Ottawa. So I gave it a whirl and I was not disappointed. Juicy and tender, the rabbit is enhanced with a mild dose of grainy dijon, braised cabbage and crispy black-eyed peas.
Chef de cuisine, Katie Brown, is often fond of creating dishes that are deconstructed familiarities. In this case, we have a deconstructed hot dog & bun. Replicating the bun, is a sweet yet savoury cornbread that crumbles on command. Replacing what I imagine would be relish is a wave of grilled swiss chard. The S2S ( producer) sausage leaves a delicate flavour of herbs and spice on the palate and is complemented by an olive “ketchup”.
If your mouth isn’t watering already, this will kick it into high gear for you. Most dishes at Play range from $13-$20. Hit this hot spot for a luncheon and you’ll be happy to find a midday special: 2 plates for $20 at lunchtime. Ready yourself to leave satiated but not stuffed, as the small plates will do just the trick to send you on your way with a smile on face.