Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Savana, redux

We've spent a lot of time at Savana Café in the past few weeks, which is never a bad thing in my mind. First there was Chris's birthday dinner, which was stellar, and then on Monday night Chris's aunt K wanted to take us out for dinner to thank us for hosting her these past ten days or so. She doesn't know Ottawa well and asked for restaurant suggestions, and we immediately thought of Savana as it's sort of an Ottawa institution (in fact, it's celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year).

No regrets. And this time, I tried not one, but two menu items that I had never eaten before. The first was the Thai Red Curry bowl, with chicken. After deciding on it, over the Caribbean-style Curry Chicken Roti, I realized that there was no way I'd have room for the soup of the day, which made me a bit sad as it was avocado and black bean, which sounded both intriguing and delicious. But the large, oval-shaped bowl filled with chunks of tender chicken breast meat, slices of carrot, eggplant and zucchini, bean sprouts and green onion and chunks of cashew in a rich red curry-coconut broth made all thoughts of that Southwestern soup disappear under a spicy cloud of deliciousness. The mild level was right at the upper edge of my spice comfort zone - perfect for a night when I wanted something new. The mound of coconut-and-coriander-scented rice was a lovely, mouth-cooling foil. In short, divine, and something I will surely be eating again soon.

Chris, too, branched out from his omnipresent Pad Thai (though K did order it, on his recommendation, and offered him some when she couldn't finish hers) and ordered the daily catch special, a chunk of grilled salmon with a fresh red pepper and pineapple salsa, alongside sauteed veggies and more of that awesome coconut rice. He devoured every morsel. They really do brilliant things with fish in that miniscule kitchen.

As we had ordered neither appetizers nor alcohol, we all decided that something sweet was in order, but K didn't want a whole one to herself, nor did I, so we split two desserts between three of us. I say "split" but I didn't have any of the banana cheesecake with bittersweet chocolate sauce (banana being one of my few food nemeses). Instead, I ate much of the tiny, insanely rich slice of "chocolate paté", a flourless Belgian chocolate cake covered in crème anglaise. It was like eating the inside of a particularly good truffle - basically, it was ganache on a plate, and that suits me just fine, but I'm glad I had help with it.

It's so wonderful to bring someone to a favourite restaurant and be sure that the food and service will be as good as they always are. Savana is both delicious and consistent, which is so important. I'd never hesitate to bring a friend there or send someone new to the city to Savana's door for a great meal in a lovely environment with great staff. It's definitely my favourite Ottawa eating establishment, and I hope it's there for twenty more years and beyond.

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