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El Camino (Elgin)
Foods from Datsun
Bao (Steamed Buns)
2017 Jan 21
Went to Datsun for dinner in January 2017, my fourth visit. This dinner-only restaurant on the southern side of Elgin serves Momofuku-esque Asian fare, with modern/western interpretations of Northeast Asian and Southeast Asian dishes. I like Datsun. The flavours are bold, and there is no pandering to those who simply want meat and potatoes. That said, their menu is by no means exotic for those used to eating Asian fare (they have Datsun takes on favourites such as penang curry, ramen, dumplings, etc.), and could very well be the ideal "gateway" restaurant for your less adventurous eating companions.
The restaurant is a "trendy" bar restaurant, with loud music, open kitchen and innovative lighting. The crowd skews to the young professional/hipster types, with plenty of less-young professional/hipster types sprinkled in. Not really kid friendly, though you might be able to get away with it if you arrive at opening.
To the food: highlights for me are the sticky chicken wings (Korean fried chicken genre) and the Laksa noodles. Of the steamed Asian buns, I like the crispy jalapeno pork buns. The ramen is pretty good. The dandan noodles are not very substantial and don't really capture the spirit of this classic Sichuan dish. The penang curry is rich and has a serious kick (spiciest thing they have on the menu).
If you have a lot of experience eating Asian foods, or come from an Asian background, don't come here expecting authentic, classic versions of your favourite dishes, and certainly don't expect the authentic prices. Datsun is a great example of Ottawa's increasingly cosmopolitan restaurant scene. Give it a go.
P.S. They have cheap beer and pork buns on Mondays.
2016 Feb 17
Arguably one of the best ramen places in town. The tonkotsu broth with the black garlic oil is to die for. The seared pork cheek and tender pork shoulder complemented the rich broth beautifully. I've had it here with pork belly instead of pork cheek once before and I'd say the latter is the better choice, since the fattiness of the pork belly is overwhelming with the broth.
But to each their own.
My friend and I also shared beef cheek steamed buns and a crispy haddock lettuce wrap. The steamed bun was very good, although it really just tasted like Asian-inspired pulled pork. Out of the two, I would definitely recommend the lettuce wrap because of its freshness of flavour. The crispy haddock remained crispy despite being wrapped in a (slightly) wet wrap and the ginger-coleslaw cut the greasiness of the fried fish.
We finished the night with their sesame-encrusted fried coconut ice-cream. Although the caramel sauce was a little too sweet and the coconut taste of the ice-cream was hidden under everything, it was still a lovely end to our meal. I especially enjoyed the pieces of candied ginger on the side that, not only added to the presentation of the dish, but was a nice palate cleanser.
The ambience was very mod and you can easily imagine it to be a very social space if it weren't the middle of winter. Situated in the heart of downtown, it attracts the city's university students and young professionals. Furthermore, the service was very easy-going, courteous, and quick - just as it should be :)
Overall, an excellent experience!
2016 Jan 14
Had the pork belly ramen (and tasted the shio, which doesn't seem to be on the menu at the moment) around the time they opened-- appreciated that they were pretty openly putting their own spin on it, which takes care of the expectation of a bowl that's trying to be authentic.
It was pretty good-- the meat was the highlight, and I thought their 60-odd degree egg was neat twist. The white pretty much dissolved into the broth when touched, leaving the yolk to be mixed in as well. The broth with black garlic oil was a pretty decent base, but there was relatively little inside the bowl.. the mound of noodles easily stuck out of the broth. The shio was mild and good, but same thing with the broth-- just not a whole lot of it in there (especially considering the price, which was also mentioned below).
We also had the pork belly steamed buns to start (lots of pork belly in this meal), which were a neat take on what we were expecting to be nikuman. Great snack, and the bun was excellent.
2016 Feb 16
Went back for the first time since their opening week, and happy to report they've improved their tonkotsu ramen since then. They've upped the amount of broth, which is rich and toasty. Toppings were good.. the garlic oil is a good match for the bowl, and the two variations of pork (shoulder, belly) were excellent.
You can see in the top corner the pint of Nickel Brook Naughty Neighbour american pale ale that I ordered-- as excited as I was to get it on tap, it wasn't a very good match for this.. will stick with a bottle of Asahi for next time.
2015 Nov 21
Tonkotsu Ramen was tasty, however, the slightly bland broth benefited from chilis we had leftover from another dish. The noodles and pork were also well prepared but this was our least enjoyable dish and for $16 its not something I would order again.
Also tried the shrimp dumplings which were very good but no better than I've had in Chinatown.
Overall the portion sizes were surprisingly generous for the price point and what I expected but the service was less than good and in the end it just felt like el Camino that served Asian bites and that had been decorated by Ikea.
2015 Nov 21
DIY Cod Lettuce Wraps. Good portions of perfectly fried fish and a tasty assortment of accoutrements made this an excellent and refreshing dish.
Bao (Steamed Buns)
2016 Dec 15
Fried cod bao's with tartar sauce, pickled ginger and shredded radish. Delicious!
2016 Aug 25
Fatty, porky, delicious. These buns are luxurious and at $9 for 2, a pretty good deal. I just wish there was more of a vinegar presence to cut all that richness.
2016 Jun 3
Juicy and tasty pork belly steamed buns with fresh cucumbers and lettuce as well as a hoi sin based sauce. This is among the best steamed buns I have ever had, including my mom's.
2016 Jun 4
A beautiful tuna sashimi with thin slices of ginger and Asian turnip and a light soy sauce that doesn't overtake the flavours of the fish. Simply delicious!
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