Eat the Strip

Asli Dining

2019 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1V 0N1

August 8, 2023 12:17 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia


My battery was running low, beeping at me every couple of minutes as honking cars whizzed past. Turns out dodging cars on Bank Street on an e-scooter can help build your appetite. So, by the time I reached Asli Dining, a Somali restaurant opened in 2017—and one of my new favourite restaurants—I was famished.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it eatery is located on the ground floor of a Bank Street apartment building near Ledbury Park. At the family-run restaurant, I was greeted by Omar. Despite showing up half an hour before closing time, he graciously allowed me to rest my tired feet and grab the only item left—chicken drumstick served on a bed of Somali rice with salad, hot-sauce and a banana.

The one-piece chicken, served with a huge portion of savoury rice and hot sauce came to a mere $15
The one-piece chicken, served with a huge portion of savoury rice and hot sauce came to a mere $15

The tandoori-spiced chicken tore off the bone with almost no resistance. I combined a spoonful of the succulent meat, gravy, rice and hot sauce. The flavours popped with each bite; the heat of the hot sauce—made with a special house recipe containing chilli flakes, garlic and vinegar—balanced perfectly by the seasoned rice and chicken gravy.

I was too full to move when Omar brought me a bowl of maraq—a soup found across the Middle East and Africa made with lamb broth, spices and lentils. It was not just complimentary but also delicious.

The maraq alone is reason enough to make a trip to Asli Dining
The maraq alone is reason enough to make a trip to Asli Dining

At the heart of the meal, however, was the rice. Omar told me Somalis eat both bread and rice, with the latter often being served at lunch. Asli prides itself on their rice, made fresh everyday by soaking fine-grained basmati, layering it with their special spice mix, and then slow cooking it in its own broth.

After my meal, I was offered tea on the house. For a moment I forgot I was in a restaurant and felt as if though in the presence of old friends, chatting away with Omar and his family, losing track of time.

Clearly, I’m not the only one to feel this way; several online reviews mentioned people return to Asli Dining not just for their excellent food, but also because of the wonderful family atmosphere the owners have created.

After six years of operating out of the current location, the neighbourhood staple is moving later this year to a new location on St. Laurent Boulevard. The family says they’re happy to have, among other things, a larger kitchen. To us fans, both old and new alike, the location doesn’t matter. We’ll flock there all the same.

Honking cars be damned.