Eat the Strip

Idriss Mediterranean

319 St. Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1K 2Z5

June 9, 2024 4:44 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia


Idirss Mediterranean is one of those few restaurants that succeed in serving you amazing food all while capturing your imagination and transporting you to a distant land while you slowly slip into a food coma.

My partner and co-writer of the blog Danielle and I went for a lazy Sunday brunch to the St. Laurent Boulevard-based Algerian restaurant after Eat the Strip reader Greg wrote to us last month urging us to try the spot. As far as we know, this is the only Algerian restaurant in Ottawa and we were eager to try the food.

The large seating area is adorned with paintings from across Algeria, prominently featuring markets and produce the country is associated with. The colourful cushions reminded me of my grandmother’s living room and the dim blue lighting and piano music made for a cozy atmosphere. Wafa opened the restaurant around five years ago, shortly before the pandemic. It managed to stay afloat, she told us, because of a dedicated group of loyal patrons who frequent it.

We started our meal with Algerian coffee and mint tea, both consumed in large amounts in households and cafes across the North African country. This worked out splendidly for us as I, the tea drinker, find mint tea from North Africa to be incredibly relaxing and refreshing. Being a coffee drinker, Danielle loved the coffee, which turned out to be infused with orange leaves—a traditional Algerian recipe, Wafa told us, and quickly ordered a second.

For our meal, we ordered the lamb and potato tajine, mhajeb and bourak.

The chicken bourak, quite distinct from its Balkan cousin, was served in a spring-roll type, crispy phyllo. It was fresh, served warm and the gooey, melted cheese and spices paired deliciously with the soft ground chicken. We ordered the spicy variant of mhajeb, which was served with fresh lemon to squeeze over the dish and cut the spice. The glazed sweet onions and tomato provided a subtle Mediterranean flavour and whet our appetite perfectly for what was to come.

The potato tajine is served with a rich sauce, succulent pieces of lamb green peas and, of course, potatoes
The potato tajine is served with a rich sauce, succulent pieces of lamb green peas and, of course, potatoes

The bubbling hot tajine was served hot in the traditional clay pot that gives its name to the dish. When asked to describe its unique flavour, Danielle said, “Picture the best lamb stew you’ve had and then times it by 10.”

The tajine comes with a side of hmiss, which is a traditional Algerian salad made from grilled peppers and tomatoes, chopped, mixed and seasoned with olive oil
The tajine comes with a side of hmiss, which is a traditional Algerian salad made from grilled peppers and tomatoes, chopped, mixed and seasoned with olive oil

I had to agree. While the ingredients may seem simple—featuring lamb, potatoes and peas scooped up with crispy slices of baguette—the dish is rich. Its flavour comes from the unique spice blend that was passed onto Wafa from her mother. Being such a vast and diverse country, Wafa tells us the couscous and tajine she serves at her restaurant are traditional recipes from the centre and south of Algeria, where she was born and urged us to try the couscous next time.

We most certainly will oblige because this was easily one of our favourite food outings in 2024.