Eat the Strip

Semsem

2430 Bank Street Unit #11, K1V 0T7 Ottawa, Ontario

July 1, 2023 12:37 PM

By: Kapil Mehra


Leaving the BBQ joints of Austin behind, I found myself standing outside an unassuming gem of a restaurant in Ottawa during my weekend visit to my high-school friend, Ameya.

I’m proud of him for leaning into his passion of journalism, food, and technology, with Eat the Strip serving as the beautiful amalgam of the three and felt honoured to serve as a guest writer.

Nestled at the crossroads of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road, Semsem is the most recommended restaurant by our readers thus far.

Welcomed by the bright smiles of the jovial staff, we ordered Semsem’s house coffee and tea without delay. The Semsem coffee was a creamy beverage of sesame-flavored coffee topped with a dollop of whipped cream and sesame seeds—a delectable way to kickstart our meal.

With its rich whipped cream and a healthy sprinkling of sesame, Semsem's house coffee was the perfect way to start the day
With its rich whipped cream and a healthy sprinkling of sesame, Semsem's house coffee was the perfect way to start the day

Step aside, pumpkin spice lattes.

We arrived at Semsem at noon, conscious of the fact that their doors close by 4 p.m. each day. However, the skies were misleadingly nocturnal, owing to Ottawa's unusually dark and smoggy skies that day.

After savouring some cozy coffee and tea, the four of us each got to choose a dish of our liking.

We enjoyed the sojok sunflower and cheese sunflower, which were freshly baked, mouth-watering cheesy artisan breads. I personally recommend the cheese sunflower, featuring a savoury medley of white cheese and fresh green thyme.

The 'sunflower' dishes were a huge hit and had been recommended to Eat the Strip by several readers
The 'sunflower' dishes were a huge hit and had been recommended to Eat the Strip by several readers

We complemented this with piping hot falafels with a crispy exterior and pillowy core. I was instantly reminded of the splendid falafels my brother and I would share growing up in the historic Bur Dubai district of Dubai.

The falafel was served with a veggie plate and fresh pita bread
The falafel was served with a veggie plate and fresh pita bread

As we continued savouring the variety of dishes, including vegetarian, halal, vegan, and gluten-free options, I was continually reminded of the pleasures of breaking bread and sharing a meal with friends, both longstanding and newly made.

We laughed as we spoke about the different ways everyone uniquely expressed their appreciation for a satisfying meal. With each first taste of one of Semsem’s dishes, I reverted to my trademark silent yet affirming head nod while our friend Hyungu punctuated his experience with a series of wows, encapsulating our gratitude for the meal with motion and sound.

The fatteh yogurt—a Levantine dish with a fusion of pita bread, chickpeas, and tangy marinated garlic yogurt—was a crowd-favourite and was specifically spotlighted to us by the kind staff at Semsem.

The muttabal, a blend of roasted eggplant with tahini, lemon, and garlic topped with pomegranate and parsley, was Danielle’s favourite dish.

Muttabal is a Middle Eastern dip made using roasted eggplant, extra virgin olive oil, and a few other simple ingredients
Muttabal is a Middle Eastern dip made using roasted eggplant, extra virgin olive oil, and a few other simple ingredients

Each course was irresistible and we wanted to order more, but alas our capacity was at its limit. Much like a Grammy-winning album with beloved hit songs, Semsem’s menu served not just one, but multiple dishes that serenaded us and struck a chord with our palates.

Including tax and tip, the total expenditure for our party of four was $93. After commemorating Ameya’s birthday the previous day by zooming around an ‘adrenaline circuit’ on speedy go-karts for 31 laps, Semsem was a peaceful escape and made for a wholesome Sunday brunch.

A big thank you to readers for their continued restaurant recommendations. I join them in their chorus of praises for Semsem and their exceptional culinary creations, all paying a delicious tribute to the humble yet mighty sesame. I’ll be back.