Shucking Awesome!

The Whalesbone Oyster House

Yesterday I boarded a WestJet flight bound for Ottawa with my friend Dr. Victoria (who just so happens to also be my colleague and boss).  The purpose of the trip: to attend a meeting with several Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) big-Whigs1.  The purpose of the meeting; to present the findings of one of our recent projects2.  And that we did.

Of course, while the meeting was grand and fantastic, and our presentation was epic and awesome and full of nerdly goodness the likes the PHAC big-Whigs have never seen, the point of this post is not to discuss PHAC-nerdery.  In fact, it really has very little to do with nerdery at all.  Shocking, I know.

Instead, I want to introduce you to The Whalesbone Oyster House, located at 430 Bank Street in Ottawa. If you live in Ottawa and you haven’t been there, you must, must, must go.  Must.  It is shucking awesome.  Let me provide you with justification (as I see it):

Get in my belly!
  1. Did I mention the oysters?  They serve oysters. Lots and lots of oysters.  Our order included tasty goodness from Ireland, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  Personally, I thought the Irish and Nova Scotian oysters were the tastiest.  In fact, I fell in love with the Irish ones.  The flavour was obviously salty, but also rich without being overpowering.  They went especially well with the freshly grated horseradish.
  2. Oh ya, did I mention the horseradish?  They serve oysters with freshly grated horseradish.  I’ve never had freshly grated horseradish, but shuck me it was a revelation.  I love horseradish (the garnish), but this was something else.  Intense, just the right amount of heat, and strong enough to give my taste buds a punch in the junk.  I think I’m going to have to try incorporating this in future dishes.
  3. Oh, and did I mention the Chivas?  They serve oysters with Chivas.  I’ve never had scotch with oysters.  You’d think I’d never had oysters before.  Truly, the combination of the salty brine mixed with the sweet flavour of the Chivas was amazing.  I’m curious now to try oysters with other scotches; perhaps some stronger, oakier, or peatier varieties.  I imagine the smokey flavours will pair quite nicely with a freshly shucked oyster.  I expect the combination would be Shucking delicious.
  4. The master-shucker shucking oysters. Shucking awesome!
  5. They shuck the oysters at the bar in front of you.  I’ve never actually seen this done before.  In all other cases where I had ordered oysters at a restaurant, they have been shucked behind closed doors.  A shucking travesty, I say.  This skill is something to see, and by simply bringing the art and science of shucking to the bar-top, the Whalesbone gave their restaurant an air of authenticity that is lacking from many other establishments.  While I didn’t get an up close and personal view of the shucking, what I saw from my seat was very cool.  The bartender/shucker was quite skilled.  I wonder if he’s ever been involved in a shuck-off.  HA!
  6. Mackerel deliciousness.

    The main courses are works of art, both visually and taste-bud-ily.  For $29 I ordered the Halibut, which was presented on a stacked tower of duck fat chips, celery, and fennel.  All of this was perched on a mortar base of black olive tapenade.  Verdict: I loved it.

    Sadly, I was too full to try dessert.  I do recall that they were offering a Chocolate Peanut Butter tart, and an Apple Coffee Cake.  Both sounded delicious, but as I mentioned, I was far too full.  Shucks.  Next time I return I’ll make sure to try some, and I’ll be sure to update you on the tastiness.

  7. The restaurant is a member and supporter of the Vancouver Aquarium‘s sustainability program known as Ocean Wise.  What is Ocean Wise?  It is a program that recognizes that “overfishing is the number one problem facing the world’s oceans.” The website also provides the following description:

Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Ocean Wise works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers ensuring that they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood and helping them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.“Clearly Ocean Wise is doing some good work.  And it’s great to see that The Whalesbone is not only a supporter of this group, but a member.

The dining room of The Whalesbone.

As I mentioned, if you live in Ottawa you really need to check out this restaurant if you haven’t already done so.  If you are visiting Ottawa, definitely try to get reservations.  I know for sure that I will be making a return when next I’m in town.

After our most delicious dinner, Victoria and I returned to the Lord Elgin (the schwanky hotel that PHAC put us up in).  Of course, before parting ways for the night, we popped over to the hotel bar for a tasty glass of wine.  I actually forget what we had because the wine at dinner gave me a slight buzz and, well, I forget things.  I do remember enough to know it was yummy and just what the doctor ordered (HA – literally) after walking back in the frigid wintry Ottawa wind from The Whalesbone.

I ended my evening by meeting up with Matt and Monique for a martini or two.  It was a quick visit, but always awesome.

Overall, a most excellent trip to Ottawa, albeit very short.  Oh, and the meeting was good too.


1 Or is it big-wig? I’ve seen both but am unsure as to which is proper.

2 One of my many jobs: I am a Statistical Consultant for the Public Health Agency of Canada.


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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Jorge says:

    It’s too bad you couldn’t have stayed for MM6!

    1. dangillis says:

      That would have been AWESOME! However, I have to teach today and tomorrow. Why does work always get in the way of fun?

  2. agjackk says:

    Love the article. Let me know when you are in town again and I can suggest other fun places to eat at.
    By the way, thank you for citing my review (foodsearchottawa.wordpress.com). Always appreciated!

    1. dangillis says:

      I’ll be in town for the marathon at the end of May 🙂

  3. MMM…Whalesbone. I saw your tweet about it before I realized that you were in Ottawa and thought “Wow! Did they open one in Guelph, too?”

    You were sleeping right next to Dave’s workplace. I’m sad to have missed you, but hope to see you soon!

    1. dangillis says:

      Ya, it was a quick visit unfortunately. But of course, I’ll be back. Specifically – end of May for the big marathon. w00t!

  4. Rick says:

    “…strong enough to give my taste buds a punch in the junk” – that’s funny!

    1. dangillis says:

      I was inspired 🙂

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