Friday, December 19, 2014

Soca Kitchen & Pub (Review)

Soca Soca Soca.....oh we had such high hopes for you. Westboro's newest eatery opened its door just one month ago on November 28th and its social media hype got Riley and I making reservations for one of their opening nights. Their Spanish inspired menu with sharing plates and raw bar was the fresh and unique taste our palates were craving.

I'll get to the food in a minute, but our overall experience was less than ideal from the moment we walked in. (This is not our usual narrative - but I thought it would be helpful to share). We had booked our reservation online weeks earlier and had received confirmation for our 4 dining guests. The front hostess seemed a little confused and had to ask about our reservation several times. A group walked in after us and was promptly seated, leaving us awkwardly standing in the open doorway, coats in hand. We were then told that we had to sit at the bar because online reservations incorporated bar seating. We were not pleased by this arrangement as we had planned on sharing our plates and catching up with friends, which the bar seats did not accommodate. After starting with a cocktail and a plate of oysters at the bar, we were finally moved to a more comfortable table once we spotted an opening and requested a move. There was obvious confusion at this point as we do not believe that the servers were notified of this change and we waited for about 10 to 15 minutes to have someone take our additional drink and food orders. We also asked for water three times before it was brought to us, and the food service was generally very slow.

Raw Bar Platter (Regularly $36, on special for $18)
Now on to the food, which was a totally different experience. We shared a number of plates on the menu, including the raw Oysters, the Snapper Ceviche, Empanadas, Yellowtail Crudo and the Octopus. Each plate was delicious, with unique flavours and seemingly fresh ingredients. The raw bar was on special so we ordered two portions. The accompanying sauces were different, but surprisingly delicious.

The Octopus was braised and came with a delicious fingerling potato salad. The Octopus was tender and not at all chewy (like squid) and the dressing from the potato salad was a perfect combination of tangy and creamy. The Yellowtail Crudo was marinated in a spicy pepper sauce and served with a fried caper salad. I'm not normally a fan of capers, but they were a pleasant addition to the flavours of the fish.

Ocotopus a la Plancha - with fingerling potato salad ($20)
The highlight of our meal was definitely the Ceviche and the Empanadas. We loved them so much that we ended up ordering two rounds of each dish. The Ceviche was a red snapper marinated in aioli lemon, avocado, red onions and fried plantains. The dish was also a decent portion and could also be ordered as a single meal. The Empanadas were tender, flaky and moist, and paired deliciously with the three different flavours of aioli dipping sauces.

Red Snapper Ceviche ($13)
Empanadas ($11)
Overall we were very pleased with the quality of food, the portion sizes and the price points. We were disappointed with the slow and miscommunicated service, but we understand that as a new restaurant they are still working out some of the kinks. Every staff member was very nice and apologetic for the confusion, so we are not tainted by the experience and will probably venture back to Soca in the future for some more Oysters and Spanish delicacies.

Let us know what you think.

Verdict: 6/10 - poor service, but delicious food. Make reservations by phone to specify seating.

Hours: Lunch served Monday to Friday from 11:30-2:30. Dinner served Monday to Friday from 5:30-10:00

Price: Plates range from $10-$25

Soca Kitchen and Pub. 93 Holland Ave, Ottawa, ON.

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