We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Underwhelming in every way”
Review of National Des Arts

No photo provided
Got a photo?
Add it.
National Des Arts
Ranked #1,337 of 2,880 Restaurants in Ottawa
Price range: US$31 - US$50
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: After-hours, Breakfast, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Neighbourhood: Byward Market Area
Cross street: Albert
Reviewed 29 July 2012

My partner and I were seated and right away I knew what I wanted as a cocktail. Very succinctly I ordered a vodka martini, Grey goose vodka, shaken (not stirred), straight up with olives. The drink arrived lukewarm on a very hot evening. Aside from the fact that in my youth I was a bartender, anyone who shakes up a martini in a shaker anticipates that as it is strained out it is indeed cold! Five minutes later, the waiter arrived again and I politely told him the problem. Five minutes later the drink came back with ice cubes in it!!! What a complete and utterly incompetent bartender this is. Again I sent the drink back and after waiting 15 minutes, I was told that my glass was being chilled with ice water! This was just a joke at this point. I did not ask for a cold glass, I asked for a cold martini. Am I wrong in the opinion that this drink is a classic all over the world and the expectation that a restaurant of this stature with thousands of international visitors could get this so wrong points to an utterly incompetent barservice.

The food we both thought was pretentious and the portions unacceptably small. I ordered two appetizers, the main course and a dessert and was still hungry.

I would not go back again and I would certainly not recommend it to anyone.

Michael Blackie and management take notice...what a pity after Kurt Waldele.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Allessandra
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (65)
Traveller rating
Traveller type
Time of year

39 - 43 of 65 reviews

Reviewed 29 June 2012

Great innovative treats. I had some fresh oysters with a Pernod foam, and tabasco and lemon....yuuummmmy.

Thank IH9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 April 2012

From my perspective, there's a problem with a restaurant which is more about the chef than it is about the food. It's even more of a problem when this is a publicly-owned facility which is an integral part of a tax-subsidized performing arts complex. There are circumstances where a renowned chef can legitimately own and operate his or her own "signature" restaurant, but this is not one of them. However the dye was cast when Michael Blackie was hired as executive chef and discussed his approach in an interview which discussed his plans for "a new comprehensive menu that more reflects the café nature of the restaurant, with Michael Blackie's flair . . . ."
He was bringing himself prominently into the equation, just as he did in providing Le Cafe patrons with his own personal brand of Michael Blackie bottled water.
One could perhaps live with this more easily if Le Cafe was continuing to live up to the sterling reputation it enjoyed during the years when the late Kurt Waldele was executive chef and made Canadian cuisine memorable and respectable. Over the years Blackie has proved an inspired chef — his period at Ottawa's Brookstreet Hotel is legendary — but from the perspective of this patron, something's not quite working at the NAC, Although the menu can be pretentious, the quality of food remains good, if not spectacular. But the portions are not generous, and given the prices, you are nagged by the feeling that you are getting less than full value.
The question of value extends to the uneven quality of service. It can still be outstanding in the old NAC tradition, but it can be also problematic and sometimes a bit perfunctory and superior in its attitude towards some diners. If you don't want a drink before dinner or wine with your meal, you should not be penalized; the server has no business scuttling off immediately and remaining out of reach for 15 or 20 minutes, thereby depriving you of the opportunity to order your food. This happened to our party during one of our visits last year. The staff can also be quite cavalier in delivering the basics — ice water, bread, tea or coffee at the end.
As someone who has eaten here for more than three decades, the above is written more in sorrow than anger. But there are reasons why I have not been there since the autumn. I felt that last year I was getting less than I had a right to expect.
However, the most critical problem has been a failure to meet the needs of patrons who are there to attend a performing arts event later that evening in the same building. When you make a dinner reservation, Cafe management is scrupulous about asking you whether you're attending a performance and will advise you of the appropriate time for said reservation. This is a welcome policy, but it doesn't always work well in execution. You can arrive in reasonable time for a meal, but you can still find yourself in a frantic rush at the end in order to make it upstairs for a performance. It's not unusual to have to cancel a dessert or coffee order because of the slow service. And you may have to be prepared to get onto your feet and prepare to exit in order to activate your server into delivering your check — and then there can be further delay before you can pay.
In the Cafe's defense, it has to be pointed out that given the pre-concert or pre-theatre circumstances governing most evening dining, there will be enormous pressure on staff during the last half hour preceding a performance. But that's not really an acceptable excuse: it's a need that the restaurant should be geared to meet. Every restaurant in Stratford, Ontario, is programmed with the knowledge that most of patrons dining between 5 and 7.30 p.m. will be headed for one of the Stratford Festival's four theatres and an 8 p.m. curtain. Stratford's restaurants, whether luxury establishments or more humble diners, adjust their operations to meet these obligations. The NAC should do likewise.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
2  Thank travelling1935
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 March 2012

A varied and unusual menu that changes a few times a year. Food is always very good, portions are reasonable.

Love the table cloths, elegant tableware and the presentation of the food.

Always interesting and tasty desserts.

This place is wonderful after a show...

Thank CharlesSeems
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 March 2012

Service was excellent! I had the Thirty day aged AAA Ribeye and my husband had the Lamb 2 which were prepared to our liking . I enjoyed my selection which consisted of 2 small portions of tender beef but my husband was a bit disappointed with his portion of five little round pieces of lamb - he found his portion too small and the lamb lacked flavour. In his case he would have been happier with the Ribeye. The bread was delicious. In spite of my husband's disappointment, we enjoyed our outing and had time for a short stroll along the canal prior to attending the NAC performance that evening.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank OttawaVictoria_bc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers who viewed National Des Arts also viewed

Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

Been to National Des Arts? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing