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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Great Odds

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday August 7, 05:14 pm
This modern take on Asian cuisine is an absolute delight

220 20th St. W

For all our love of Vietnamese noodle bowls in this town, it’s interesting that we haven’t seen a funky, modern take on Asian food — until now.

Odd Couple, the new addition to The Two Twenty building on 20th Street, has it all: a relaxed, community vibe, cool cocktails and wine matched to Asian food and an upscale Asian-themed menu.

I know I’m fickle when it comes to restaurants, and I definitely get around from one restaurant to another. But I’m seriously looking at committing to a longer-term relationship with Odd Couple — because I eat and cook Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food with a passion not often seen in someone of European descent. (And I’m also all over anyone offering new and creative cocktails.)

What was most noticeable to me at Odd Couple was how easy it was to settle in and look forward to spending a good amount of time there. There’s an excellent level of comfort and good cheer, of relaxed welcome and pride in what they’re doing, that makes me happy just being in the space. From the servers to the owner (who wanders about the restaurant, checking in on diners and happily answering questions and telling the story of how he and his dad are business partners in the venture — hence the “Odd Couple” name), everyone comes across as glad to be there and committed to the place.

Everything about the place seems to resonate with the intent of their motto: “Eat Together.” They’ve truly created a place where the goal is obviously to ensure that their customers not only eat together, but eat well together.

Eating and drinking well at Odd Couple is easy — maybe too easy. I broke my usual “no wine at lunch on a working day” rule on my first visit, because the wine list had so many perfect matches for Asian food that I couldn’t resist ordering a See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztraminer to go with my red chicken curry.

There’s no limitation to a particular Asian cuisine on the menu. You can try a variety of starters, for example, from the Americanized dim sum favourite crab rangoon to Vietnamese spring rolls (veggie or meat), to deep-fried squid, potstickers or satay skewers (all around $8). Kind of a “greatest hits” of Asian starters.

Lunch is a similar collection of popular items, like Thai red curry, Singapore noodles, bacon fried rice (!), Vietnamese noodle bowl and Banh mi-inspired sandwiches (featuring Earthbound Bakery bread and peanut satay or grilled lemongrass meats topped with house-pickled carrot, daikon radish and fresh cucumber and an optional side of fries).

Less traditional is the apple pear maple walnut salad, served with a peanut dressing. I love peanut sauce, and it goes marvelously with a fresh mixed green salad, pears and walnuts. Fusion food at its finest!

The Thai red curry was enjoyable, although it doesn’t compete with the curries of dedicated Thai restaurants in the city. I’ve also watched friends enjoy the bacon fried rice (amen for anything that comes with a fried egg on top) and the vermicelli noodle bowl.

Dinner with a few friends was equally lovely, from running into other friends enjoying the food and ambiance to taking full advantage of a chance to put Odd Couple’s cocktail and dinner menus through their paces.

The green tea gimlet (all cocktails are $8) was absolutely delightful, as was the Kung Fu Girl Riesling I had with my meal. I love cocktails that aren’t too sweet, and the less mix the better, so the green tea gimlet was just the thing. Another friend sampled the “Hong Kosmo,” made with lychee liqueur. Back in my hardcore cocktail days, I was all over lychee liqueur’s floral rose flavour. While I found this cocktail a little too sweet for my taste, it was popular with the table, and I still enjoyed the floral notes.

We sampled a nice smattering of options from the supper menu (with prices ranging between $14-$16 — very reasonable), including starters of fantastically crispy squid, satay skewers with peanut sauce and a black wood ear fungus salad. We then moved on to the family-style wonton soup, which featured the most flavourful broth any of us had tasted in a wonton soup. “We don’t use any soup base,” explained Andy, the cheerful owner. “We start with fresh chicken to make our stocks from scratch.” The extra effort was definitely noticeable.

The Ma Po tofu (which, vegetarians beware, comes with pork) was spicy and brightly flavoured; the shiitake mushroom option for ginger beef, where slices of mushroom are battered and fried in place of the beef, was absolutely fantastic. In spite of the pork in the Ma Po tofu (which is the traditional way to make it), there are several vegetarian-friendly options. In fact, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives are identified for several menu items.

My husband is a fried rice aficionado, and the bacon fried rice, with the delightful option of stirring in a sunny-side up egg to add flavour, richness and a certain amount of yummy goo, was a hit across the board. I have no doubt that when we next visit Odd Couple that’s what he will choose to eat (and I’ll probably sneak a bite).

As for myself on that next visit, I’m not sure yet what I’ll go for — because there are so many options. I’m a sucker for a nice, fresh vermicelli noodle bowl; their eggplant dish sounds spicy and tempting; and gai lan (Chinese broccoli) features in a classic beef and broccoli stir-fry. I’m exceedingly happy there are so many more excuses to spend more time at Odd Couple, and I’m betting you will be too. 

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