With LJ away on a work trip I was on my own for a few days. We had just moved and I spent most of my time unpacking the house (personal update, the house seems to still have not been unpacked weeks later despite emptying many boxes). One of those nights I decided I needed to get out of the house and I decided to check out a place out of town I've been keen on trying for a while: Ze Kitchen.
Ze Kitchen (I don't know if the place is pronounced Ze like 'the' or Ze like 'zee') is located out in Cumberland Ontario, about 30 kilometers east of Ottawa. I became aware of this restaurant after seeing their advertisements on Instagram for Thursday wing nights earlier this year. I had intended to go much sooner, but things never worked out to do so.
I was a little hesitant to go dine solo because it seemed like a fine dining type establishment and I was looking to just do wings, but I thought, what the heck let's do it. The place only opens at 4pm, so I decided to go for 4:30 so that I was in before the main dining crowd.
I got there at 4:30 and the place was deserted. The building was originally built close to if not more than 100 years ago by a doctor for his home and practice, but it has been many different things over the years before becoming Ze Kitchen. I walked into the main foyer and waited to be seated ... but nobody was around. So I stood around for a few moments, feeling a little awkward, despite having heard the little chimes that go off when someone enters. The place was decorated for Christmas and had a rustic but also modernized charm. Someone else came in a few minutes later behind me and I thought oh no, I'm going to have to uncomfortably explain I'm not with them. It turned out to be my eventual waitress.
While she came in and was taking off her coat, another staff member came down the stairs and he awkwardly asked if he could help me, as if it were unusual for me to be there. I said I was there to eat and he seemed surprised. He was about to take me to the main floor dining room, but then asked if I wanted to dine in the bar upstairs. I thought that would be great. The bar area is in the main landing of the 2nd floor, where there were a few tables (he sat me at a table next to the one he was working at a laptop) but there were a few smaller dining rooms in what were probably bedrooms at one time. It also had access to a balcony patio area (closed for the season). The third floor had washrooms, but also a couple of more dining rooms. This was a big place. The waiter gave me a menu but also let me know that it was wing night. I knew this already, but it was good to have confirmation.
Not long after the waitress came and took my drink order, as well as my wing order. She was friendly and very professional. Over the course of the evening I watched two separate groups arrive for supper, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. I get the impression that this place is kind of out of place as a finer dining establishment in a very small town with the only other restaurant is a take-out pizza joint. My guess is that they have burger and wing nights to get the locals in who wouldn't normally come out for fancy fare, but it's too far from Ottawa for the city crowd to come to.
I sat and worked away waiting for my wings. I didn't have to wait long, but because I was in the bar area, as were the staff (including the chef who came out and sat at the bar) I inadvertently got to listen in to their workplace conversations. Fascinating!
Right off the bat, I had some issues taking photos. Before my food arrived, I had the bar area to myself pretty much. As soon as the food came, BAM! all 3 staff hanging out there. So trying to sneak some pictures was very difficult and so I didn't take that many and the lighting was low and I couldn't take my time. After getting home and uploading them to the computer, they don't look so bad, so I guess that was ok.
I glossed the menu explanation and didn't even pay attention to the fact that it states "Served with sour cream" because I would have subbed that out for anything. Because I got two orders of wings, I got to big ramekins of sour cream I didn't want. The sour cream is plain, but in the photo above you can see where some of the spices from the wings brushed off when I did dip them.
I was not expecting the giant wings I got. They were a large wing to begin with (both in length and meatiness) but they are also breaded that makes them even bigger. These wings are "House breaded in a secret combination of spices and deep fried to perfection." So there is a suit of armor of breading around these wings; if you are someone who doesn't like breading these aren't for you.
I actually thought the wings were overcooked and burnt when I first looked at them. They were a dark brown and that didn't seem to be good. But the breading turned out to be quite tasty (a little salty but also seasoned with other spices) and not like any I've had on chicken before. It is thick, but not so much so that it takes away from the chicken. It's very crunchy and has a great texture. Although I got one dry order of wings, the sauced ones were wet and well coated in sauce, but the breading really held up well against it.
There were several flavours that sounded unique but just didn't speak to me (spicy maple, sweet chili, maple garlic) so I went with classic Hot, but also an order of dry Salt & Pepper wings, with a side of Suicide.
These were good. The sauce is simple; cayenne based hot sauce (probably Frank's) and maybe a bit of butter? It's good. It has a little heat, but it goes well with the season breaded chicken.
SALT & PEPPER
S&P worked really well with the breaded skin. Really salty, only slightly peppery. I liked it, but a dipping sauce on the side is a must. Don't let that be sour cream.
This looked and smelled promising, but once I tasted it I was not into it. You can make this at home: take a tin of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chop or whiz the peppers and return to adobo sauce, that is all.
I really love chipotle and I love the adobo sauce they come in - I add that to homemade hot sauces, chili and other things - but as a sauce on their own I did not enjoy. The pro's is that the heat is good, and you get that smokey flavour. The sauce is thick and chunky too. But the flavour just didn't work on it's own without a more liquid base, maybe with vinegar or butter as well.
However you pronounce it, Ze Kitchen does some unique and tasty wings. Larger than I expected, crunchy breading, and good flavoured wings. Hot was tasty, Salt & Pepper was great with the dry wing but a dip helps. Suicide was just chipotle in adobo sauce, but it was just too much and was too thick. I had a slightly awkward dining experience, but I would say overall Ze was worth the drive out to Cumberland and I would go back for wing night again for sure!
2607 Old Montreal Road, Cumberland ON