Black Cat, Ottawa

Sweetbread is neither sweet nor bread. It’s the thymus gland (in the throat) or pancreas (near the stomach) of young calves or lambs. The Oxford English Dictionary says “the reason for the name is not obvious.”

To some people, that might sound gross. To me, that’s intriguing. I’m always open to trying strange animal bits and what better place to do it than Black Cat Café, my friend Shawna’s favourite restaurant.

It’s an intimate spot where you can tell they enjoy serving people who love food. Black Cat seats about 30, so it feels like walking into someone’s beautifully underlit dining room. In the summer, there’s a nice patio for about a dozen more people.

We grabbed two seats at the bar where owners Richard and Remy stopped periodically to chat. They’re extremely gracious.

We started off with an amuse of mascarpone fingerling potato salad with truffle oil, then shared an appetizer of pan-roasted cremini mushrooms with chimchurri butter, sherry flambé, shaved idiazabal cheese and baby coriander. Very comforting and yummy on a cold night.

Black Cat, Ottawa

My crispy veal sweetbread arrived with clove-infused butternut squash puree, sundried cherries, pickled shallots, fingerling potato, brown butter jus, and tatsoi leaves.

The sweetbread itself was kind of spongy and tasted surprisingly mild. I don’t think it’s something that can stand alone like a steak so I really enjoyed the sundried cherries and pickled shallots to provide a balance of texture and flavours.

Shawna had the crispy skin roasted duck breast with five garnishes: apple butter, glazed fennel, poached pears, coriander roasted endive, and espresso bean roasted parsnips.

She gave me a bite with the apple butter. It was excellent. I wanted more but you don’t take food from a pregnant lady.

She didn’t want any sweetbread.

Black Cat Café, 93 Murray St., Ottawa, Ontario, (613) 241-2999. Open for dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-9:45 pm. Reservations recommended.