Eating Your Content: Ora Italian Kitchen & Bar

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I haven’t set foot in Hamilton’s Hess Village in just over a year. When I think of Hess, I think of a never ending stream of bars & clubs populated by a bunch of drunk University students. When I first moved to Hamilton nearly 8 years ago, it was a staple of the weekend. Nowadays, it isn’t on my radar. However, that changed last week when I found out that not one, but two new restaurants had opened in Hess. While I’ll be reviewing both over the next couple weeks, the first on my list was Ora Kitchen & Bar. The old Elixir club has been completely revamped and turned into an Italian restaurant and lounge. I was joined by one of my closest friends that I don’t get to see nearly enough, Valeria, and we set out to see what this restaurant had to offer.

Zia’s Rice Balls – $9

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A couple of months ago, during the Food & Drink show, these Arancini got A LOT of people’s attention. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind I’d be ordering them to see what all the hype was about. The breading had an amazing crunch. The rice was cooked to a perfect texture and fused well with the Provolone. To say that I loved this appetizer would be an engrossing understatement. If there’s one thing I’ll definitely order again from Ora, it’s Zia’s Rice Balls. God I want more RIGHT NOW!

Chicken Caesar Salad – $13

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Valeria and I split the salad. At $13 we figured it to be entree size and we were right. This was a heaping amount of food. Unfortunately while the portion was spot on, the flavours were not. This was a lackluster Caesar Salad. While it didn’t taste bad, there was nothing that stood out. The Chicken was under-seasoned and dry. Lettuce, Bacon, Croutons all tasted like something I’d throw together with PC products. I’d take a pass on this one.

Lobster Ravioli – $22

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All of Ora‘s Pastas come with a choice of Salad or Soup. While it wasn’t noted in the menu, this also came with Garlic Toast. Valeria ordered this entree and was very pleased. Ora makes their pasta fresh. Each Ravioli had a good amount of Lobster and was topped with Asperagus and Bacon. The Beurre Blanc was a touch overpowering as I was hoping to get more Lobster and less sauce. It’s a small gripe though as the sauce itself tasted great.

Jonny Rocco’s – $15.50

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Ora makes their Pizza’s in a Wood Fired oven. I wasn’t sure if they go with the Neapolitan style. As you can see from the photo, they do not. I’ve got no complaints about that though, as the pizza itself was delicious. The sauce totally made this for me. I couldn’t quite put my finger (palette?) on it but there was an x-factor that really took the flavour up a notch. This was topped with Prosciutto, Pepperoni, Chicken, Hot Peppers, Mushrooms, and Olives. Ora makes their Pizza fresh to order so removing the Olives was no big deal (see my Mother’s Pizza Rant for why that’s a deal breaker to me now). This was loaded up with toppings but never felt weighed down. I’m a big crust guy and this was light and crispy. It was also a large pizza, definitely meant to be shared as I could only get through 2/3 of it before I tapped out. With the exception of the chicken (bad night for chicken I’d say) everything else tasted great with plenty of flavour in every bite. You’re going to valuetown at that price as well.

We were both too full for dessert but our attentive server Alison let us know that the Nutella Pizza is an ideal way to end the night and something to look into.

With the exception of the Caesar Salad, Valeria and I were very impressed with everything we ate at Ora Kitchen & Bar. The service was fantastic, the food was tasty (I’m still craving those Rice Balls as I write this) and the whole place had a cool vibe. Hess Village isn’t just about drinking anymore. Drop into Ora Kitchen & Bar and sit down to eat. You won’t be disappointed.

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