One of Ottawa’s most popular restaurants reopened its doors on Wednesday, more than two years after it was destroyed by a fire.
Joe Thottungal, Coconut Lagoon’s owner and chef, says the day was full of different emotions.
“It is excitement and nervousness; everything is brand new. The staff also are new and there is a lot of expectation.”
The restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard was forced to close in May 2020 after a massive fire destroyed the building. The fire started in the apartment above the restaurant. The day after the fire Thottungal told CTV News: “I got hurt. But we will come back.”
Thottungal kept his vow, after a difficult two years dealing with pandemic lockdowns and supply chain issues.
“It took some time, construction and everything was delayed because supply chain shortage because of the roof top unit, or electric switch or something,” he said. “There was always something delaying us, so it took three – four months extra than expected, we wanted to do it in May, but it is now end of August, but we are happy.”
The restaurant is completely renovated. It seats 55 people in the main area that has higher ceilings, more lighting, and a new wine cellar. There are two private dining areas on a new second floor – called Cinnamon and Cardamom.
Thottungal says he wanted to do something different with the renovations.
“We really thought about it. When I had the opportunity to rebuild, I did it nicely and it is a full stand-alone restaurant right now. We can do good things so why not do something different than what I used to do?”
Coconut Lagoon’s new menu is inspired by south Indian cuisine and has a focus on sustainability and seasonal ingredients. There is no longer a lunch buffet due to health and safety concerns and food waste.
Thottungal says the brand-new menu has unique dishes.
“We have a nice lobster dish, we have a venison kebab, scallops with mango curry- which is a unique thing. So come and try it. You will enjoy it.”
Reservations are recommended. Thottungal says the next few days are already full.
Thottungal says his heart is full, thankful for those who helped get him here.
“I’m proud, happy and grateful for the team that helped me achieve this. It is a good feeling.”