Ottawa’s first Asian residents arrived in the area over 100 years ago; by the 1930s there were over 300 people in what was to become Chinatown. Subsequent waves of immigrants came to the area from all over Asia bringing their culture and strong work ethic and setting up many of Ottawa’s early businesses and organizations.
The Kwan family transformed a little grocery store into an Asian eatery in 1971. Today, Edward Kwan and his brother Don manage the Shanghai restaurant in Ottawa alongside their siblings and parents. While continuing to serve their patrons with delicious Cantonese and Szechuan food, the restaurant on Somerset Street has become a hub for art shows, dance parties, and disco bingo.
The restaurant is best known for its karaoke nights every Saturday hosted by the family’s very own China Doll. A small sample of China Doll’s flamboyant accessories can be seen here.
Toy Quest, China Doll’s Wig, Photo: Graham Iddon © Bytown Museum, 2010.
Cool-Ray Polaroid, Intrigue, China Doll’s Sunglasses, Photo Graham: Iddon © Bytown Museum, 2010.
Plats, China Doll’s Silver Disco Platform Sandals, Photo Graham: Iddon © Bytown Museum, 2010.
Tony Fouhse, China Doll (detail), 2008, inkjet print, collection of the artist.
Shanghai Restaurant, Ottawa, 2008, digital photograph. Photo: Anne-Marie Bizier © Bytown Museum, 2008.