WORTH THE SPLURGE

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - FOOD | EATING OUT - writ­ten by paula roy photography by mark holleron

If you’re think­ing about a spe­cial night out on the town, let Ottawa at Home give you some free ad­vice. We’ve scouted out scores of area restau­rants and while there are gems to be found all across the re­gion, some stand out as truly “worth the splurge.” Whether it’s the lux­u­ri­ous­ness of the venue, an im­pres­sive wine list, tal­ented servers or an in­spired menu, th­ese four es­tab­lish­ments are sure to make you and your din­ing com­pan­ions feel like your restau­rant dol­lars have been well spent.

Le Bac­cara Casino Lac-Leamy, 1 Boule­vard du Casino, Gatineau. 819-772-6210

Le Bac­cara truly of­fers one of our re­gion’s most ex­traor­di­nary din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, with valet park­ing, an el­e­gant set­ting, sub­lime food and ex­cep­tional ser­vice. It’s lit­tle won­der that Le Bac­cara holds the re­gion’s only pres­ti­gious AAA 5 Di­a­mond des­ig­na­tion.

A trip to Le Bac­cara be­gins with a walk above the fre­netic action of the Casino Lac-Leamy, lead­ing to an oa­sis of calm at the back of the build­ing. Dark woods, crisp linens, plush car­pet­ing and im­pos­si­bly comfortable arm­chairs await. At ev­ery turn, the view is ap­peal­ing, whether it’s of the lake and Ottawa sky­line vis­i­ble through the floor to ceil­ing win­dows, the im­pres­sive art­work, the el­e­gant dé­cor or the live­li­ness of the open kitchen.

Le Bac­cara’s à la carte menu fea­tures dishes pre­pared true to clas­sic French meth­ods, but with mod­ern twists. Whether it’s bi­son tartare, a rack of cari­bou or seared red tuna in a crisp roll, your meal will be a feast for all the senses. If you’re hav­ing trou­ble choos­ing, con­sider the four-course gourmet ta­ble d’hôte menu. It’s even more fun, how­ever, to put your­self in the kitchen’s ca­pa­ble hands and en­joy the sur­prises de­liv­ered via the Chef’s Tast­ing Menu. This five-course meal is com­posed of the finest meats and seafood as well as the fresh­est pro­duce, with the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy a dif­fer­ent wine paired with each course. Even more deca­dent is the seven-course Gas­tro­nomic Menu, which is not for the faint of heart or ap­petite, given the chef’s gen­er­ous por­tions and lib­eral use of rich, sat­is­fy­ing in­gre­di­ents.

Le Bac­cara is no slouch in the bev­er­age depart­ment ei­ther – from cham­pagne cock­tails to a well-stocked port trol­ley, the op­tions are de­light­ful. Their mul­ti­ple award-winning cel­lar houses al­most 500 dif­fer­ent wines, in­clud­ing a col­lec­tion of renowned Château Mou­ton Roth­schild dat­ing from 1945  to to­day.

Ate­lier 540 Rochester Street, Ottawa. 613-321-3537

The name means ‘work­shop’ but the food is any­thing but as­sem­bly-line. Chef Marc Lepine and his able as­sis­tants treat their kitchen as a dy­namic, in­ven­tive lab­o­ra­tory where they con­stantly play with struc­ture, colour and tex­ture, cre­ate un­usual yet de­light­ful treats. While Ate­lier de­liv­ers all the el­e­ments of a tra­di­tional multi-course meal, th­ese ar­rive in un­tra­di­tional yet thor­oughly sat­is­fy­ing forms.

The comfortable chairs and ban­quettes en­cour­age you to sit back and en­joy the fun; good thing, be­cause it usu­ally takes about three hours to work your way through din­ner. The op­tional bev­er­age pair­ing is an ex­cel­lent way to en­hance your ex­pe­ri­ence at Ate­lier – and on a spe­cial oc­ca­sion you might even be treated to a dis­play of the sabre­ing of cham­pagne by tal­ented, en­gag­ing som­me­lier Steve Robin­son. Ate­lier’s in­ti­mate size, seat­ing less than two dozen, makes it ideal for a pri­vate party. It’s also a great op­tion for New Year’s Eve – two seat­ings will of­fer 8 and 16-course tast­ing menus on De­cem­ber 31.

You don’t have to ag­o­nize over a menu re­plete with too many tempt­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties – the only op­tion is the chef’s tast­ing menu, which changes fre­quently. It’s typ­i­cally at least a dozen cour­ses and full of sur­prises with un­ex­pected tastes and in­cred­i­ble vis­ual ap­peal. Unique, of­ten whim­si­cal con­coc­tions and sub­lime flavour com­bi­na­tions make a meal at Ate­lier the equiv­a­lent of din­ner and a show. The dishes’ names are usu­ally play­ful but hint at the un­der­ly­ing in­gre­di­ents: To­ma­trix Reloaded, Caramel Ap­ple Boar, Duck Choco-latte and the fa­mous Elvis Truf­fle are but a few ex­am­ples of what you might en­joy at Ate­lier, though you may have a lit­tle trou­ble ex­plain­ing your meal ac­cu­rately to friends af­ter­wards. The best ad­vice about din­ing at Ate­lier? Ar­rive hun­gry and with an open mind – you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

Ster­ling Steak­house + Seafood 835 Rue Jac­ques-Cartier, Gatineau. 819-568-8788

One of the re­gion’s most up­scale steak­houses, Ster­ling is sit­u­ated in a cen­tury-old home on the edge of the Gatineau River. Menu high­lights in­clude cold and warm ap­pe­tiz­ers such as beef tartare with truf­fle oil, fresh oys­ters, soups and pan-seared gi­ant sea scal­lops. Cana­dian Ster­ling Sil­ver meat is care­fully aged by the in-house butcher, then pre­pared on a wood-fired grill, ac­com­pa­nied by sauces and sides that al­low you to cus­tom­ize your plate. Ster­ling’s fish and seafood menu is a per­fect com­ple­ment, as is the unique “cre­ate your own” surf and turf op­tion – in ap­pe­tizer or main course por­tions. The chef is proud to present two sig­na­ture desserts: a maple crème brulée and a Cuban Grand Cru chocolate mar­quise.

In ad­di­tion to the reg­u­lar fare, Ster­ling’s spe­cial win­ter menu boasts un­usual com­bi­na­tions of ex­otic in­gre­di­ents. The pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude rack of wild boar with el­der­berry red wine game jus or Lake Erie wild pick­erel with Du Puy lentils (de­li­cious dark green lentils from France), Aigo Boulido (a gar­lic bouil­lon) and lemon foamy sauce.

The ser­vice will cer­tainly im­press and oenophiles will ap­pre­ci­ate Ster­ling’s ex­ten­sive wine list, with an in­ven­tory of over 400 dif­fer­ent la­bels, in­clud­ing some rare vin­tages. The restau­rant has been hon­oured for the past three years with a Wine Spec­ta­tor Award of Ex­cel­lence.

All dressed up and no place to go? Ster­ling’s di­verse menu and mul­ti­ple pri­vate din­ing spa­ces make it an ideal venue for a pri­vate party or cor­po­rate func­tion. It’s worth a visit just to check out the beau­ti­ful and ex­tremely pop­u­lar sec­ond-floor din­ing room called The Cel­lar, which show­cases Ster­ling’s wine col­lec­tion in an en­vi­ron­ment re­plete with ma­hogany walls and a vaulted tin ceil­ing. On Fri­day and Satur­day evenings, live mu­si­cians per­form in The Cel­lar and, if you’re lucky, you just might get a fire­side ta­ble.

Navarra 93 Mur­ray Street, Ottawa. 613-241-5500

This hip By­ward Mar­ket eatery is both cozy and wel­com­ing, whether you choose to grab a ta­ble or snag a seat at the bar to watch the action in much-lauded Chef Rene Ro­driguez’ kitchen. You’ll be in great hands with a knowl­edge­able server to walk you through the menu’s many de­lights, ex­plain the nu­ances of the Basque-in­spired cui­sine and rec­om­mend great wines – mostly Span­ish. Span­ish Cavas, or sparkling wines, are also avail­able, as are Span­ish-in­spired cock­tails, based on fresh-squeezed juices.

Of­fer­ing fine din­ing in a ca­sual en­vi­ron­ment, Navarra is the kind of place to drop in for a quick bite, or linger for the

evening. The servers are un­pre­ten­tious and friendly; their syn­chronic­ity with the kitchen team is part of the ap­peal. The menu meshes top qual­ity lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing lamb and bi­son, with trea­sures from Spain in­clud­ing cheeses, chorizios, pep­pers and olive oils. Some of the im­ported goods sourced by Ro­driguez are in such hot de­mand he is now sell­ing them at the restau­rant.

In ad­di­tion to Mon­day’s prix fixe menu and Ta­pas Tues­days, other menu high­lights in­clude a nightly Chef’s tast­ing menu. A pop­u­lar à la carte item is the Streets of Navarra Salume­ria, which is a deli plate un­like any­thing you’ve tasted be­fore, fea­tur­ing ser­rano ham, rioja chorizo, manchego cheese, pork ter­rina, ri­cotta stuffed piquillo pep­per and quince con­fit. Equally im­pres­sive is the roasted lamb rack with goat cheese pud­ding, tomato jam, roasted baby veg­eta­bles, nigella seeds and ser­rano jus. Sweet fin­ishes in­clude a self-sauc­ing dark chocolate fon­dant with mousse, berries, pear chut­ney and co­conut sor­bet as well as petit-fours com­posed of Span­ish short­breads with quince jam.

Chef Ro­driguez en­joys stretch­ing peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions. One visit to Navarra will help you dis­cover why this restau­rant has le­gions of regulars, all of whom have hap­pily learned that there is a lot more to Span­ish cui­sine than just paella.

Navarra’s Basque Ragout of Chorizo

and Or­ganic Canellini Beans

1 (250 ml) can or­ganic canellini beans, cooked and drained* 8 oz nat­u­rally cured Rioja chorizo, thinly sliced* 1 small Span­ish onion (chopped) 3 cloves gar­lic (sliced) 1/2 tsp smoked pa­prika 3 tbsp pit­ted kala­mata olives 4 oz of king eryn­gii mush­rooms (chopped) 3 tbsp olive oil 1/2 tsp sea salt 3 fresh vine ripened toma­toes (pureed) * avail­able at La Bot­tega

In a medium-sized stain­less steel pot, add the oil and gar­lic and fry gen­tly for 1 minute. Add the onion and chorizo and cook for 3 min­utes un­til chorizo ren­ders most of its color. Add mush­rooms and fry for a few more min­utes, add beans, olives, tomato and pa­prika and sim­mer gen­tly for 20 min­utes. Sea­son with a pinch of sea salt if needed, then la­dle into small bowls and driz­zle with good olive oil. Serve with crusty bread. Serves 4 as an ap­pe­tizer.

Chef Marc Lepine ATE­LIER

Serge Rourre Chef de Cui­sine LE BAC­CARA

Chef Rene Ro­griguez

NAVARRA

Pas­cal Bouchard, As­sis­tant Maître d’Hô­tel STER­LING STEAK­HOUSE + SEAFOOD

Navarra’s Basque Ragout of Chorizo and Or­ganic Can­nellini Beans

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