Erling’s Variety 25 Strathcona Ave., 613-231-8484
The Glebe-Old Ottawa South dining scene has changed dramatically in the past few years. The neighbourhood has said adieu to many stalwarts, including John Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine bar, and welcomed many more. And there’s no denying that the chain eateries at Lansdowne have had an impact as well. But it’s steady as she goes at Erling’s. Well into its fourth year of service, and notwithstanding changes in its open kitchen, recent visits indicate that this north Glebe restaurant run by Liam Vainola continues to be a restaurant of relaxed pleasures. The ambience is lovely, the service caring, the wine list terrific, and the food wonderful. Now in charge of the kitchen is Justin Way, late of M¯eNa restaurant. The refined cuisine and striking presentations he practised on Preston Street (with chef James Bratsberg) are finding their way to Erling’s plates. Also finding their way are vegetables. The tendency to toss bacon in with the usual suspects — cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale — isn’t practised here. And not missed one bit. Mushrooms piled on smoked-cheddar polenta come with a thicket of apple sticks; roasted Brussels are paired with luscious cheese and a poached egg. Squash purée is the base for three perfectly cooked ravioli, the pouches filled with goat cheese, lightly sweet with maple syrup, piqued with jalapeno. Roasted hazelnuts tossed over top give crunch, sautéed chard a bit of bitter, and crumbled sage perfumes the lot. Venison tartare and a short rib propped up on a root vegetable latke are the stars on the beefy side of the menu. Doughnuts sweeten the end, with a cup of horchata for dunking. Small plates $6–$16. Closed Monday.