Stofa + more
Stofa, 1356 Wellington St. W., 613-722-6555
Oz Kafe 10 York St., 613-234-0907
Those with cherished memories of the original Oz Kafe may feel its new home lacks the gnarly vibe it used to have. Now in the venerable Clarendon Court, Oz feels all grown up. And though it was many things on Elgin Street, nobody would have called it a beauty. It is now that. And lots bigger. In charge of the brand new kitchen is chef Kristine Hartling. She’s put her own stamp on the menu — you won’t find a resurrection of past Oz hits, though seasonal Ontario cuisine remains its steady focus. The quality of product is clear on the plate, and the standard of cooking is high. One dinner began with a mound of fatty rillettes of Mariposa duck and moist slices of the house-cured salmon served with toast, pickles, nuts, and seeds. Another with the smoked rare beef, a deeply pleasurable plate of supple meat enhanced with mostarda, pickled mushrooms, and crunchy rings of crispy leek.
Shrimp salad on toast was a sophisticated presentation of a comfort dish. And with the fall bounty of summer squash, Hartling tempura-fries the lot of them, slathering the crispy sticks with pistou and preserved lemon ricotta. Of the mains, we love best the spiced-up Cornish hen nesting on white bean purée and the Nagano pork chop served with tarted-up corn. The sophisticated dessert entry is a pavlova topped with roasted peaches, lemon balm ice cream, and a flourish of candied pistachio. There is also ice cream sold by the scoop and a warm cinnamon bun with cream cheese icing. Mains $24–$34. Tuesday to Sunday for dinner till 2 a.m.
Le Hibou 757, ch. Riverside, Wakefield, 819-459-8883
This Wakefield charmer has recently emerged from a successful makeover. Its walls now vibrate with colour, the bar is a draw, and lighting is soft and feminine. When the weather doesn’t allow a perch on Le Hibou’s big, rustic front deck, with its fine view of the Gatineau River, there’s the interior — a lively, pretty room that’s part Mexican cantina, part mademoiselle’s boudoir. We find Le Hibou’s particular charms at a late-autumn brunch. Two dishes stand out. The so-called Acorda a Alentejana (or “beggar’s soup,” as it contains no meat or fish) traditionally relies on eggs for protein, bread for heft, and greens for goodness and aroma. Le Hibou’s version sneaks in chunks of chorizo sausage, which we don’t mind one bit. The two poached eggs plopped on top of the broth-sopped bread, sausage, tomato, and herbs are perfectly cooked, dusted with smoked paprika. Pierced, they enrich the garlicky broth. I recommend, too, Le Hibou’s burger: charred and moist and tucked inside a great bun, it is topped with a paste of deeply caramelized onion, crisp bacon, sharp cheese, bitter arugula, and the house zesty barbecue sauce. And it comes with a mound of superior fries. Doesn’t get much better. $8–$24. Open daily for lunch and on weekends for brunch through dinner.
MēNa 276 Preston St., 613-233-6462
There’s a spare elegance about the newly reopened MeNa, and it suits the new direction of an ambitious menu. In charge of that menu is chef James Bratsberg, with impressive help from pastry chef Tu Le. There are, in fact, three MeNa menus — of five, seven, or nine courses — with the possibility of luxury upgrades (caviar, Wagyu). Each is served “blind” (chef’s choice, your surprise), each paired with two options for wine matching, and each is topped, treated, and tailed with amuses, ices, mignardises, and a take-away loot bag. There’s no doubt that MeNa, chapter two, is a specialoccasion place, with prices to match. But a tip of the hat for knowing what it wants to be and for taking a risk: just when everyone else is running toward comfortcasual cuisine, the team of Bratsberg and co-owner Bryan Livingston has decided to tackle fine dining again, with a classic French progression and an oldschool formality in the service. Highlights from autumn dinners were a stunning gazpacho, poured tableside in a dramatic curl around a puck of crabmeat, crowned with petals and caviar; octopus, charred and glossed-up on a charcoal grill, paired with purple potatoes and a green goddess dressing; and a gentle dish loaded with umami, chawanmushi (the warm and wobbly Japanese custard with smoked soy), and fall chanterelles. Chef Tu Le’s desserts are stunners. My favourite was a splendid panna cotta painted with raspberry and set on an olive oil cookie base, though the chocolate-hazelnut-passion fruit bombe sprinkled with gold dust was mighty memorable too. Prix fixe tasting menus $95–$145. Open 6 p.m. till close, Tuesday to Saturday.
Stofa shines Chef Jason Sawision has created a modern high-end restaurant serving dramatic, innovative, and delicious plates