DESBRISAY DINES

Stofa + more

Ottawa Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Anne DesBrisay

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

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