Ottawa Magazine - - BYWARD MARKET -

A cre­ation of Stephen Beckta, one of Ot­tawa’s best-known names in fine din­ing, Play is the happy-go-lucky younger sib­ling to the more se­ri­ous Beckta.

An­chored in a her­itage build­ing at Sus­sex and York, Play’s big win­dows make the space gra­cious with­out be­ing grandiose. And de­spite the name, there is no false cheer­i­ness or cheeky fa­mil­iar­ity from wait staff: servers ask about al­ler­gies and ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues, com­pe­tently an­swer ques­tions about the menu, and of­fer ad­vice about wine pair­ings. Rather, the play­ful­ness comes in the fun to be had in cre­at­ing a meal with small plates. Putting lo­cal, sus­tain­able pro­duce front and cen­tre, chef Emeric Bec­ca­ris makes small plates work, with va­ri­ety and sen­si­ble por­tions. De­scribed as “full-sized ap­pe­tizer por­tions,” the of­fer­ings give a nod to trends, with se­lec­tions like grilled hal­loumi with pome­gran­ate seeds and, for dessert, a laven­der panna cotta.

But Play also re­spects the clas­sics with a sim­ple cel­ery soup made spe­cial with green ap­ple and drops of golden scal­lion vinai­grette, a silky duck-liver mousse with cherry mo­lasses, and grilled rain­bow trout with shrimp in a lus­cious cream sauce with spicy nduja sausage.

Even housed within a his­toric stone build­ing, this restau­rant has a light­ness — a play­ful­ness — that makes it stand out among its peers.

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