MeNa has been open for five years, but only since late 2017 has it focused exclusively on a tasting-menu approach (choice of five, seven, or nine courses). This followed an apprenticeship of sorts that saw co-owner/chef James Bratsberg travelling the world to gather inspiration from others. While Bratsberg was away, MeNa was renovated into a sleek space, black tables and chairs softened by whitewashed walls.
The menu presented is merely an ingredient list to whet appetites: elderflower, bay leaf, amaranth, pistachio. Bratsberg’s strength is molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine, pulling inspiration from France, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and Japan. He’s also partial to precision: three slices of carrot, say, or six drops of mango espelette gel, judiciously placed. One dramatic dish involves golden char caviar atop smoky potato purée, ringed with dill oil. Inside: a steamed egg yolk. A gateau Pithiviers gets a savoury interpretation, the puff pastry (typically filled with almond cream) here stuffed with beef and foie gras. A sauce Périgueux (Madeira and black truffle) finishes it.
Echoing that precision is the service: the sommelier keeps the list, which is primarily from France, Italy, and California, in his head, and the wait staff maintain their distance, resulting in an intimate, food-focused ambience.
Upon departure, you’re handed a mystery gift: three mini cupcakes.
For those keen on exploring molecular gastronomy, MeNa is one place in Ottawa that executes it successfully.