Ottawa Magazine - - LITTLE ITALY -

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.

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