ATE­LIER

Ottawa Magazine - - LITTLE ITALY -

The culi­nary the­atre that chef Marc Lepine has be­come renowned for — lo­cally and na­tion­ally — is cen­tred around molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy, an ap­proach that, for Lepine, means avant-garde tech­niques that re­sult in in­gre­di­ents be­ing pre­sented in unique ways. The the­atre be­gins with sim­ply find­ing this restau­rant, which is lo­cated in­side a small res­i­den­tial house (look for the rusty-cop­per fa­cade be­side Morn­ing Owl).

A mas­ter of cere­bral drama but also of bal­ance, Lepine or­ches­trates the el­e­ments of each dish, not to men­tion the whole blind 12-course menu, im­pec­ca­bly.

Upon be­ing seated in the tran­quil space — lights dimmed — our fo­cus is on the magic that’s un­fold­ing. No menu is given, so when a server sets down a tiny wooden spoon for the first course, you be­gin the guess­ing game. Then a small glob­u­lar glass ter­rar­ium, dan­gling from an el­e­gant stand, is pre­sented. There’s a bite of sal­mon on a bed of mush­rooms, pea-shoot ten­drils curl­ing up grace­fully and dill fronds al­most wav­ing. With that wooden spoon, you re­trieve ev­ery­thing through a hole in the globe. The ten­der fish, cooked sous-vide and flavoured with miso, maple syrup, and lime, is a nice coun­ter­part to the spicy grilled corn. Fungi are deep-flavoured with dou­ble-smoked ba­con.

Servers are at­ten­tive and per­son­able, pa­tient with ques­tions, and pas­sion­ate about in­gre­di­ents as sur­prises are un­veiled: pur­ple petals float­ing on a tar­ragon pan­dan-leaf soup, crunchy freeze-dried gar­lic scapes cam­ou­flaged on drift­wood. And for the fi­nale, a choco­late vor­tex into which a straw­berry gela­tine dis­ap­pears.

Abra­cadabra!

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