Ottawa’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants 2019

BY HATTIE KLOTZPOSTED NOVEMBER 5, 2019

During the last 20 years, the dining scene has developed beyond recognition. Where previously there was little choice beyond chain restaurants, now you can enjoy a very, very good dinner seven days a week without repetition. And unlike New York, Chicago, or Toronto, you’ll probably get away without booking a table.

This year, Ottawa Magazine has turned its focus to new restaurants, those that have opened within the last two years. We restricted our list to those that served dinner (no brunch- or lunch-only places). We’ve also ranked them — where previously we presented the restaurants in alphabetical order, we’ve now laid our cards on the table.

Alice shines through for serving the kind of food that both surprises and comforts. Indeed, at the top end are restaurants that show a willingness to try something a little different and, along the way, defy expectations. And all the restaurants on this list aspire to grander things, both in avant-garde approaches and more traditional menus. Those chef-owned places do appear to have an edge on the others — that’s where we found the passion that lifts a dish and a dining experience beyond its competitors.

Every year there are murmurings of discontent when Ottawa restaurants don’t take home more spots on national lists, star-systems, and competitions. Then again, some people think those lists are part of the (sexist) problem in the restaurant industry.

Here, we set out to create a list that would help people spend their dining-out dollars wisely. We included critical comments because we believe there is always room for improvement, and because we see our list — and the restaurant coverage we provide year-round — as key to an ambitious restaurant scene. (And to those who desperately want to compare Ottawa’s dining scene to those in other cities: just remember that the food sucks if you can’t get a reservation!)

Our Where to Eat Now list celebrates that ambition — and helps readers navigate this exciting culinary landscape.

1. Alice

2. Stofa

3. Gray Jay

4. Thru

5. Le St Laurent

6. Mati Crudo + Charcoal

7. Jackson

8. Oz Kafe

9. Bar Lupulus

10. The Clarendon Tavern

Photos by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

Alice
40 Adeline

I will admit it: I’m an omnivore, and I often feel as if something might be missing if I haven’t consumed a piece of fish, fowl, or meat during a special night. It’s terribly old-fashioned as more and more consumers turn to plant-based diets. And my prejudice was shown to be a fallacy at Alice, the new venture by Gold Medal Plates-winning chef Briana Kim.

When Kim closed Café My House in January, there was much gnashing of teeth in the food community. But Alice is spectacular in every way. With a light-flooded room, fresh with custom-made wooden tables, wishbone chairs, walls that seem to sparkle, a wall frieze made from wood etched with flowers and insects, and the floor-to-ceiling shelving lined with Mason jars, it’s a restaurant that feels deeply in tune with nature.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

The plates in Alice’s eight-course tasting menu arrive at a brisk pace, which is fabulous because the meal doesn’t drag, even if it still takes nearly two hours to finish. The experience begins with slices of sourdough made using flour from local producer Against the Grain, paired with a candle. A small tea light appears on the table, and we are told the pottery finger bowl contains edible rice butter with a walnut wick. It’s a clever trick, and it’s delicious. Next comes a sunflower-and-apple tart. Thin, crispy pastry is lined with sunflower butter, squares of pickled green apple, and hints of aniseed and tarragon. This is swiftly followed by a perfect celeriac confection decorated with spruce tips, followed by an artful seaweed-and-eggplant dish. But my favourite dish of the evening is the pine-nut custard: an icy-cold disc of creamy pine-nut custard arrives like a pie chart, overlapping a disc of purple grape jelly with a small round of compressed pear; the whole thing is floating in an almond-milk and curry-leaf liquid and decorated with crunchy pine nuts. It’s a winner on every level.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

A large white dome arrives next. It’s smoking slightly, the effect of the liquid nitrogen used to chill the sesame shell to a hard texture. Inside are roasted asparagus, discs of crunchy radish, silken tofu (made with non-GMO soy from Against the Grain), and lemon-lime jelly. The final savoury course is our least favourite: stuffed morels paired with smoked potatoes and a crunchy potato tuile. It’s a little ho-hum, but that’s only because the previous dishes were so spectacular. We finish with tonka-bean ice cream toppped with rhubarb granita and lilac sugar and a black-walnut cookie served with rice ice cream.

My guest chooses the wine pairing, which he pronounces fine, while I opt for the non-alcoholic cocktails. These are as brilliant as the food and should not be missed. You can drink a glass of good wine anywhere, but you’ll not find cocktails the likes of these outside the four walls of Alice.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Stofa
1356 Wellington St. W.

I had heard great things about Stofa. I had been once, but my frame of mind that night hadn’t set me up for a good evening. I didn’t blame the food. After my most recent visit, I left with soaring spirits following an exceptional dinner. The clean, contemporary design of this 40-seat restaurant is pleasant, and the food stimulates all the senses: it looks pretty, smells mouth-watering, and tastes like heaven. Clearly plenty of people feel the same way, as it is packed late on a mid-week evening.

The menu is eclectic and includes some unfamiliar ingredients. On the night of my visit, chicken is nowhere to be found. In other words, there’s no safety net for unadventurous eaters. But you won’t need one; just surrender yourself to the masterful hands of chef-owner Jason Sawision, former sous-chef at Atelier.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

A salad of asparagus, peas, and edamame looks like a work of art; its fresh flavours, varied textures, and balance of acidity and sweetness hit the bull’s eye. We are told that the daily special — a foie gras tarte — could be either starter or dessert. Intrigued, we choose it to begin our meal and are impressed: the elegant triangle, its toothsome and delicious gluten-free corn crust, the layers of rich foie gras mousse and topping of dark chocolate jelly, raspberry purée, and sea salt combine to offer a yin and yang of taste.

Tempted by several of the starter options, I choose a second one as my main course (a wise move because servings are huge). The lovely rectangle of warm Humbolt squid, dressed with fresh green-pea shoots, garlic scapes, tarragon mayonnaise, and Provençal vegetables — including black olives for a salty tang — sings of the Mediterranean in summer, offering strong flavours against the pleasantly soft texture and neutral flavour of squid.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

My guest chooses turbot, a succulent piece of fish prepared with a lemon-confit glaze. This dish reveals the kitchen’s understanding of balance, with pickled ramps offering an acidic note and the lemon confit a sweet juxtaposition. Mushrooms, navy beans, and charred zucchini anchor the dish with more robust, deep flavours.

With rhubarb soufflé on offer for dessert, we indulge further. (Funny how one minute I can profess to be unable to eat another mouthful and seconds later can dive into dessert.) There are not enough adjectives to describe the wonder of this creation: tall, light, fluffy, at once creamy and sweetly acidic, and the most beautiful pale pink colour.

The beer, cocktail, and wine list is extensive, with plenty available of wines by the glass. You will want for nothing at Stofa. Just one piece of advice: go with a huge appetite, or skip lunch.

Photos by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

Gray Jay
300 Preston St.

When chef Dominique Dufour opened Norca in Le Germain Hotel last year, she hinted at her intention to do something different by proclaiming that she would use only ingredients from Canada. Now, as she opens her own restaurant with her partner Devon Bionda, she’s very clear about her goals. Seasonal, Canadian, and foraged is Gray Jay’s mantra, but she also wants to change the relationship between diner and chef. To this end, there are three workstations near the seating area; if you’re so inclined, you can prop yourself at the bar top and watch your chef cooking your meal. If you prefer to sit while you wait, the chef will bring the food to your table and explain it.

The menu is unconventional, split into five sections: Aged, Cured, Produce, Proteins, and Childhood Memories. If you prefer to think of your meal as a three-course affair, then Aged and Cured fulfill the starter mandate. Six Quebec cheeses, aged from 15 days to nine months, and house-made charcuterie are sold by weight. Cheese arrives on a wooden board accompanied by a whole honeycomb in its frame from a farm near Mont Tremblant. Our server scrapes several spoonfuls into a cocotte, and we find the flowery, fresh honey to be a perfect pairing with some good cheese. One salami offering plays on sea and swine, featuring B.C. octopus, pork, sumac, pine nuts, and basil. Another pile of smoked white ham is finely shaved and wonderfully soft, while venison pepperette is suitably chewy.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

We order three Proteins to share among four, with three Produce on the side. First come potatoes, layered in mille feuille slices with seaweed and surrounded by a rich, herby hollandaise sauce, topped with microgreens and East Coast caviar. At approximately the same time, one of the Proteins arrives: zucchini flowers stuffed with minced lamb, accompanied by vegetable concassé, baby squash, creamy ricotta, and a smoked caul fat chip balancing atop the dish, its delicate lace-like veins clear to see. Next, a beef tartare and scallop creation with puffed beef-tendon pieces appears; soon after, a Produce dish arrives that features peas and carrots served cold, suspended in a dome of parsley-root terrine with ground walnuts and pea shoots. And finally, a wooden board studded with nails. Between these nails, a dozen mussels are wedged, strewn with seaweed and sea asparagus. These bivalves are roasted in the oven, just as Dufour’s grandmother used to do, all the better to keep the flavours and juices inside. A mountain of rose petals offers a visual reprieve — and hides a creamy mélange of exotic mushrooms with yogurt, ham, and hazelnuts.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

This food is all about the integrity of the ingredients and flavours, both of which are excellent; it’s not a conventional dinner, as dishes arrive in an order known only to the chef.

Finally, for dessert, a mint-and-kale ice cream layer, similar in taste to green tea, on top of apple-rye cake comes decorated with curled, dehydrated kale and fresh mint. It’s a winner and the crowning glory to an evening of surprisingly different food.

The wine list is international, and several wines are available by the glass and bottle. Local beer and cider are also on offer, with a short cocktail list. The ambience is informal and friendly and service is passionate, if sometimes a little loquacious.

Photos by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

Thru
540 Rochester St.

It has to be difficult to live up to your own reputation when you are a two-time winner of the Canadian Culinary Championships. It takes chutzpah to launch something entirely new, and Atelier chef-owner Marc Lepine has taken the leap with Thru, a six-seat concept restaurant located on the second floor of the small building that houses Atelier. It’s a minimalist box of a space with Perspex throne-like chairs and a tabletop covered with QR codes. Diners are advised to come with a fully charged cellphone for the full experience.

We are told how to use the codes to discover more about each tiny dish that arrives at the table. While it’s fun to be given permission to use technology at dinner, it quickly becomes confusing and slightly stressful. It’s like a timed game of chess as over 30 savoury items hit the table in quick succession; some are cocktails, most are in solid form. The QR codes offer a short description — some have a video link, one has a voicemail message from comedian Chris Rock.

In characteristic Lepine form, the whole experience plays with expectations. First to arrive on the table is a pair of small white discs. I worry they are indigestion pills, but they turn out to be hand wipes that grow into fluffy towels when “watered” by our waiter. Tomato soup is a disc of cake topped with a pat of creamy butter and flakes of salt; apparently, this is how leftovers were used during the Great Depression. Tomato soup replaced milk and butter in the recipe, and while today’s cake is a pale red colour, it doesn’t taste of tomato because of the spices that sweeten it. It is moist, rich, and delicious.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

More conventional, but a definite highlight, is soft-shelled crab; crispy and sweetly spicy, it comes with harissa mayonnaise. And the licorice-root skewer of marbled wagyu beef cooked on our own mini tabletop barbecue is so tender it melts — and reminds us that fat is good.

After an hour and a half of fast-paced eating, tiny dish after tiny dish, a plate of translucent gummy bears arrives. These gourmet versions miss the mark, but we breathe a sigh of relief that dinner appears to be over and we feel pleasantly full, but not sick.

But no! Asked to flip the table cover, we discover 17 more QR codes to follow; dessert and sweet cocktails are upon us, and they are even more playful than the savoury courses. Pumpkin pie is a curly ribbon (made using a whole pie, a dehydrating machine, and a heat gun). Fortune cookies are filled with hilarious and irreverent predictions; mine reads, “Great wealth is on its way to someone else. Not you. Someone else.”

Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

Dinner at Thru lasts a solid two and a half hours. The time passes quickly because there’s so much going on. It’s a fun adventure, but there was never quite enough time or quite enough of any one particular item to revel in the flavours or textures — that’s a shame, because there’s brilliance here that would benefit from a deeper dive.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Le St Laurent
460 St. Laurent Blvd.

Who knew that high-quality creative food is to be found in a condo tower on St. Laurent Boulevard? Now you do, so don’t delay. It took me far too long to get there.

Under the knife of chef Ryan Edwards, formerly of Salt, Le St Laurent produces very fine food. Combine this with spectacular views of the city, excellent service, and a contemporary environment, and you have the ingredients for a superlative night out.

While we discuss the menu, my guest enjoys a Dark and Stormy. He’s impressed: not only is it made with authentic Gosling’s Rum but Jack’s Soda provides the ginger beer. Described as contemporary Canadian, the menu offers plenty of mouth-watering choices and something to suit most palates, as well as more adventurous offerings.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

We order three starters: a salad called Spring Has Sprung, a local asparagus salad, and beef tongue. All are a delightful surprise. Spring Has Sprung offers a vibrant mix of fava beans, asparagus, wild garlic, watercress, arugula, pickled shallot, compressed cucumber, and deliciously fatty chunks of fried bread with a brown-butter-and-sorrel vinaigrette. It’s a perfect balance of textures, fat, and acid, with the pickled shallot giving a lovely zing to the plate. The asparagus salad is good but struggles to meet the excellence of Spring has Sprung; however, the two squares of house-smoked trout balanced on the ends of the spears are terribly moreish. My guest shudders at the idea of beef tongue, but in the end our forks duel over the last slice — the meat cooked to exquisite tenderness for 72 hours before being plated with marinated red onions, olives, pickled ramps, radish, and watercress.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Pickerel arrives steamed and neutral, sitting atop excellent seasonal vegetables. It’s all swimming in a light ramp hollandaise — a finely balanced dish.

My rabbit dish expresses the chef’s playful side: three generous cylinders of prosciutto-wrapped saddle stuffed with mushrooms circle a crispy croquette of braised leg. Also on the plate are pickled carrots, roasted carrots of three colours, and a dark purple carrot purée, all arranged to look like a rabbit’s head. Another winner.

To finish, we share an Earl Grey tea panna cotta, a creamy but subtle dish. It’s the perfect end to a surprising evening of excellent food and service, a fairly priced international wine list, and amazing views of the capital region.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Mati Crudo + Charcoal
428 Preston St.

The exceptionally chic and sophisticated design of Mati should not distract you from the food because, over several visits, that also proved to be quite good. Mati has clearly settled into its eye-catching space since it opened in 2018, and at a recent lunchtime visit, it has the happy hum of a place that has found its niche. Diners come and go, some linger, and the place is never empty.

Fundamentally Mediterranean in ethos and approach, with a nod to South America when it comes to steak, Mati’s menu highlights fish (raw and cooked) and meat (raw and cooked over charcoal) and offers a fresh take on traditional standards. There’s something for every palate, from Greek and Caesar salads to huge aged steaks and even a vegan burger.

Mati’s Greek salad is a mélange of aromatic vegetables and cheese. Tomatoes have plenty of flavour, the cucumbers smell divine, the feta is creamy and slightly sour, and the black-olive tapenade brings just the right touch of brine. But it’s actually the croutons that shine: slightly garlicky, at once soft with olive oil and crispy from the grill.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Also notable are the arancini, those Sicilian specialties of crunchy breadcrumb-coated fried rice balls stuffed with oozing Friulano cheese, which appear atop a large puddle of slightly spicy, robust tomato sauce. Grilled calamari hits all the right notes. It’s a generous portion and it’s cooked to perfection — gently giving, not rubbery. The squid arrives floating in a pool of slightly piquant juice, not quite sauce and not quite soup, featuring capers and lemon for acidity, orange zest for a touch of sweetness, tomatoes, and chili, the whole thing topped with cilantro shoots. Both these plates offer lively flavours, fresh and indulgent.

A bone-in charcoal-charred chicken breast is served with a slaw of fennel, apple, celery, and herbs, as well as excellent (but very salty) shoestring fries, mayonnaise, and herby chimichurri. This chicken is the juiciest and most
flavourful I have eaten in years.

A large bowl of mussels comes swimming in an aromatic spicy yellow curry sauce. Rusty red chili oil floats atop the creamy coconut sauce, while large pieces of lemongrass poke out between the shells. The plate is dressed with a tangle of cilantro shoots and chopped mint — a surprising and fresh addition.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

A seven-ounce strip loin is the least expensive steak on the lunch menu, at $27. It arrives perfectly rare with a nicely charred crust, cut across the grain, and next to a pile of those rich, salty fries. The meat is tender and tasty, the fries a little too fatty and salty but perfect for those suffering from over-indulgence the night before.

Mati offers an extensive cocktail, spirits, and wine list, with more than a dozen wines by the glass. Chef Kyle Wilson knows how to make the most of the classics, giving high-quality, simple ingredients the space to shine.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Jackson
10 Daly Ave.

Not only is Jackson blessed with a sophisticated and chic spot in the newly built Ottawa Art Gallery, it also benefits from a lovely sheltered outdoor dining courtyard, in use from May to October. The rectangular space, lined with planters and trees, offers a haven of calm at the edge of the ByWard Market. It’s a nice place to savour some good food.

Plates are small and designed for sharing — and nothing is priced over $20, so my table of four gets enthusiastic and chooses seven dishes. The first to arrive is flatbread that looks as if it might contain everything but the kitchen sink. But the mix of roasted tomatoes and shallots, feta, balsamic vinegar, sunflower seeds, zucchini discs, microgreens, and other unidentifiable ingredients is a hit. A pile of fresh white crab meat with lemon aioli, as well as corn, mango, and cucumber salsa — and deliciously salty crostini — is a fresh summer dish. We also enjoy a deconstructed ratatouille dish that appears as a mound of roasted vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and fresh microgreens, set on top of a large slice of aubergine. To one side is a puddle of deliciously intense roasted red-pepper coulis and several slices of sourdough toast. We pile the vegetables on the toast and top it with coulis for a successful contemporary take on this traditional Provençal stew, one that too often presents soggy vegetables in watery sauce.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Slightly less successful are the three dishes we choose that feature spring green peas. I’m not blaming the peas here, but all three lack the zing we’ve enjoyed to this point. Scallops in a coconut curry sauce (more of a soup really) come floating among green peas, asparagus pieces, edamame, and vermicelli. The dish is generous, and if we hadn’t so thoroughly enjoyed what had come before, we might have been very happy. The same applies to the firm piece of succulent cod that hits the table at the same time. The only poor choice is mushy peas, which arrive on pieces of sourdough toast. The name says it all, really, and the dish lacks the sweetness and spring zest that early-season peas can offer.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

A pile of wonderfully crisp churros with pillowy interiors arrives for dessert. While the menu says chili chocolate fondue and salted caramel, they actually arrive with an apple-butter dipping sauce, excellent despite the misleading description.

On the whole, Jackson is turning out fine, fresh, seasonal food, and the all-day menu feels modern. While there’s fish aplenty among these vegetable-centred offerings, meat lovers might want to dine elsewhere during the summer months.

Jackson has a strong cocktail and wine list, with 11 wines offered by the glass. Service can be patchy (we feel forgotten outside in the courtyard), but it hardly matters with the ambience. As trees sway in the breeze, the food brings to mind leisurely European lunches.

Photos by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

Oz Kafe
10 York St.

While you may feel that Oz Kafe has been around for a while, it’s only in name. This Oz can be found in new digs and with a new chef, several blocks away from its initial incarnation on Elgin Street. Kristine Hartling, formerly of the now defunct Taylor’s Genuine, is at the helm in the kitchen of this heritage stone building, tucked in behind Sussex Drive and York Street. With rustic wooden ceilings and exposed stone walls, Oz Kafe seats 120 over two floors and a patio. It describes itself as “European-inspired, locally sourced, and veg-forward.” In fact, the menu offers a little something for every palate — most of it interesting, none of it very challenging.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

We begin with smoked-tuna rillettes. A pretty round of fishy paste arrives atop a pile of pickled vegetables dressed with microgreens, sunflower seeds, and two kinds of mustard, which offer a surprising, but good, contrast. Large triangles of thin toast are the perfect vehicle for shovelling it into our mouths, and the plate is quickly cleaned.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

For our main courses, we choose stuffed morel mushrooms with polenta and truffle oil and B.C. albacore tuna with potatoes, fiddleheads, and horseradish crème fraîche. The mushrooms are a knockout: deeply savoury, stuffed with ricotta and spinach, the whole plate emitting a wonderful aroma of truffle oil. (I know many food writers hate this stuff, but used in moderation, it brings out fantastic depth.) They’re served with polenta, asparagus, and bitter rapini leaves; the polenta provides an indulgent richness, while the vegetables offer a lovely balance of sharp green flavours.

A generous serving of tuna is nicely seared, leaving the fish raw in the middle and softly giving on the palate. It comes with excellent smoked fingerlings, small spring fiddleheads, and plenty of greens — truly a “veg-forward” dish.

And because everything we’ve eaten so far has been very pleasant, we spring for dessert. But the lemon curd concoction with white chocolate and crumbled cookies is slightly disappointing. There’s just not quite enough lemon to the curd. So we leave the last mouthful. (Only one, mind you.)

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

There’s an extensive wine and beer list, with a good selection of wines by the glass and a creative offering of cocktails.

Don’t mistake Oz for a tourist haven just because it’s in the ByWard Market. This restaurant is producing excellent fresh food that follows the seasons and also offers cheese and charcuterie boards featuring local products. There’s even a late-night menu with some classics such as a beef burger and a grilled cheese or fried bologna sandwich for those who might have overindulged in the nearby bars and clubs.

Photos by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

Bar Lupulus
1242 Wellington St. W.

It’s in the name: this restaurant is first and foremost a bar. And it lives up its name, offering the most unbelievable beer, wine and cocktails, with a nod to cider on the way.

At last count, there were over 200 beers on offer, 20 of them on tap. Many are local. (Where do they keep them all?) As for the wine list, it’s a dizzying read, with options from all around the world but an emphasis on Canada and Europe. There are 18 by the glass and over 130 by the bottle, with some from such surprising locales as the Czech Republic and Georgia. A couple are from the U.S., but not a single bottle from South America.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

Billed as a gastropub, Bar Lupulus has a dark, clubby, pub-like atmosphere, with low lighting, dark grey panelled walls, and plenty of wood. (Thankfully, it’s missing the large-screen televisions so prevalent in the majority of pubs these days.) This is a gastropub in the British sense of the word — one designed to feel welcoming and warm and to tickle your taste buds, first through your choice of drink, then on your plate.

The food put forth by chef de cuisine Justin Champagne is ambitious, and the menu features fresh, seasonal, locally sourced fruit and vegetables. However, all the composed dishes are complicated, with many different flavours and layered ingredients — some work, some do not. A burrata salad arrives with a fat ball of creamy cheese covered with a bright orange tomato coulis sitting atop a tangle of mixed green leaves, the plate studded with heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber ribbons, basil jelly, grilled plums, long peppers, brown-butter croutons, and mounds of aerated honey. Some elements are excellent, such as the flavourful tomatoes, the cheese, and the leaves, which have a pleasantly acidic dressing; some, such as the soggy croutons, are not. Overall, there are just too many contrasting flavours on this plate. Ostrich tartare combines a mound of raw meat with white anchovies, capers, sunflower seeds, olive-oil jam, Dijon mustard, tonka-bean-pickled blueberries, Parmesan, and a blue-algae potato puff. Once again, parts of this dish are good, such as the blue-algae potato puff and the white anchovy pieces. But the ostrich meat is under-seasoned, and the blueberries and olive-oil jam add nothing to the dish. The fish dish, a pan-seared rainbow trout fillet, comes atop a pile of lentils with watercress, pork-belly lardons, confit fennel, and rainbow carrots. This one works.

Photo by Christian Lalonde – PhotoluxStudio.com

You can see the theme here: there’s something to please every palate, from the impressive drinks list to the extensive ingredients. If you like to dissect every ingredient on your plate, then you’ll find plenty to discover at Bar Lupulus while you work your way through the beer and wine list. If seasonal simplicity is more your style, then you should choose another restaurant.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

The Clarendon Tavern
11 George St.

The giveaway is in the name: although The Clarendon is really more of a pub, it does offer some good food, and you can escape the giant television above the bar into a very elegant room at the back.

If you’re hungry in the ByWard Market, this is one of the few new openings in the area that will send you away satisfied. With a menu of eclectic comfort food designed by executive chef David Godsoe — who also handles the kitchen at Restaurant Eighteen nearby — a meal in this elegant environment is a recipe for a pleasant experience.

At both lunch and dinner, there’s a good selection of artisanal pizzas, which are cooked in imported Italian ovens fired up to 775 degrees so that the pies come out hot, crispy, and thin-crusted with some creative toppings such as nduja, white anchovies, romesco sauce, and cured egg yolk.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

The starters offer an edible world tour. From the Mediterranean, fried halloumi slices, crisply coated, robustly seasoned, and sprinkled with pine nuts, pink-grapefruit segments, and blobs of za’atar mayo. The flavours work well together, with the grapefruit offering a good contrast of fresh acidity to the squeaky saltiness of the cheese. From North America, K.F. cauliflower: crisp and spicy, it’s served on a large smear of cashew cheese with fresh raita dip. From Italy comes tuna crudo, good-quality fish with crunchy puffed quinoa bringing a lovely texture to the dish. Also notable is the classic French onion soup — the broth deeply rich and satisfying, with plenty of soft onions floating about in the liquid. Croutons coated with melted cheese are crispy, and the whole dish packs a peppery punch.

Main courses include gastropub staples such as cod and chips, steak frites, a burger, and a good trout fillet served with potato latkes and crème fraîche.

A Buddha bowl arrives looking small, but it turns out to be just right, loaded with layers of secret goodies, including cubes of roasted sweet potato, lentils, quinoa, crispy chick peas, beetroot, avocado slices, pea shoots, and colourful pickled vegetables.

Photos by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Desserts are limited, with just three offerings. Cheesecake with lemon curd and blueberry arrives on top of a pile of crumbs, deeply creamy and slightly lemony, with generous dots of lemon curd and blueberry compote on top. It’s a good finish to an eclectic meal.

There’s a wide selection of local beer and cider, and wine is well priced. Cocktails are creative, and there are even a couple of non-alcoholic ones, such as The English Rose with Split Tree grapefruit cordial, rose water, and soda. It arrives looking like a work of art with the palest pink liquid hanging at the bottom of the glass and a yellow pansy floating at the top, and it tastes like a breath of summer air.

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