Two new Ottawa restos make finals for enRoute magazine Top 10 list

Two new Ottawa restos make finals for enRoute magazine Top 10 list

MeNa on Preston Street, and el Camino on Elgin, are among 30 finalists the public is being asked to vote

AUG 05 14 – 1:20 PM — Two new Ottawa restaurants (opened since summer 2013) have made it to the final round as Air Canada’s enRoute magazine prepares its annual Top 10 list of new restaurants across Canada, to be released in November.

restos1The good news is, my suggestion of MeNa on Preston Street made it to the final 30 list, as well as el Camino on Elgin Street. (I am one of two volunteer panelists on the nomination committee of 30 food people across Canada, but do not participate in the reviews — those are researched and written by Andrew Braithwaite, who reserves under a fake name. The magazine picks up the tab.)

Officially, restaurants could be considered if they opened between July 1 2013 and June 30 2014, although exceptions can be made in a special case if an excellent restaurant was inadvertently missed the previous year. In this case, MeNa opened its doors on Feb. 12 of this year, while el Camino opened in late May 2013.

Members of the public are invited to vote for their favourite in an online People’s Choice poll at eatandvote.com for prizes worth over $4,000.

This is what en Route says of the terrific Ottawa restaurants on its Top 30 finalist list:

MeNa

Seasonal cuisine sourced from the Ottawa Valley draws a sophisticated crowd to this serene Little Italy room. Chef James Bratsberg constructs beautiful plates with ingenious flavour combinations (tuna tartare with fingerling potatoes two ways, ringed by a tomato-and-zucchini mirepoix), but still retains the approachability of protein-and-potatoes comfort food. Roving sommelier Samuel James contributes a tableside knack for pairing your pork shoulder to the savoury Patagonian malbec he’s just added to the well-edited list.

Chef Matt Carmichael is owner of el Camino

Chef Matt Carmichael is owner of el Camino

El Camino

At a former nightclub space on a buzzy strip of Elgin Street, hungry Ottawans line up and then linger well past midnight to party with Matt Carmichael’s ingenious tacos and raw seafood dishes. A fleet of tequila- and mescal-based cocktails (the Camino Club is tequila blanco, Disaronno, Fernet-Branca, bitters, pineapple and lime) fuels the energetic room, but such creative dishes as steelhead trout tartare tostada and a Japanese eggplant taco add a sneaky layer of gastronomical sophistication to the proceedings. The night ends with Tequilime pie and churros.

 

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Air Canada’s enRoute magazine seeks out new restaurants launched during the past year (approximately June 2013 to June 2014) that advance the Canadian culinary identity — places where the overall dining experience will have a lasting and significant impact on Canadian restaurant culture. The panel’s list of 30 restaurants has been visited and judged anonymously by international food and wine writer, Andrew Braithwaite.

Readers are invited to vote for their favourite restaurant among the nominees. They are also entered to win a trip, courtesy of Air Canada, to the Gala event celebrating the Top Ten this November in Toronto, along with the use of a Jaguar or Land Rover from the sponsor during their stay. Additional information about the criteria, food panel, nominated restaurants and contest rules may be found online.

Among this year’s finalist list of 30 nominees, Toronto captured the most with seven contestants, followed by Montreal with six and Vancouver with four.

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El-Camino

Chef James Bratsberg, who heads the kitchen at MeNa

Chef James Bratsberg, who heads the kitchen at MeNa

The complete list:

Agave y Aguacate, Toronto; Ask for Luigi, Vancouver; Ayden, Saskatoon; Bar Buca, Toronto; Black Pig Bistro, Calgary; The Blacktail Florist, Vancouver; Byblos, Toronto; The Chase, Toronto; Cinara, Vancouver; Edna, Halifax; El Camino, Ottawa; Fat Pasha, Toronto; Farmer’s Apprentice, Vancouver; H4C, Montreal; Impasto, Montreal; Légende, Quebec City; Little Jumbo, Victoria; Luckee, Toronto; Mallard Cottage, St. John’s; MēNa, Ottawa; Mercuri, Montreal; My Shanti, Surrey; North 53, Edmonton; Patrice Pâtissier, Montreal; RGE RD, Edmonton; Rhum Corner, Toronto; Le Serpent, Montreal; Vin Papillon, Montreal; Wolf in the Fog, Tofino; Woodwork, Edmonton.

“Air Canada is thrilled to showcase Canada’s best new culinary talents for our customers, wherever they may be flying,” said Louise McKenven, senior director, marketing, at Air Canada.

“This program is a great opportunity to vote for the very best new restaurants across Canada, and present them to millions of Air Canada customers each year.”

“Last year proved that Canadians want to have a say in Canada’s Best New Restaurants, and we are very excited to continue with the voting initiative this year,” said Ilana Weitzman, editor in chief, Air Canada’s enRoute magazine. “There have been some stellar restaurant openings this year, so we’re excited to see which chef nabs the popular vote.”

ImageProxyWeitzman says the national scene has never been more exciting for diners.

“The 30 nominees this year are hugely exciting, including some very interesting new food scenes cropping up: Edmonton is clearly on fire this year with three restaurants in the Top 30.
“It’s fun to see that shift as we take the barometer nation-wide, with Saskatoon and Halifax making the long list this time around as well. And of course, Ottawa has two strong contenders with MeNa and el Camino. Can’t wait to see how the #eatandvote goes this year and which chef nabs the public vote along with the Top 10.”
Ottawa’s performance has been spotty with the enRoute Top 10 list in the past: Last year Supply & Demand placed fourth nation-wide, and in 2009 newcomer Atelier placed fourth while Murray Street took the fifth position. In 2004 Beckta Dining & Wine took fourth place.

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