Eating & Drinking

Best New Restaurants 2009: The Ones to Watch

FARBS: Prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin stuffed with five-spiced mushrooms and corn. Fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, yellow and green beans, and star anise jus (Photograph by photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde)

Black Cat Bistro

Back from temporary exile on The Rock, chef Steve “The Illustrated Man” Vardy slam-dunks the nosh at Richard Urquhart’s reincarnation of his long-standing uber brand. Ask for a banquette.
428 Preston St., 613-569-9998, blackcatbistro.ca

Le Café

In possibly the best resto location in Ottawa, Le Café has long suffered from the malaise of government-run, unionized, how-do-you-spell-average indifference. In comes innovative, ball-busting super-chef Michael Blackie, who must reconcile tired, bored, and indifferent service staff with his smart, innovative cuisine. When you and I go to the NAC and not to a show, Blackie will have succeeded.
53 Elgin St., 613-594-5127, nac-cna.ca/en/lecafe

Le Cordon Bleu Bistro @ Signatures

The Cordon Bleu is the epitome of the classic French culinary style. It is both a world-recognized cooking school and a great restaurant. Kudos to them for realizing that for the hoi polloi, decor and service of classic French (as relevant as the guillotine) no longer work in France, let alone on Laurier. If all goes according to plan, the restaurant will reopen in early November in its more casual bistro incarnation.
453 Laurier Ave. E., 613-236-2499, signaturesrestaurant.com

Farbs Kitchen and Wine Bar

One minute he’s working for John Taylor at Domus; next thing you know, he has his own restaurant. Not entirely sure chef/owner Michael Farber is old enough to drink, let alone hold a liquor licence, but he sure knows how to shake ’n’ bake.
18 Beechwood Ave., 613-744-6509, farbskitchen.com

Fraser Café

Okay, so here’s the deal. I’ve called these guys a bunch of times and never heard back from them (chefs — yeesh), but rumour has it that they’ve moved from the shoebox and they’re now in the comparatively humungoid space in New Edinburgh where Fratelli’s used to be. The Fraser Brothers (a.k.a. The Fraser Brothers) know a noodle from a gnocchi. I would best describe their food as honest and lip-smackin’ above all else. Don’t know if I’ve ever seen a couple of happier guys working 20-hour days.
7 Springfield Rd., 613-749-1444, frasercafe.ca

The Grand Pizzeria and Bar

The boys who brought you Empire Grill and The Metropolitan have now taken over a consistently horrible Byward Market touristo joint and replaced it with a fun, casual pizza place that raises pepperoni pie to the Neapolitan standard. I think the patio seats, like, 4,000 people.
74 George St., 613-244-9995, thegrandpizzeria.com

Play food & wine

The latest offering from the Beckta/Moffatt-ioso. It’s in the Byward Market and specializes in exceptional wines by the glass and an ever changing small-plate menu. If you’re gonna graze, stay downstairs. If you’re gonna eat, reserve upstairs. If there’s one or two of ya, then ask for a seat at the open kitchen bar. The menu changes constantly.
1 York St., 613-667-9207, playfood.ca

Zen Kitchen

It must be tough to open a place that eschews the main reason most people go out for dinner — namely, meat. I am a proud and enthusiastic carnivore, but this ain’t your parents’ vegetarian resto, no sir. The food here is imaginative and delicious.
634 Somerset St. W., 613-233-6404, zenkitchen.ca

107 Fourth Avenue Wine Bar

Situated in the middle of the tame and predictable Glebe, bursting with mediocre pubs and Indian restaurants, Fourth Ave. is a great place to go for a cocktail or an exceptional glass of wine in a chill environment. Food? Go for lunch; go for a light dinner. The small steak frites is the best deal in town, and the daily specials are imaginative.
107 Fourth Ave., 613-236-0040, 107fourthavenue.com

Murray Street Kitchen Charcuterie Wine

The best charcuterie in town awaits, paired with smash cheeses and excellent pickled sides. Awesome patio and crazy mojitos.
110 Murray St., 613-562-7244, murraystreet.ca