“Centretown has been left in the dust for years, “ says Jon Svazas, the owner of the forthcoming restaurant Fauna, located at 425-427 Bank Street across the street from The Whalesbone Oysterhouse. He’s excited to bring his answer to casual fine dining to the neighbourhood, but is still buried in bags of insulation, landlord troubles, and the quicksand of the permit process — all causing huge delays and pushing back his opening to January 2013 or even later.
Svazas was most recently the Chef de Cuisine at Taylor’s Genuine; his cooking CV includes the ARC Hotel, Farbs, and Domus. After 10 years in the business, he decided it was time to branch out on his own and create a place that will appeal to design geeks and foodies alike.
He fell in love with the character of the old Hackett’s Shoes building that dates back to 1895, with its 12-foot ceilings and double brick walls that he personally worked to fully expose. He’s working with architects to join two spaces into one and unite the open industrial look with more sleek, modern furniture that he is proud to say has been custom designed and handmade in Canada. A large bar area will be a focal point and will look onto a semi-open kitchen.
Svazas has been inspired by his travels to places like Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and New York — falling in love with the street food and the many smaller restaurants designed like to feel like personal living spaces. He feels Ottawa is still hungry for hang-outs for people in their 30s and up, who are looking for something more sophisticated than the hundreds of pubs but more casual and personal than the fine dining spots. He says people are looking for value, too, and that there’s no reason not to have great, seasonal, down-to-earth food that’s made using newer techniques — all for the cost of what people spend at many chain restaurants.
He says his menus will change approximately twice per season with daily specials based on ingredients that make sense for the day you’re eating it. “I don’t feel like eating short ribs with roasted carrots on a hot summer day; instead, I want tartares and fresh, clean flavours,” says Svazas. “Seasonality isn’t just about what’s in season — it’s about what’s happening outside.”
Now that he puts it that way, the name Fauna is starting to make sense.