City Bites

OPENING SOON! Former rapper Flip Kuma to launch Glebe restaurant Earl’s Variety

gjgjgjgjg
Liam Vainola has teamed up with chef Jason Brault, formerly of Tapastree and the Granville Island Hotel in B.C., to launch their Glebe restaurant.

By Fateema Sayani

Six years ago, those who followed the local music scene were intrigued by a rapper by the name of Flip Kuma. He was a soot-voiced softie who had semi-weepy lyrics, but delivered them with a clipped vocal style that made him sound tough and real.

The MC released three albums by the age of 25 and had dreams of running a rap label. Never one to stay still stylistically, Flip Kuma did a 180 with his side project called Virgin Blonde Fantasy, where he sped up the BPM to produce “the gayest electro ever” à la Chromeo. His music made for some good nights at the clubs. Then music fans didn’t hear much from the man known as Liam Vainola.

Turns out, Vainola was tiring of the club scene and trying to impose some discipline on himself (the working title of his last album was The Underachiever’s Feast). So he dropped music and started working his way up in various restaurants around town. He learned kitchen skills and front-of-house management with stints at The Ritz, Carmen’s Veranda, 73 North, and The Fourth Avenue Wine Bar, all the while saving up to open his own place.

That dream turns into reality on November 1 when Vainola, 30, will open the doors of Earl’s Variety, a neighbourhood eatery located under the green awning on Strathcona Avenue in the Glebe.

Who's Earl? He's the restaurateur's grandfather and a portrait of him hangs in the dining room.
Who’s Earl? He’s the restaurateur’s grandfather and a portrait of him hangs in the dining room.

Who’s Earl?

The restaurant combines some familiar and trendy concepts to appeal to Ottawa’s enthusiastic gastronomes. Earl’s Variety is located in the Glebe just around the corner from the main strip and is aimed at locals who want to become regulars at a place that isn’t too crowded (it seats 54) and has the cachet of being for those in-the-know because it’s just a little out of the way.

There are eight-seater communal dining tables like you’ll find at Union Local 613 and plans for family-style dinners that Fraser Café regulars so love. An army of guest chefs will cook on those occasions. Vainola has lined up his cousin Scott Adams (Benny’s Bistro) and friend Jarrah Thomas-Reynolds (The Manx) for coming family-style dinner nights. To keep to the variety-store theme, the restaurant will sell dry rubs and sauces, all under the watchful eye of the late Earl Bjorgan. He’s the restaurateur’s grandfather and a portrait of him hangs in the dining room. Bjorgan was from the Prairies and ran a Beaver Lumber. “He was a sweet and gentle man,” Vainola says. “I think he’d be pretty proud, for sure.”

Earl’s Variety is located in the Glebe just around the corner from the main strip and is aimed at locals who want to become regulars at a place that isn’t too crowded (it seats 54) and has the cachet of being for those in-the-know because it’s just a little out of the way.
Earl’s Variety is located just off the main strip and is aimed at locals who want to become regulars at a place that isn’t too crowded (it seats 54).

The other key figure in the plan is Vainola’s childhood friend, chef Jason Brault. On a recent visit, Brault — recently back from B.C. where he cooked at Tapastree and the Granville Island Hotel — was putting the finishing touches on a menu of comfort foods like meatballs and scalloped potatoes (see full menu, below). Brault says the food at Earl’s Variety will be fresh — very fresh.

The restaurant has only one small freezer for stocks. There is no room for walk-ins, so they will have deliveries almost daily from their suppliers, including O’Brien Farms, Mariposa Farm, Juniper Farm, Le Coprin, The Whalesbone, The French Baker, and The Pickle Patch.

Building on his experience at Tapastree, Brault wants diners to build a meal out of small plates.

“For the kitchen it’s kind of a dream,” Brault says of tapas-style dining. “You don’t have the timing thing; you can focus on one plate and you don’t have to match your meat with your starch. Everything comes on a small plate and everybody’s passing it around and having a good time. We’re promoting that happy atmosphere and that neat atmosphere you don’t find in a lot of restaurants.”

Patrons can watch chefs putting together the dishes from the bar, which is wrapped around the open kitchen. It’s open until 11 p.m. and there is a late-night menu available until 2 a.m. for the after-hours crowd — some of whom are all grown up, but still enjoy a great night on the town.

Earl’s Variety, 225 Strathcona Ave., 613-220-8287. https://www.facebook.com/earlsvariety

Quick turnaround:
Quick turnaround: Work will have to move quickly to get Earl’s Variety up and running for its opening date of November 1.

The Menu

Butternut Squash Soup
Fresh thyme, pear and crème fraîche / $8

Beet Salad
Surface ripened Goat’s cheese, Pomegranate and Sherry vinaigrette, Toasted Hazelnuts and Arugula / $12

Seasonal Mixed Greens
House Dressing and seasonal veg / $9

Roasted Root Vegetables
Seasonal Root Veg, fresh herbs and roasted Garlic / $9

Haricots vert
Caramelized shallots, lemon, toasted almonds / $9

Sautéed Wild Mushrooms
Fresh rosemary, garlic, demi, reduced balsamic and goats cheese / $10

Thick Cut Fries
House aioli / $6

Scalloped Potatoes
Creamy potato, Swiss cheese / $9

Crab Cakes
Spicy smoked shrimp remoulade / $13

Tuna Tataki
Ponzu sauce, Chinese mustard beurre blanc and green onion / $12

Beef Tenderloin
Sautéed wild mushrooms and Maître d’ butter / $12

Provençal Prawns
Lemon, white wine, tomato, garlic, parsley, cream / $12

Seared Scallops
Lemongrass shrimp bisque and spicy mango salsa / $13

Duck Breast
Dried Cherry and Port demi glaze and Jerusalem artichoke puree / $14

Meatballs
Pork, veal and beef meatballs, tomato sauce, shaved Manchego cheese / $12

Late Night Menu

Marinated Olives
Marinated in house served with seared chorizo / $8

Chicken Liver Pate
Clarified butter, crostini, cranberry and cracked black pepper compote / $11

Seasonal Mixed Greens
House Dressing and seasonal veg / $9

Thick Cut Fries
House aioli / $6

Arctic Char Gravlax
Crème fraîche, fried capers, shredded lettuce, grainy mustard and honey vinaigrette

Cheese Plate
Crostini, Selection of cheeses and fruit compote