City Bites

Return to Oz — Kafe re-opens in Market with triple the space, new chef, new menu

It took a while, but the relocated and rejuvenated Oz Kafe is finally up and running! Oz Balpinar, the woman behind the popular eatery, was originally planning to reopen in the Market a year ago, but discovered that renovating an 1870s heritage building was a huge job — it would take time to do things right.

“We worked with Barry Padolsky who was a regular at the old Oz,” explains Balpinar, “The space had been divided into two businesses, so we had to open it up and then redo everything. But the bones — the stone walls and the big beams — form the basis. Everything had to be custom drawn and custom cut because it’s an old building and nothing is straight.”

The new Oz Kafe sees 120 seats spread over two storeys. The second floor boasts vaulted ceilings
The new Oz Kafe sees 120 seats spread over two storeys. The second floor boasts vaulted ceilings

The long-awaited opening happened softly, at the end of August, with Balpinar simply posting a picture of a table at the restaurant with the words “We are ready to put food on this table tomorrow!” Since then, Oz regulars have been heading back in droves to check out the much larger space (triple the size of the old Oz on Elgin, with two storeys, 120 tables, and a 50-seat patio).

A view from the second floor of Oz over the patio space — fingers crossed for a few more weeks of patio weather
A view from the second floor of Oz over the patio space — fingers crossed for a few more weeks of patio weather

Some Oz traditions have been retired; some remain (the longstanding Chef Appreciation Night, to be held on the last Monday of the month, will be relaunched soon. Hallelujah!).

City Bites caught up with Balpinar just ahead on the dinner service.

Do any of the Oz Kafe classics remain on the menu?

No, we’ve changed things up completely. I was worried about letting go of people’s favourite dishes from 10 years ago, but then I realized that our new chef, Kristine Hartling, is very capable and she needs full creative freedom. It’s a brand-new space and we’re reinventing ourselves. The classic Jamie Stunt dishes are beloved, but nothing stays the same.

Tell me about Chef Kristine Hartling.

We share the same philosophy on food — we like it to be in its most natural state and treated well. Not over-complicating the dishes, but having a good balance of flavours.

Menu sneak peek:

Three dinner menu items:

  • Brined Nagano Pork Rib Chop with corn puree, grilled corn/cherry tomato/baby onion/string bean succotash, marinated sweet peppers
  • Pan Seared Mackerel with braised lentils, roasted baby carrots and leek, herb aioli, arugula, confit lemon
  • Charred Eggplant with chickpea and fennel stew, slow roasted tomato, green olive tapenade, sautéed greens, sunflower romesco

Three late-night menu items:

  • Shrimp Toast (Nordic shrimp with old bay mayo, cucumber, celery, pickled shallot, and iceberg lettuce on grilled sourdough
  • Cheese Dreams 2.0 (Old cheddar and bacon or mushroom on white bread with spicy ketchup)
  • Fried Bologna Sandwich (Enright Farm beef bologna with yellow mustard on toasted white bread with spicy ketchup)
Window seats on the second floor have Juliet balconies that look out over the courtyard.
Window seats on the second floor have Juliet balconies that look out over the courtyard.

How did Chef Appreciation Night start?

It was started by Jamie Stunt [now at Soif Bar à Vin in Gatineau] in 2006. He had the idea of having a night geared to the industry where chefs and others who worked in kitchens could go out for dinner and get together. They’re often too busy to go to other restaurants to check things out. This was an opportunity to thank people who work in kitchens — have people who cook for everyone else in the city come out and have a night of food and drink. Lots of places are closed on Mondays, so it’s a good day for it. Of course, it caught on with food bloggers, regular diners, and other industry folks.

Oz Kafe
10 York St.
Open seven nights,. Dinner runs from 5-11 pm and the late-night menu is 11pm-2am. Not yet open for lunch
(613) 234-0907