One hundred percent of ingredients on the menu at Norca, the restaurant in the newly opened Le Germain hotel on Daly Avenue, are Canadian. That bears repeating: ALL of the ingredients come from within the border of this country. And while that’s fine and dandy from June to October, it’s a whole other kettle of fish for the rest of the year.
The name Norca aims to encapsulate the mission to highlight Northern cuisine through Canadian ingredients.
The menu at Norca is the brainchild of Dominique Dufour, a 31-year-old chef originally from Montreal. Dufour took the reins at Norca in April, after a proposed Middle Eastern restaurant destined for the space fell through.
Dufour has made quick work of finding local suppliers – Juniper Farms from Wakefield, was making a delivery during my visit, while beef comes from O’Brien Farms near Winchester. And she sources a lot of her ingredients from Montreal, where latterly she was in charge of the kitchens at both Magdalena and Ludger, two restaurants side-by-side in the Saint-Henri district. Another supplier is Yves Gendron, the chief horticulturalist of Mosaica, who also grows Buddha Hands lemons in Laval. This is a rare chance for Dufour to include citrus in her menus.
Dufour doesn’t see her Canadian-ingredients-only policy as limiting. “Why not?” she asks. “Trump’s tariffs? We will not be affected! And frankly, it gives me a framework to work within.” Menus at Norca change weekly, and sometimes daily, “and that includes desserts. It’s very, very seasonal,” says Dufour.
Norca’s space features an industrial chic, polished rustic vibe. Wishbone chairs, oversized upholstered pendant lights, leather armchairs, velvet benches, and wide plank floors contrast with hits of silver with Moroccan lights, black tiles, smoked glass, and glass panel room dividers. The result is comfortable but sophisticated.
One gets the feeling that the décor will quickly become entirely secondary to Dufour’s food. She leads me to a clutch of waxed apples hanging over the bar. She has dunked these apples in beeswax, and has fashioned a hanging system out of macramé to create a piece of contemporary sculpture.
“They take between two weeks to two months weeks to ferment, depending on heat an humidity” she explains, “and then I’ll use them to complement my cheese boards.” Back in the kitchen, Dufour proudly shows off her curing fridge, where all manner of hams and sausages hang, and another filled with huge chunks of meat. She waves a hand at piles of fresh produce, just delivered: “Isn’t it beautiful?” she says, in passing.
To celebrate the opening of the hotel, Le Germain Group collaborated with Montreal based Romeo’s Gin to create a special edition, with label art commissioned by Ottawa-based artist Ryan Smeeton in collaboration with Montreal photographer Julie Couture, depicting one of Couture’s photos of a reflection of Parliament in the office buildings on Wellington, laid over the top of one of Smeeton’s abstract paintings. What better than a bottle of the special label gin for mixing a Juliet cocktail?
30 Daly Ave.