City Bites

Stofa marks solo debut of former Atelier chef de cuisine Jason Sawision

Expect a warm welcome at Stofa (1356 Wellingtson St. W.), the long-awaited restaurant helmed by Jason Sawision, former chef de cuisine for Atelier’s Marc Lepine. It opens Wednesday, October 4.

A word with Norse roots, a stofa is a hearth or cast-iron stove around which everyone gathers to eat and socialize. “I want to create an atmosphere of approachable fine dining,” explains Sawision.

The chef, who has also enjoyed stints at the much-celebrated Canoe (Toronto) and Eigensinn Farm (near Collingwood), says he has been inspired by his well-regarded mentors “but you come to a point where you want to start creating your own menu.”

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Stofa has a comfy feel, with padded chairs (and barstools) that encourage guests to relax and stay a while
Stofa has a comfy feel, with padded chairs (and barstools) that encourage guests to relax and stay a while

That menu, which Sawision defines as contemporary Canadian, has a more traditional setup, with appetizers, mains, and desserts. That said, he is promising a shareable “snack tower” of cooked, fried, and raw seafood on the apps selection and a limited choice of veg-forward “for the table” dishes meant for sharing.

The 45-seat restaurant, decorated in soothing greys, boasts a bar along the back wall and a private dining room for up to 16 guests upstairs. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner (5:30pm-10:30pm).

A window at the back of the restaurant offers a peek into the kitchen, where sous-chef Imrun Texeira preps for opening night
A window at the back of the restaurant offers a peek into the kitchen, where sous-chef Imrun Texeira preps for opening night

City Bites sat down with the chef a few days ahead of his much-awaited debut to ask him a few key questions:

The Name Game

I was looking for a word that would depict the feel of what we were trying to do, so “stofa” is perfect. Traditionally the stofa would be a heating source, a cooking source, a place where people came together to eat and be with friends and family. It’s very comfortable, which is the feeling I’m going for at the restaurant.

Menu Planning

I’d describe the menu as “contemporary Canadian.” It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot now, but I think it suits what we’re trying to do. My career has been mostly in the fine dining sector and mostly in Canada. The menu will have a more traditional style, with appetizers and mains. This is how I, personally, like eating, and it allows me to really showcase what I’m trying to do on a plate.

Menu Sneak Peek

Three starters:

  • Smoked Sturgeon: Pickled beets, horseradish sour cream, bigos, caviar
  • Cuttlefish: Northern white beans and chorizo, brown butter yogurt, olives, fennel
  • Baby Gem Salad: Grilled fingerlings, cardamom cashews, caramelized cauliflower, curry-buttermilk dressing

Three mains:

  • Duck and Buffalo Milk Ravioli: Confit duck, beluga lentils, smoked duck breast, porcini foam
  • Honey-Miso Steelhead Trout: Onion-lemongrass dashi, edamame, kabocha squash, buckwheat porridge
  • Bison Hangar Steak: Bread pudding, sunchoke, braised beef cabbage roll, gin jus

Enjoyable Extras

Even though the menu will have that more traditional feel, there will be a section within the menu where a table can order little extras to share as a group. I’m calling this section “for the table” and it will really showcase vegetables. I’ll also have an appetizer that’s a seafood tower to share. It won’t be traditional tower with shrimp and crab legs where everything is cold and cooked. I’ll have multiple preparations of different seafoods, some raw, some cooked, some fried — a snack tower of seafood. It will [look] pretty cool when the wait staff brings it to the table.

Outside Influences

I spent six years working with Marc [Lepine] at Atelier so you will see little spots of molecular cuisine — I will use some of the techniques I’ve learned, but more as a background element. At Canoe, I learned a lot about fine dining and sourcing Canadian products, while at Eigensinn Farm I learned about the farm-to-table philosophy and preparing what you’ve grown. Working at these three restaurants taught me a wide range of techniques and flavour combinations. Now I’m bringing the best of everything into my own style of cooking.

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