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MēNa 3


Foods from MēNa


2017 Nov 30
My first visit to the renovated MēNa was for a late November Wednesday evening dinner of game meats, dubbed "Game Night". Unexpectedly low attendance caused them to extend complimentary invitations to a small number of social media guests and my wife and I feel privileged to have been among them.

The evening started with a brief introduction to the menu by Executive Chef James Bratsberg, who has been the culinary heart of MēNa since its inception almost four years ago. Each menu item was paired with a wine selected by sommelier Rob Nellis.

We started with an amuse of rosemary-skewered, nicely seasoned, warm house made kielbasa.

The five courses of the blind tasting menu were:

Cured Magret Duck Breast
Sunchoke custard, chestnut puree, c'est bon goat cheese.
Attems "Cicinis" 2015, Collio, Friuli-Venezia, Italy

This was my favourite dish. Thin strips of cured duck breast adorned a flat disk of sunchoke custard. Chef Bratsberg explained that the components were intended to invoke the soft comfort of a forest floor. The balance was perfect, with soft and crunchy textures and sweet and salty flavours all coming together in harmony. Accompanying this dish were a pair of lovely fresh miniature breads, a perfect dome of butter, and a glass of that lovely crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Caribou Tartar
Black truffle puree, roasted hen of the wood, foie gras.
Domain Charles Audoin Marsannay "Clos du Roy" 2013, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France

My wife and I are not huge fans of tartare but this was quite wonderful. The rich but very fine caribou combined with the earthy truffle puree and roasted hen of the wood mushroom in a wondrous way, especially when eaten with the airy crunch of the accompanying and very delicate rusk-like breads.

Quebec Venison Leg
Roasted celeriac, blackberry, seed granola.
TerraNoble "CA2" Costa Carmanere 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile

My second favourite dish of the evening. Meaty but lusciously lean and tender medallions of rare venison yielded easily to both knife and tooth. Thin shards of salt on top and clusters of flax and sesame granola lent a savoury crunch to offset the creamy sweetness of celery root puree. Smoky roasted celeriac and ribbons of blanched celery brought lightness to this dramatic dish. My favourite wine of the evening accompanied this dish. In fact, TerraNoble is my favourite Chilean winery and this reminds me I have a bottle of 2012 Gran Reserva Carmenere (discovered at 10fourteen) waiting to be opened. :)

Binchōtan Roasted Squab
Chicken liver mousse, chanterelle, sauce-chasseur.
Château Chantelune 2014, Margaux, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France

Binchōtan charcoal is pretty fascinating stuff, and it was clearly up to the task of searing the squab's skin to a light golden crisp. Dainty quenelles of chicken liver mousse leapfrogged the richness of the squab into a zone that was a little too high for me. Your mileage may vary, especially if you like chicken liver more than I do.

Granny Smith Apple Tartlet
Vanilla bean parfait, shortbread, burnt caramel.
Château de Cérons

Apple was a perfect choice to top off a meal of game meats. The apple component turned out to be one huge spiralized ribbon smothered in caramel sauce. The flavours were nice but the apple itself had a strangely chewy-soft texture that didn't feel great in my mouth. The clean tasting vanilla ice cream and salty-crunchy shortbread were absolutely spectacular and more than made up for it. Best ice cream sandwich ever!

My wife was driving so I enjoyed half her wine plus all of mine. The pours were generous and these were top notch wines indeed. Service was perfectly warm and attentive throughout the evening and it was a real treat to enjoy it with only the expense of a well deserved gratuity.

As usual, MēNa does not hold back when it comes to quality and it continues to be one of Ottawa's very best spots for high end French cuisine.

2017 Jan 30
Closed for renovations until April 1, 2017.

2014 May 10
Close-up detail of the beautiful and delicious Warm Sunchoke Salad. :-)

2014 May 10
Finally made time to visit MēNa with my wife on Friday evening. We managed to get a table the day before -- fortunate, given all the recent positive press this place has received:


As the menu specifics change frequently, I won't go into much detail on the food. My Warm Sunchoke Salad (top center in pic) was stunning, both in appearance and taste. The Jerusalem artichokes were gorgeously crisp-fried, reminiscent of velvety mini potatoes. The cubes of cauliflower panna cotta were rich and delicious, contrasting perfectly with mandoline-thin sheets of marinated raw cauliflower. The cilantro leaves and sauce added another welcome dimension, while the crispy puffed rice (I think?) lent an extra hint of texture to the experience. Dishes like this make me want to be vegetarian!

But the meat was great too. My Roasted Lamb Leg (bottom left) was super tender and mild, well accompanied by roasted fennel and mini pattypans. The jus was one of the nicest I've encountered and I enthusiastically swished each morsel of lamb around in it to absorb the flavour. My wife's Braised Beef Short Rib (top right) was soft and yielding, with a rich beefy flavour. I didn't taste the accompanying gai lan and pommes anna but my wife enjoyed them too.

Dessert was also memorable. I had the Yuzu Curd & Coconut Cake, which included the best coconut ice cream (sorbet) I've had, a lovely yuzu curd, and pear slices that had a surprisingly fun texture as though they'd been pressed. My wife enjoyed her Chocolate & Pistachio dessert, but especially the chocolate mousse part, which was cold and lovely like a milk chocolate gelato.

The cocktails are uniformly well-prepared, and the menu includes a short but effective list of classics and creative concoctions. Between the soft opening I attended in February and last night's dinner, I've tasted 5 cocktails at MēNa. You really can't go wrong with any of them. Try the Last Word here if you want to see how one should taste -- it will give you an excuse to go and buy a bottle each of Green Chartreuse and Maraschino liqueur. :-)

Service is friendly and efficient, with a casualness that belies the formal presentation of the food. This is not your classic French white linen hoity toity restaurant, nor is it a grungy hipster joint. Rather, it lies at a well balanced but sparsely occupied junction of the two: exquisitely prepared food, served efficiently without pretense, in a beautiful setting, in comfortable chairs, by friendly and enthusiastic people.

Prices seem low at first for such expertly prepared food, but the portions are small to match. This means that even a light eater can easily enjoy appetizer, main, and dessert here. I have a good appetite and I left satisfied but by no means stuffed, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Highly recommended!

2014 Feb 14
Does a restaurant need to do something unique to be successful? Does making your own charcuterie, smoking your own sea salt, weaving your own custom napkins ensure that you differentiate yourselves from the herd?

MeNa has all the ingredients: inventive cocktails, requisite barn board walls, mason jars, and an earnest commitment to superb food. The sum of its parts are greater however, thanks to the warmth of the personable staff.

On only its second full night, we enjoyed the company of Samuel at the bar, who guided us through MeNa's delights, including a delicious pork rillette with a sous-vide egg on top, and a gorgeous hangar steak with a clever oxtail/potato side that looked like a miniature osso bucco.

The intention, explained Samuel, was to bring casual French to an unpretentious setting, with emphasis on a warm and welcoming environment. Even on their second day, professional team from MeNa clicked perfectly, and Preston St is all the richer for it.

2014 Feb 10
I had the pleasure of attending the soft opening of this cozy but classy spot on Preston Street last night.

I'd describe the decor as upscale hipster. Tables and chairs are sleek and functional as they should be. Nothing is rickety or mismatched. Lighting is provided by vintage multi-filament cylinder bulbs and the walls are a comforting painted wood. (Respect to One80 Design for an outstanding job here.) Tables have purse hooks to solve a common but rarely addressed problem. Mason jars are used extensively at the bar, but more for storing ingredients than for serving beverages. Yay! :-)

First tastes of food and cocktails are really promising. The owner, Bryan Livingston, is back in his hometown after gaining restaurant experience south of the border. Chef James Bratsberg brings experience from e18hteen and his own brand of creative genius. Bartender/sommelier Samuel James is already pushing the envelope by making his own bitters in-house. Local celebrity barman, Jeff Taylor, helped set up the bar here and it shows. Numerous Beau's taps also indicate involvement by Melanie Taylor. It is thanks to Jeff that I was able to attend this soft opening.

The plan as Bryan described it to me, is to offer a small menu: a few apps, a handful of mains, and a couple of desserts. The menu will change over time, but more to reflect seasonal ingredients and improved recipes than just for the sake of change. If the cauliflower flan with zaatar and Jerusalem artichoke I sampled is any indication, even the vegetarian options here will rock. The enthusiasm of the entire crew is contagious. This is the kind of restaurant we love to see succeed.

Opening night is February 12th. The website is still under construction, more up to date info via the Facebook page: