Welcome to MeNa, a newly renovated restaurant in Ottawa that you have to try on your next visit. This is the perfect spot for a memorable fine dining experience, in one of the city’s best neighbourhoods.
MeNa is located in the heart of Little Italy, at 276 Preston Street. Ottawa’s Little Italy is beautiful year round, and worth exploring. It’s a particularly fun spot during the Tulip Festival and Italian Week. Go for a stroll any time of day, year round, and Little Italy is friendly and full of discoveries.
The members of MeNa’s team share a common goal: raise the bar for dining in Ottawa.
They’re accomplishing this already. Every dish is a work of art, every detail is intentional, and the team is gracious and knowledgable. This is the dining experience that one expects to find in Canada’s capital.
Chef James Bratsberg preparing BC Spot Prawn with charred avocado, green peas, and cured ham for the third course. Yes, it was delicious!
MeNa uses local ingredient in all of their dishes, which I absolutely love. They offer a blind tasting menu that changes based on available ingredients, with 5, 7, or 9 courses, along with wine pairings.
This was my first experience with a blind tasting menu and I’ll admit, I was nervous. I tend to order old faithfuls at restaurants, so this was new. The main ingredient are listed in the menu, but what form they’ll appear in is a surprise. I loved this format, because it maintains the mystery but gives you a chance to make sure you’re comfortable with all the ingredients.
Let’s dive in! My experience was 9 courses, which turned in to 11.
The Best MeNa Experience
I loved dining at Mena, and learned a few things that make the night truly remarkable. When you go, here are tips to keep in mind for the best experience.
- Time. During the first half of dinner, I felt like something was missing. I didn’t know what it was until after the sun had set. Outside the window, tiny white light bulbs sparkled on trees along the street. The restaurant filled with conversation, and warm light. I recommend going at night, or going right before sunset. The mood shifts beautifully after dark.
- Wine. 5 courses, 7 courses, or 9 courses with wine pairings for each is a lot of wine. If you were to drink 3 ounces with each dish, you would be approaching the equivalent of a full bottle of wine. The wines complimented the food exquisitely. If you’re a light drinker, then I recommend small sips so that you can experience each pairing.
- Food. On the 7th course, our waitress opened the salt jar. It was hint, one that I missed until the very last bite. When I did add salt to my quail, the dish went from good to great. Everything at Mēna is intentional, so use everything on the table and on your plate for the best experience of your meal.
- Full. Chef James Bratsberg told me that the full feeling that you experience at MeNa is, of course, intentional. There’s just a little bit too much of everything, on purpose. I started to feel full during the 7th course, and opted to take small bites of my lamb and save room for dessert. Worth it, Vanilla and Orange Mint Panna Cotta is a dream come true. I questioned the concept until part way through my drive home, when I realized that I was feeling a different kind of full. It wasn’t the greasy, ate too much, belt is tight type of full that we’re all familiar with. It was a quality full feeling, that only comes from eating beautiful ingredients prepared with care. The ‘I ate so, so well tonight’ kind of full.
This is easily one of Ottawa’s best restaurants. As the gentleman at the next table said, “How have I never heard of this place?” Well, now you have! Try it for yourself.
Have you tried a blind tasting menu before? Does MeNa sound like a place you would enjoy?
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I was invited to MeNa as a VIP guest. Opinions and ideas expressed remain my own.