The drab brick building with a plain grey door marked only with its street address gives no hint that Ottawa’s temple of modern cuisine lurks inside. Marc Lepine’s restaurant has bucked trends since opening day in late 2008. Back then, other restaurants in bigger cities were scaling back and getting out of the tasting menu business. Not Atelier. It offered no other choice. Nowadays these run to 12 courses, with a focus on molecular gastronomy. Reservations in the 22-seat room are notoriously difficult to come by. Lepine’s food is playful, stylish, clever and creative. He favours edible flowers, dots of different coloured sauces—and puns for the names of his dishes (the Codfather, Yolko Uno, the Boar identity, etc.) Flavour combinations sometimes riff on the familiar, as in halibut with guanciale. Other times, they can be startling—raw tuna with cilantro on a ribbon of soy-sake gel. Every 12-course ride is its own adventure.