No. 25: Atelier
For its 10th anniversary, Marc Lepine’s restaurant finally acquired a sign.
Until this year, the drab brick building with its plain grey door was marked only with its street address, giving no hint that Ottawa’s temple of modern cuisine lurked inside. Atelier has bucked trends since opening day in late 2008. Back then, other restaurants in bigger cities were scaling back, getting out of the tasting menu business. Not Atelier: it offered no other choice. From the get-go, and still today, there is one menu of 12 small courses, with a focus on unconventional, whimsical cuisine.
Reservations in the newly expanded 45-seat room are notoriously difficult to come by. Lepine’s food is playful, stylish, clever and creative. He delights in surprise and wonder, seeking to craft plates that force us to rethink what we thought we knew about flavours, textures, constructs. Keeping things simple is not a mantra. Flavour combinations sometimes riff on the familiar, as in halibut with guanciale. Other times, they can be startling—like raw tuna with cilantro on a ribbon of soy-sake gel. Every 12-course ride is its own adventure.