Last fall in Ottawa, when restaurant-going briefly verged on normal, masked servers at Aiāna confidently doled out delicacy after delicacy as part of the fledgling restaurant’s 12-course tasting menu. Think crisp potato cones brimming with truffles or Acadian caviar, a splendid lightly curried squash soup, chocolate–foie gras macaroons, a deeply beefy wagyu pithiviers and more. The splurge felt unlikely and surreal. But then, Aiāna’s opening four months earlier in the Sun Life Financial Centre had practically been an act of defiance, championing opulent dining in the pandemic-emptied downtown. Owner Devinder Chaudhary and his son Raghav, a young chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, were undeterred. This spring, Aiāna closed temporarily, eschewing takeout. “We are an experience and you cannot put that experience in a box,” Chaudhary notes, looking forward impatiently to guests returning to his patio and deluxe dining room.
Photo credit: Aiāna Restaurant Collective