BY ANNE DESBRISAY
Soca is the Venezuelan name for the second harvest of the sugar cane crop. We know this because there’s a sign above Soca’s sugar cane juicer machine that says as much, and because co-owner Gustavo Belisario is happy to elaborate. He is Venezuelan. His family farms sugar cane. Photographs of the fields and cane harvest line the stairs. A shot glass of the grassy, slightly sweet, lightly foaming juice comes from the bar, by way of welcome and, I suppose, to support a sense of place.
Belisario’s partner and fiancé is chef Daniela Manrique. She’s Venezuelan-born, Montreal-raised, and Miami-trained. They’ve moved to Ottawa (why ever not) and opened Soca in the space where Pho Van Van (now decamped a block south) used to be.
We were seated at the bar, chatting with Gustavo and examining the menu during our second visit. Just as I was about to ask him why Ottawa was the next logical stop for a couple of young Argentine restauranteurs with Caracas, Montreal, and Miami roots, my date knocked over a glass of water.