Food and Wine

Best Restaurants of 2011: #5 Canvas Resto-Bar-Etc.

From Canvas, wild boar with pineapple, pepper, and ginger salsa; date glaze; and cranberry-citrus chutney. Served with a goat cheese potato cake and honey-cilantro buttered corncob. Photo by photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde.

How important is it that a restaurant has an auteur — a brand-name chef with a personal creative vision? That question pops to mind every time I enter this handsome west-end neighbourhood bistro with its low-key vibe and charming neighbourhood views.

Who is the chef at Canvas anyway? I have spotted owner Charles Beauregard sporting an apron, serving tables, and delivering a tray of double-smoked bacon. I’ve also seen him sitting at the bar enjoying a meal. In spite of his presence, Canvas feels rather anonymous.

I think that’s part of what keeps it flying under the radar, much as Absinthe and Allium did five years ago. As menus go, it’s not terribly inventive. I guess you could say it lacks edge. But I have come to appreciate the fact that Canvas knows its limits and doesn’t take itself too seriously. What’s refreshing is that Canvas isn’t afraid to cater to both your less adventurous father-in-law and your foie gras-obsessed foodie friend.

Pasta with grilled chicken may be shorthand for unambitious eating, but this is some of the best homemade pasta around. And the seared tuna that was served as part of a composed niçoise salad may not be the most original dish, but it turned out to be one of the most simply delicious things I ate last summer. I am still reeling at the bargain-basement price tag of $20 for a main course. I can’t figure out if Canvas is an underdog or an underachiever, but my hunch is it’s just a throwback: honest bistro-style cooking that pretends to be nothing but what it is.

65 Holland Ave., 613-729-1991, www.canvasrestobar.ca.

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