Food and Wine

Best Restaurants of 2011: #6 Fraser Café

Sweet jerk-spiced pork chop with grilled peaches and marinated onions from Fraser Café. Photo by photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde.

The Fraser brothers came along at precisely the right moment for Ottawa. We were craving something different, something that felt more personal and less fussy and made us excited about going out for dinner — or lunch or brunch. And we still do.

We want to feel part of something bigger, more cosmopolitan. We want flavours that are familiar, but not too familiar. We want to be surprised, but not too surprised. We want to be tested: what is that spice exactly? Did you say duck meatballs? And we want a restaurant with thoughtful, fresh, delicious food that doesn’t require an enormous splurge. Fraser Café is all that.

It takes us on a ride without taking us over the edge. And judging by all those satisfied regulars, it has truly hit the sweet spot. I watched a young couple in their late 20s introducing the young man’s parents to the concept of ordering the “chef’s choice” for a main course. The father opted for a sure thing — a messy platter piled high with fried chicken and barbecued ribs — while the mother considered letting the kitchen surprise her. Just one question for her server first: what would she do if it arrived and was something she disliked? Apparently that never happens. As she contemplated the menu further, she watched as two huge grins swept across the faces of a couple at a neighbouring table as their surprise meals arrived.

How intoxicating it is in this impersonal world to have a talented chef cook something Just. For. You. And so another one drank the Kool-Aid.

7 Springfield Rd., 613-749-1444, www.frasercafe.ca.

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