Saturday, July 28, 2012

“We’re going to Play”

That was all the information I was given as to where I was being taken to shortly after my life took a sudden turn.  As I racked my brain trying to guess where we were going and unsuccessfully pulling hen’s teeth to get some type of hint as to our final destination, I never would have guessed that going to “Play” literally meant that.  As we strolled up to the front entrance of Stephen Beckta’s Play Food and Wine located in Ottawa’s downtown market, I looked over to my friend as she smiled back to me and simply said “welcome to my world” and I’ve never looked back since.

You see, up until then, I had never really experienced any type of “foodie” restaurant.  My usual fancy night out consisted of a meal at you average big chain restaurant.  However all of that changed that October evening back in 2010 as my eyes were opened to a whole new gastronomical world that I never knew existed let alone accessible to someone like me.  As she sat across from me nervously wondering if I would enjoy the menu, her anxiety quickly faded as she saw my eyes light up with every bite.

That was 2 years ago and since that initial visit I have made it a point to dine at Play least every couple of months.  The staff is second to none, attentive to your every need without being pretentious or stuffy.  They are all very knowledgeable in the dishes being served and provide sommelier level guidance of the extensive wine list to help make your meal that much more enjoyable.

The restaurant itself is simplistic in its décor with two levels to seat guests.  The second level can be a bit noisier during dinner time but the tradeoff of seeing the chefs working away creating your meal in the open concept kitchen is a splendid tradeoff and makes for great conversation.  One of the highlights of the main floor dining area is the antique meat slicer behind the bar used to carve some of the items from charcuterie menu.

Speaking of which, the real star of Mr. Beckta’s restaurant is the food.  From the first bite of the ever changing seasonal menu you know you’re in for a real treat.  One simply has to look at the tapas sized dishes artistically plated before them to know how fresh and wholesome the ingredients are.

My most recent visit to Play began with a “play” on a classic caprese salad followed by a curried butternut squash soup and some exquisite homemade gnocchi with fennel, radicchio and black olives.  The wine chosen was a 2009 Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Loiber Berg by F.X. Pichler who’s crisp, yet surprisingly full bodied flavor with a creamy finish was an excellent match for the meal. 

All the dishes were wonderfully aromatic and simply delicious.  The fact that all the plates were small enough and specifically designed to share made lunchtime at play, where guests can eat two plates for $20, an affordable alternative to the usual fare that one might find around town.

Whether you’re new to the whole foodie culture or you have a refined palate.  Play Food and Wine has something to please everyone and is a dining event that should be experienced at least once by everyone.  
Play Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

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