By Paula Roy –
Wellington West may just have solidified its claim as the epicentre of Ottawa’s culinary scene with the much-anticipated opening of Stofa Restaurant. Chef-owner Jason Sawision chose the name, whose Norse roots refer to a hearth or cast iron stove which serves as a gathering point, to reinforce his restaurant’s emphasis on approachable fine dining in a relaxed setting.
Jason knew he wanted to be a chef for as long as he can remember and set about developing an impressive culinary pedigree. He studied Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph and attended George Brown College’s culinary arts program. Working at Canoe and The Healthy Butcher in Toronto, completing an internship at the innovative Eigensinn Farm near Collingwood plus serving for six years as Marc Lepine’s chef de cuisine at Ottawa’s Atelier have prepared him well for this new challenge.
“About ten years ago, I started to think about wanting to have my own place,” says Jason. “I began looking for a location back in January but the few places available then needed an overwhelming amount of work. We found this spot when the African Village closed in the spring; we knew the Wellington West area could be a great fit for us. It seems like the community supports the many other great restaurants and businesses here, plus there’s so much foot traffic. The kitchen had good bones and the front of house needed just a cosmetic redo.”
Stofa boasts a contemporary, almost Nordic feel, with a 50-seat dining room designed by Hintonburg’s Ulya Jensen. It is open, comfortable and minimalist, with varying tones of pale grey complemented by dark wood. A lengthy bar fronted with intriguing tile runs across the back of the space; it has a wide white stone countertop, ideal for drinks or dining. A private sixteen-seat room is being added upstairs and next summer, the spacious, licensed porch will be available for al fresco dining.
Stofa’s décor is a good match for Jason’s streamlined approach to food and drink. “Emily Rack, our manager and sommelier, has crafted a wine list that’s small but interesting. We have three beer taps, which we will rotate, focusing on local suppliers,” says Jason. “We’ve also got taps for a red and a white wine; it’s a great system for house wine because the wine stays super fresh. As for cocktails, our drinks list is small but original and we’ll change things up regularly.”
A similarly refined experience applies to the food menu, which offers five starters, five mains, a few sharing options and three desserts. It is Jason’s intention to swap at least one dish out for something new each month and he’s pleased to note that his kitchen is happy to adapt dishes to accommodate vegetarians, vegans and those with dietary restrictions. They’ll even prepare off-menu dishes upon request.
Once they’ve fully settled in at Stofa, Jason is looking forward to adding a blind chef’s tasting menu and is eager to get into pickling. Next spring, he plans to take advantage of a spacious area behind the restaurant to establish some raised beds. “I ran the garden at Atelier and I really enjoyed it. It’s especially nice to be able to grow herbs and other things which we can use as garnishes.”
Less than three months before Stofa’s opening on October 4, Jason and his wife welcomed their first child to the world. The irony of working towards giving birth to a restaurant with a newborn at home is not lost on him, and he credits his wife with her incredible patience. He concedes that the chaos of getting the restaurant ready has been worthwhile, given the positive reception it is receiving from the community already.
“I hope that each guest walks out our door with the impression of great food and service in a relaxed, comfortable environment to which they are eager to return,” says Jason. “That’s what Stofa is all about.”
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