10 York St., 613-234-0907, ozkafe.squarespace.com
Open: Monday to Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., lunch and brunch services coming
Prices: mains $26 to $32
Access: ground floor is fully wheelchair-accessible
For almost a dozen years, the old Oz Kafe on Elgin Street was a hidden gem that served fresh, vibrant dinners made in a very small, custom-made kitchen. But in the summer of 2016, co-owner and operator Oz Balpinar had had enough of the cramped quarters, and she closed down her popular eponymous restaurant with the plan to reopen a few months later in a larger space in the ByWard Market.
The reopening took longer — as in roughly a year more — than expected. But the wait for new Oz Kafe on York Street, which at last opened on Aug. 23, was worth it.
The new location is also a hidden gem. Now, Oz Kafe resides in an attractively renovated heritage building, accessed from an off-the-beaten path courtyard and labeled with low-key signage. Once you do find it, you’ll see that the eatery seats about 60 on each of its floors — about twice the capacity of its predecessor’s single floor.
And you should try to find it. Not only does the ambience at Oz cooly combine sleek and comfy modernity with the historical embrace of 19th-century stone walls and woody ceilings. At my two visits, the dishes by chef Kristine Hartling, a 30-year-old Algonguin College culinary program grad who was the chef de cuisine at Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar before it closed in January 2017, were all deeply satisfying winners.