Dining Out: Bar Lupulus serves flavourful plates for discerning beer lovers

Bar Lupulus
1242 Wellington St. W., 613-759-4677,
Open: Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to late, Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to late
Prices: small dishes $14 to $16, mains $18 to $25
Access: wheelchair-accessible, including washroom on main level (other washrooms downstairs)

If you type “beer and” into Google, the auto-complete feature offers a few suggestions. Tops are “wings,” “tomato juice,” and “cheddar soup.”

Clearly, Google has never eaten at Bar Lupulus on Wellington Street West. At the nearly two-month-old gastropub, the fare runs to the fancier end of the spectrum. Think scallop ceviche, in which espresso figures into the recipe, a slab of roast pork shoulder with parmesan-bolstered potatoes and even pasta made with pig’s blood.

The elevated dishes are meant to pair well with a striking range of connoisseur suds, including 20 Ontario and Quebec craft beers on tap, served in various sizes and in high-end Teku glasses, plus scores of bottled choices including such exotica as dry-hopped sour ales, wild ales and grape ales. “The draught selection is very impressive. Lots of interesting stuff there,” says this newsroom’s resident beer buff, Vito Pilieci.

I wish I could tell you about the precise interplay between beers and dishes, but that would have been too taxing on my budget, as well as my liver. Instead, here’s my report on the 11 dishes (about two-thirds of the concise menu) that I sampled last weekend at Lupulus.

More often than not, the from-scratch food from chef Jeff Bradfield’s open kitchen was attractively plated and brimming with well-melded flavours that belied the size of the plates that contained them. Bradfield, who previously cooked at Social in the ByWard Market and who competed last month in Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates contest, seems to be striving for food that can match the premium brews chosen by business partner Anthony Spagnolo as far as complexity and occasionally arcane appeal go.

Based on three raw-bar items that we tried, I’d be confident in choosing from that section of Bradfield’s menu. Beef tartare ($14) melded finely chopped meat with a chorus of umami-rich ingredients (anchovy, parmesan, a truffle-based condiment called tartufata and cured egg yolk) but the dish had enough perkiness and acidity so as not to be lop-sided. Scallop ceviche ($16) downplayed the usual acidity of those citrus-marinated raw seafood dishes, but succeeded by garnishing its mellow mollusc meat with salty hits of crisp pancetta and serrano ham and sweet, finely diced apple. Smoked salmon was transformed into rich rillettes ($15) offset by a sharp, fresh frisée salad that popped with pickled mustard seeds.

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