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Chef Ibrahim Ghozlani serves up a cultural blend.
Words and photography by Leo Graziani
Experimentation is the name of the game at Bistro Narra.
The kitchen staff, led by Chef Ibrahim Ghozlani, is always eager to try new combinations to see what their clients enjoy, or what they might not.
“Mississauga can be a tough crowd, because it’s so diverse,” says Ghozlani, “but that doesn’t stop us from trying new things. Our annual tasting menu, which collects all our experiments throughout the year, allows us to be mad scientists, in a way. For example, we’ll do things like molecular gastronomy—nobody expects a restaurant in Mississauga to be doing that. It’s a lot of fun.”
Located in a plaza in the Churchill Meadows neighbourhood, the cozy yet upscale restaurant offers classic European fare, but with a twist, as Ghozlani brings with him several other culinary influences beyond the French cuisine he was trained in. After graduating from the Culinary Arts School of Ontario in 2004, he lived and worked in Toronto, Montreal, Dubai and Amman, Jordan (and had his own restaurant there), before moving to Mississauga. Somewhere in there, he also found the time to get married, spend three months on honeymoon in Italy, and subsequently fall in love with Italian food.
“I’m from Jordan, so I add some Mediterranean and Arabic influences in my cooking,” he says. “But I’ve lived in many different places, and each new country I’ve worked in has exposed me to different ingredients. I love combining all these influences in ways that are fun and modern. You can always find a new fruit or vegetable you haven’t seen before—you just have to travel!”
Ghozlani enjoys working with seasonal ingredients, and changes the menu accordingly; whiteboards listing the restaurant’s ever-changing daily specials help illustrate his desire to keep it interesting. His philosophy? “Respect the ingredients,” he says. “Every item on the plate needs to shine on its own, and the dish must be balanced.” We got to try one of his dishes during our visit—this philosophy is paying off.
So what’s next for him? “I’d like to have my own restaurant again,” he says, “but I’ve only just returned to Canada. I need to give it a few years to better understand the local palate—that’s why I keep changing the board. I want to get as much feedback from our clients as I can.
“And in the future, I see myself going back to and retiring in Italy… but that’s a long way off!”