I like eating small things. Lots of them. I like small clams, small mussels, small mushrooms, small whatever. Very un-North American I know, but then again I also like Smart Cars and Minis. So I guess this is why I like appetizers, or more chicly, tapas. This is not to say that I don’t like a big filet or rack of lamb. But if you were to offer me five tasty little plates of tapas, or one entrée, I know what I’d choose. I attribute this to greed. You can eat more small things, and enjoy tastes of more dishes. Why settle for one when you can have five.
So when a friend told me about the tapas at the tucked away Waterfront Wines, it didn’t take much convincing for us to go have a sampling. Up Sunset St. between Bouchon and Metro Liquors is a well-appointed little winebar with a pleasant terrace patio. However, why exactly it is called Waterfront Wines is a bit of a mystery, as it’s neither on the waterfront nor even in the sight of any water. Some might say false advertising, but I managed to get over it. The inside of the restaurant is small and has tried to captured a sense of a New York or Montreal winebar. Dark furnishings and wood, combine nicely with a modern feel that fits the intentions quite well. But, as nice as it is inside, this is Kelowna and outdoor eating in the late sun is infinitely more appealing. There were three of us for dinner, and we sat in a nice corner table on the full terrace. Despite being on the edge of the road, the wood lattice and plants do a good job of creating the illusion of seclusion. To my disappointment, most of the patrons were not enjoying a spread of tapas, but were mostly sinking into main courses of halibut or flat iron steak. These all did look very good, and I began to worry about the disapproving looks the server would give me as we ordered all the little things on the menu. But when our server did arrive, she seemed to approve of our choices and was happy to recommend a few additions.
We were having mainly seafood, including smoked rainbow trout, so I thought we’d have a nice bottle of Chenin Blanc to accompany it. As one would expect, though is not always the case, Waterfront Wines has a good winelist, as it is a winebar. They have a well-balanced collection of both BC and international wines at a good range of prices. They have a few of my favorites like the Catena Malbec, Osoyoos Larose (okay, every nice restaurant has it these days), and the Carmen Cabernet Carmenere. One nice touch is their daily, wines by the glass, which is constantly changing and gives one a chance to have a taste of something different without having to get a whole bottle. They only had one straight up Chenin Blanc, which is the Quail’s Gate 2006 and is surprisingly outstanding.
The tapas trickled out as they were ready, as I asked our server to bring them out as they came. We had some BC spot prawns that were lightly deep fried and served with a chorizo and quinoa salad, and paprika aioli reduction. For all intents and purposes, the dish was essentially Ebi Mayo with a heavier batter than tempura. I personally was not a fan, but the other two were quite happy with them. I find that spot prawns, which are a good choice if one is conscious about sustainability, are a bit small and lose their sweetness when deep-fried. I have found a light pan-frying or quick flash on the barbeque offers better results. The mortar and pestle Caesar salad was really quite excellent ¬– simple as all Caesars should be, but a nice addition to the meal with crisp romaine and just enough bite in the dressing. The rainbow trout, which was the feature that day, was a minuscule piece. It tasted good, but had no extra flair that would make it stand out, and was certainly overshadowed by the portion size. The last snacks to arrive were calamari with a tamarind masala dipping sauce and pommes frites with a black pepper and lemon mayo. The calamari comes deep fried and in short fingerlings. The quality of the squid was quite good, but lacked the textures that whole baby squid has. The tamarind masala sauce, however, was delicious and made a good dip for both the calamari and the fries. The fries were as fries tend to be, dangerously yummy – especially with the black pepper and lemon mayo.
All in all, the dinner was very pleasant. The wine went down easily with all the little dishes, and the food was good and fresh tasting. The food isn’t something that I would rave about, but I would be more than happy to go back to have a snack or two with a glass of wine.