Table Scraps 

Tapas take big bite out of Whistler

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Tapas casual fine dining seems to be all the rage these days with nibblies for two popping up on new and revised menus all over town.

Elements was the first to hit the tapas-only-dining head on, with restaurants like The Mix following in tow. Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro host funky martini-wine bars for a casual light dinner option. 21 Steps upstairs lounge also builds on the tapas craze for small-bite clientele.

So are people’s appetites getting smaller or did someone finally tire of friends and spouses sampling off their plates, wanting to try a bit of everything off the menu?

I’ll admit I am one of those dreaded culprits, so tapas keep me in good standing with friends and partners: tapas is all about the fun of sharing and the ability to order a few courses and still finish everything on your plate.

Whistler now has three more small-bite hangouts for those perfect get-to-know-you first dates and quick catch-ups with friends.

The newly renovated Fire Rock Lounge is catering to those of us caught somewhere between patio and casual fine dining. The Gibbons Hospitality Group is managing the local watering hole — the same company responsible for Buffalo Bill’s, Tapley’s and the Longhorn Saloon.

Fire Rock was the perfect pick for a nightcap with a friend last week.

The roaring fireplace won me over at first glance, along with the mood lighting, laidback St. Germaine grooves and leather couches perfect for tucking into with a glass of wine and good conversation. The place was hopping with couples laughing over antipasto and pistachio-crusted brie in cozy corners for two while a large gaggle of snow revelers convened over pints and mountain-sized nachos. The Fire Rock Lounge is the best of both worlds: wielding that super laidback Whistler vibe we all know and love then stepping it up a notch with funky décor and chill surroundings that you can actually carry a conversation in, in heels or hoodies.

The days of deep-fried jalapeno poppers are gone and the goat-cheese toting and bison-beef boasting menus have arrived.

The newly-opened Seven is getting funky with a creative tapas dining menu and martini ultra-lounge. Four pages of martinis will make a reader out of you.

From Peking duck spring rolls to tempura inside out tuna maki, lucky number Seven is running the gamut of seafood, salad, meat and vegetable tapas.

Seven, located at the former space of the Val d’Isere Bistro, revamped its look with a tapas lounge hangout of leather seating with contemporary flare in front, and large-plate, white-table-cloth dining in the back.

Chef Chris Albano builds on the formerly classic French dining fare, drawing from American, Asian and Mediterranean influences.

While the antique French is gone, Rome wasn’t built in a day and a major makeover will be taking place in the spring.

Seven is open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. with nibblies until 1 a.m. Après opening coming soon.

A stone’s throw away, the long awaited Mountain Club finally opens its doors to casual fine dining for crowds looking for a little more of a refined restaurant and lounge experience that doesn’t cost a month’s rent.

The coolly elegant addition is brought to you by the same creative team of The Ocean Club, which was recently rated one of the Top Ten Hot New Restaurants in Vancouver by the Vancouver Sun. Located in the space formerly occupied by Zeuski’s, the Mountain Club carries on the Ocean tradition with delectable revved up favourites of Mac and Cheese, and the decadent burger. The only difference is that the Whistler club looks skyward with mountain chic décor. Natural woods and stone bring the outdoors indoors where the après ski crowd and late-night lounger can relax in a hip ambience with a stellar wine list, handcrafted cocktails and casual fine dining menu.

Much of the Mountain team has spent time working in mountain resorts already. Executive chef Doug Scott was a former Whistlerite and North Shore mountain man. Restaurant chef Antoine Reid served time at Banff’s The Juniper. Sommelier Chris Bradburn has worked Whistler’s top restaurants, including the Bearfoot Bistro and Araxi. Andre Thomas, managing partner, will draw from a wealth of experience during his time as manager for Araxi and the Fifty Two 80 Bistro at the Four Seasons. Front of House manager Ian McRae is the only “cityfile” in the pack, but I am sure this year’s epic snowfall will get him toque totting in no time.

Look for dining activity at the Mountain Club starting next week.

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