Story by Jody Robbins
KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Dining at Waterfront Wines is as refreshing as cannonballing into nearby Lake Okanagan. I’ll admit it, I get nervous anytime I go into a restaurant with a list of accolades that take several mouse scrolls to read through. But this funky wine bar, sitting at the edge of Waterfront Park, is anything but pretentious.
The un-diva-like attitude trickles from the top down, as executive chef Mark Filatow is as unassuming as they get. Yeah, he’s a top-notch chef heading up perhaps the best restaurant in the Okanagan, and, yeah, he’s also a trained sommelier, making him one of the few chefs in Canada to be as equally well versed in wine as food. But to him, this is no big deal. Though Filatow’s got a lot to boast about, he’d rather talk to you about Curtis from Green City Acres, who supplies his carrots and radishes from local’s backyard gardens, or the amazing gouda he found at a dairy farm, while camping with his family last summer.
“We try to be smart about showcasing what’s fresh, from smaller suppliers who care,” says the chef. And while that adds up to more work, with Filatow himself foraging for morels and taking green garbage home to compost, he shrugs off the extra effort, simply saying, “It’s just worth it.”
Recently reopened after a substantial renovation, Waterfront is still a cozy, open-concept space, radiating the same vibrant atmosphere as before. With an emphasis on raw, natural materials, cool concrete meets warm wood at the cinderblock bar topped with Douglas fir. The tabletops come from trees felled by the woodworker doing the reno, and the oak walls are a nod to the wine theme.
As you might expect at a wine bar, there are several bottles to sip through (more than 350 at last count). I went for Nichol Pinot Gris, ($10), which Waterfront has exclusively on tap, keeping it fresh and crisp all the time. Those who prefer to stick with the hard stuff, do well with Waterfront’s take on the classic Caesar ($9/$12), made with house-infused cucumber gin or black pepper-infused vodka, if you’re feeling spicy.
You could ruminate for quite awhile over the appetizers, or make it easy, selecting the Assorted Cheese Plate ($15), comprised of three cheeses, homemade crackers, chutneys and candied nuts. Gracing the plate are favourites from provincial creameries such as Triple Island Farms aged gouda and alpindon, a complex, organic cow’s-milk cheese by Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co.
For mains, tuck into a cozy curry of Green Chili and Coriander Glazed Halibut Filet ($29). Full of Asian flavours and hits of warm spice, this dish is definitely moreish. The partially oaked, Sandhill Chardonnay (Kelowna 2010, $9) complements the fish, and was handpicked by the Waterfront team prior to winning gold at Chardonnay du Monde.
For a heartier entree, try the Lamb Duo of Moroccan Braised Cheek and Grilled Tenderloin ($28). Accompanied by carrot yogurt and a potato doughnut, you can feel the souk seeping through into your taste buds, as the sweet, yet tangy flavours of North Africa dance throughout the plate. Church & State Cabernet Sauvignon (Oliver 2009, $13) proves to be the perfect accompaniment.
And you’ve gotta save room for sweets, if only to use it as an excuse to sample some decadent after-dinner drinks, such as Okanagan Spirits Raspberry Liqueur. A creative riff on everyone’s favourite sandwich, go for PB&J ($8), a peanut butter mousse bar with raspberry jelly, crisp chocolate mousse and caramelized banana. It pairs well with the liquid dessert.
MORE ABOUT WATERFRONT WINES
Address: 104, 1180 Sunset Drive, Kelowna, BC
Reservations: Telephone 250-979-1222; reservations are recommended
Menu: Prices for main courses range from $21-$30, with appetizers and smaller plates starting at $6.