The Tapa Bar
620 Trounce Alley, Tel: 250-383-0013

Despite the Tapa Bar's intense fear of change and super touristy location, over the years they've established a reputation for quality food, comfortable ambiance and value wine.

This restaurant has been sprinkled with the magic fairy dust that all restaurateurs pray for - they're always busy. With a restaurant design that features a patio, bar and dinning room, there's always something going on. For a big restaurant, it's  cosy with attention to detail regarding art and music.

We were seated promptly and delighted to snag the last table on the patio. Our delight subsided as we waited for a server to bring us a drink. Under the shadow of the placard advertising Martini Monday, we became very thirsty. After a few minutes our server did arrive and proceeded to bring our cocktails.

We ordered the chili relleno ($8), the ceviche ($8), the chipotle prawns ($8) and the bistek masdagascar ($14.5). The chili relleno arrived first - a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, pico de gallo and topped with sour cream. I think this is the best chili relleno on the Island. Correct ingredients and proper cooking method is the secret to this one. Our next course was the ceviche and the chipotle prawns.  The ceviche was fresh, albeit lightly flavoured. We could have handled more powerful lime and cilantro. As with most ceviches we encounter, it needed more chips for scooping. The chipotle prawns were excellent. If you can handle the high level of heat, then you'll love this dish. Not an original dish, this is an exceptional execution.  Our last dish was the bistek Madagascar - a NY steak, sliced and topped with peppercorn demi-glace, and onion relish. The steak was cooked perfectly to our rare specification, but we were disappointed by the demi-glace. It was clearly from a powder base. While, it might not be practical for the Tapa Bar kitchen to make their own demi from scratch, there are better quality commercial bases available than the one they're using, which had a distinct artificial taste.

The Tapa Bar is well known for their Wine Wednesday promotion where a variety of bottles are sold at $5 over cost. While, this might only happen one day of the week, their wine list is generally notable for good value. Not an extensive list, it's paired well with the menu and usually has a few interesting or at least thoughtful selections. They also have lengthy cocktail menu and value sangria ($18/pitcher).

The Tapa Bar is perhaps the only place in town that takes tapa -style dinning seriously. If you're in the mood to pick and choose small plates, the Tapa Bar is the place to go. It'd be nice if the Tapa Bar mixed up their menu a little more often and offered the occasional special. The lack of variation does limit the frequency with which I visit. However, with a breezy patio in the summer and a cozy interior in the winter, the Tapa Bar is a good bet all year round.

May 15, 2006