Sunday, 18 October 2015

Waterfront Wines: A Kelowna Local Hotspot

1180 Sunset Dr, Kelowna, BC V1Y 9W6
(250) 979-1222

Tastiness Factor: 8/10

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 4/5

Reservation required? Highly recommended, especially in the summer months

Locavore Approved? YES- The menu here changes quite frequently with little tweaks here and there to their online menu to reflect the changing seasons.  They keep the menu fairly small, with only a handful each of apples and mains, which allows them to constantly switch things up and provide high quality dishes made with the freshest of Okanagan ingredients.

This was only our second visit to Kelowna in the 5 years that we had lived in Vancouver, and we only had 2 nights to check out the best restaurants that the city had to offer.  A quick peruse of the internet led me to Waterfront Wines, which had unanimously awesome reviews and had won several awards including Vancouver Magazine's "Best Okanagan Restaurant" for 7 years running.  That sounds too good to pass up, so I booked on the spot.

The restaurant is located in Kelowna's picturesque downtown, pretty near to (but not right on) the water.  The relatively small space is quite charming, with the perfect balance of being formal enough to make it feel like a special night out but not so formal that it comes off snooty or pretentious.  I appreciated the nicely spaced tables, which is a rare find in a place of this size, and the division of the restaurant into a few rooms which made it feel more intimate.  The decor had a rustic edge to it, including a very interesting wooden fixture that took up pretty much the whole ceiling in the room we were sitting in.  The place was still hopping when we arrived at 9:30pm on a Friday evening in late September, especially the main room that housed the open kitchen and the bar.  A local favourite no doubt.

The local spirit really came through in the service, which was personal and warm.  We had 2  servers throughout the night, one who very friendly male server brought us water and checked in on us periodically, and a knowledgeable female server who helped us with menu choices and brought out our dishes.  I noticed the chef emerging from the kitchen on a few occasions to chat with some locals at the bar.  Chef Filatow is also the restaurant's sommelier (he was accepted into the International Sommelier Guild a few years back) and has worked his way through some very well-respected BC restaurants including Vancouver's Bishop's and Tofino's Wickaninnish Inn.

The menu here is simply composed of tapas/appetizers, mains, cheese and desserts with a handful or two of choices for each.  In addition, there is a very nice selection of cocktails and many wines available by the glass, most from the Okanagan of course! There are quite a few interesting appetizers   (we enjoyed these more than our mains) and I would recommend sharing a few as Hubby and I did for more variety.  Although we did not have any, there is also a nice selection of digestifs and "dessert" drinks if you are so inclined.

Here is what we enjoyed on the night of our visit:

Spice-dusted octopus-  This was hands-down the best dish of the evening, and was something special by any standards.  The perfectly cooked octopus had a nice salty, spicy bite and married perfectly with the zippy agile underneath.  The side of slaw added a nice refreshing touch and balanced the spice.  Sadly this is no longer on the menu but here's hoping they bring this dish back ASAP!

Stoney Paradise Sungold Risotto- What a lovely fall dish, and a great homage to the delicious sungold tomato.  This risotto was prepared in a creamy sungold tomato base, with even more creaminess added thanks to a runny quail's egg on top.  And if that wasn't enough, there were a few lardons mixed in for good measure.  Considering its richness, the portion size was small enough that it still passed for an appie, but we enjoyed sharing it for a few bites each of decadence.

House-made ricotta cavetelli, grand padding and sage brown butter- I opted for the only vegetarian dish which proved to be an excellent choice.  This beautifully fresh dish highlighted some of the best fall ingredients, including carrots, fennel, green beans, turnips and greens (pretty much a whole garden!).  The cavetelli were soft and pillowy and were the perfect vehicle to soak up the fennel and carrot puree.  The lentils added a nice hit of protein and texture.  A truly exceptional vegetarian dish.

Grilled peppercorn crusted heritage angus flat iron steak- As he often does at a new restaurant, Hubby asked our server what the restaurant's most popular dish was and she replied that this steak was the only dish on the menu that never got taken off the menu (it has been on there for 11 years!) due to its popularity among customers.  So Hubby went with it, but unfortunately he was disappointed.  Although he could not find fault with any particular part of the dish, it lacked the personality of the appetizer courses and was, well, boring.  If you come with a guest who is a "meat and potatoes" type, this may be their cup of tea but otherwise, this place has much better dishes to offer.

Overall Verdict?
All those I spoke to in Kelowna told me that this was the city's best restaurant, and the vibe here makes it clear that it is truly a local hotspot.  As a visitor to the Okanagan, Waterfront Wines should definitely be on your list of places to check out, and bear witness to all of the great work being done by this multitalented chef/sommelier.  By the end of the night, you will feel so welcome that you may even forget that you are a tourist!

Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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