As Tammy Kwan reported here at the Straight back in early July, Mount Pleasant is soon to be the home of Como Taperia (201 East 7th Avenue).
The local take on casual tapas bars found in the major centres of Spain is being brought to us by front-of-house veterans Shaun Layton and Frankie Harrington, with Justin Witcher (most recently at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort) at the helm of the kitchen.
I’m well acquainted with two of the three gents. I worked with Harrington when I was running Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room back in the late aughts, before he went to a gig at Chambar and then cocreated and built the Meat and Bread mini empire, eventually stepping away to figure out what was next.
“What was next” ended up being marriage and a kid, and then this new venture.
Layton received the Vancouver Magazine bartender of the year award in 2010. He’d just wrapped up his tenure at the now shuttered George Lounge in Yaletown and was heading to run the bar at L’Abattoir in Gastown, where he knocked it outta the park for years. After that, he opened Juniper in Chinatown, did plenty of consulting, and had a good amount of quality time with his dog, Pablo Pawcasso.
Now, these guys are among the kindest, most genuine I’ve met in our local industry, and as much as I’m looking forward to tucking into patatas bravas, clams in vermouth, anchovies in oil, and the like, it’s the wine program of new joints I usually look to first.
I recently arranged a sit-in on Como’s staff wine training to get a sense of what we can expect on the vinous front. Spearheading the wine side of things is Shiva Reddy, formerly of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar and Royal Dinette.
Along with the floor staff, I learned of the program being nice and tight, with a focus on Spanish grape varieties most often coming from Spain—but if they find an Okanagan Albariño or an Aussie Tempranillo that strikes their fancy, they’ll welcome it with open arms. Wine will be on equal footing with cocktails, beer, food, and vibe of the room.
That vibe, mind you, will be quite casual. As those accustomed to Barcelona and Madrid wine-bar adventures may expect, the wine won’t always be poured from the right, you may have to pass a glass to the gal standing behind you, and the glassware won’t be varietal-specific.
The music, which will be a playful mix of disco, funk, and soul, will be a little loud. Plates, glasses, and elbows will jostle for position at the standup bar as the cava flows. Four of them by the glass, in fact: they include Bonaval Brut Nature, a citrusy, briny sparkling that’ll give the Galician octopus a nice little spike, while Segura Viudas Brut Rosé will add a little fruitiness to their mushrooms-and-sherry dish.
Of course, there will be a fun mix of sherry, too. I know I’ll be clamouring for González Byass “Tio Pepe” Fino Extra Dry sherry, which will be (you ready for this?) served on tap! A fresh-as-a-daisy pour of the stuff will always be on hand, ready to wash down those olives. I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen sherry on tap around these parts.
There’s a freshness with pretty much all the wines that’ll be available. As I listened to Reddy run through the wines with the staff, sharing stories of sunny vineyards and stubborn winemakers, I was curious as to how little-known wines like the Atlantis Albariño from Rías Baixas—with its crisp, mineral texture—will resonate. Will people feel comfortable ordering the Gaba Do Xil Mencia from Telmo Rodriguez, attempting many of those words out loud for the first time?
On the upside, Como looks to be the casual and fun type of place to venture by simply going with the flow. Hey, if they’re not fussed about stuffy service or providing a Riedel Tempranillo glass with your Rioja, don’t worry if that Spanish lisp doesn’t roll off the tongue when you’re saying “Mencia”. You’ll be rewarded with a glass full of fresh and crunchy red fruit nonetheless. And if you want to learn a little more about it, the team appear to be savvy enough to share their knowledge, but they’re not gonna start rattling off a lengthy dissertation.
Pretty much all wines poured will be organic or biodynamic, with many fitting under the minimal-intervention, “natural wine” umbrella. As you might imagine, the team aren’t going to be sanctimonious about these things; they’re simply eager to offer an experience with as much authenticity as possible.
It’s funny, really. The thought of dozens eating at the bar while standing, a wine program dominated by cava and sherry, and all these traditions that have been going on for generations in Spain—yet here I am wondering if (and hoping that) Vancouver will be ready for this “new” style of wine bar.
As of press time, Como Taperia is slated to open imminently, the last week of November. You’ll probably find me checking out the place, perched close to that fino on tap.More