As we mentioned back in April, chef/restaurateur Bill Robitaille was shutting down his Kozakura eatery in Gastown and getting ready to open a new restaurant in its place. I was happy to learn several weeks ago that the plan for it was a Spanish-inspired 26 seater called ‘Tempranillo’ (like the Spanish grape that makes Rioja wine). Diners can expect about 20 dishes on the menu plus plenty of Spanish wines, some Basque ciders, 3-4 batched cocktails, sherry (natch) and local beers.
It’s been a long time coming. When Robitaille returned from living and cooking in Spain in 2008, he drew up a business plan for this very restaurant. He even had the name – Tempranillo – and the concept, complete with drawings, menus, et cetera (I’ve seen them). Circumstances conspired against its launch back then (he bought into Notturno instead, which later became Kozakura), but the idea never went away. The food wasn’t going to follow the typical of the milieu; there wouldn’t be, for example, any patatas bravas. It is not a tapas bar, Robitaille emphasizes. Think of it more in terms of raciones and bigger, with a great bar/pairing program to go with it. Think Spanish blood sausage in scrambled eggs with Pa amb tomaquet; slow cooked baby leeks with Romesco sauce; local clams with aged sherry vinegar, olive oil, parsley and crisp serrano ham; and beef tenderloin carpaccio with truffled potato foam and 65 degree egg (caviar optional).
Some (if not all) of those dishes will be on the dance card come opening day, which is set for tonight. Joining Robitaille on the service front and handling the bar will be Ben de Champlain (ex-Boneta, Cinara — below left, with Robitaille), who is one of my personal favourite front of house guys on the planet (he used to host the special regional suppers with Robitaille when the address used to be the Italian-themed Notturno). When I last checked in on construction (two weeks ago) things were looking good. The place has all the ingredients of a good hangout – including a sweet little table in the front – but I think the concept is subject to the bar’s domain. I can’t wait to check it out. They hosted a successful friends and family service this past Friday and are green lit for their first service this evening with no reservations.