It's hard to think about Spain without tapas coming to mind. Small plates are one of our favourite ways to enjoy an abundant selection of flavours and textures during our meal.
A Brief History Of Tapas:
"There are numerous accounts of how the custom of eating tapas emerged, many involving Medieval Kings and other historic figures. And as always, the different regions of Spain all individually claim to be the birthplace of the iconic Spanish tradition. Perhaps one of the first clues to deciphering the mystery is in the origin of the word itself: the word tapa comes from the verb taper, meaning ‘to cover,’ and in Spanish a tapa is also the word for a lid. According to one of the most popular accounts of the emergence of the tapa, barkeepers started to cover their customers’ drinks with a slice of bread and small piece of cheese and ham as a way of preventing dust and flies from entering the patron’s glass. Hence the ‘tapa‘ really did act as a lid protecting the drink." TheCultureTrip.com
One of our favourite Tapas restaurants can be found in Canmore, Alberta:
We're been here many, many times! We love the coziness of the space; we love that their staff are attentive and knowledgeable without being obsequious; and, most importantly, we love their fabulous food.
So with that, here’s a summary of our most recent visit. We were seated on the main level near the bar, and at first we were a little disappointed and worried that it would be too “busy” for us to enjoy our dinner. We were wrong. There was definitely a liveliness to the main level, but that only added to the very Spanish ambiance (great food; great wine; lively conversation; laughter) that they’ve managed to create. Tapas has a lovely, warm atmosphere with dim lighting that makes a natural setting for a romantic date. It’s also a luxury treat. While worth every penny the bill at the end is substantial. Our meal for two, with wine and cocktails, taxes and tip came to $275.
And the wine part is important; you really can’t have a proper night of tapas without wine. And, fair warning, while the Tapas bar does cocktails, they’re nothing noteworthy. The wine on the other hand, is brilliant. A wonderful list of selections is available both by the glass and by the bottle, all of it reasonably priced.
One last "housekeeping" thing: although they encourage you to consider your order “from the top left of the menu (Pintxos) to the bottom right (Platos)" don’t expect the dishes to come out in that order. Like in Spain the dishes come out when they’re ready, but never more than one at a time and we never felt rushed between dishes. And with that, it’s on to the food.
We ordered two dishes from the Pintxos section. Both are classics (and routine “go-to’s” for us), and both were prepared with a certain Tapas touch that made them just unique enough to be memorable.
First, the Gambas. This is such a simple dish, yet it’s one that we’ve had other restaurants miss the mark on more than once. Not so with Tapas: the tantalizing, sweet aroma of garlic wafts up as soon as the dish arrives. The shrimp were cooked to perfection - crunchy, sweet, and clean tasting. The lovely touch here was the lightly roasted, crunchy and sweet red pepper strips that complemented the shrimp perfectly. We devoured this dish and would have happily eaten this all night long.
Next to arrive were the croquettes, our first bit of culinary “magic” for the evening. These cheese and potato creations were served up with a fabulous citric aioli and were accented by crunchy little bits of Serrano ham. What really made this dish sing was the consistency; these were the lightest, most perfectly crusted croquettes we’ve ever tasted. We have no idea what kind of alchemy allows one to crust a whipped interior that evokes the sense of eating tasty, fluffy clouds. All we know is that these tastes and textures danced together beautifully.
We love tostadas, and the selection here was intriguing. We chose two varieties. The White Anchovies (we adore anchovies) were mild, delicious and replete with a satisfying, meaty umami flavour. Definitely a hit.
The second choice was a very well executed Beef Tartare (one of us is Polish and has very high standards for this classic). The beef was of exceptional quality, and the tartare had a lovely, vinegary spiciness that makes us suspect the use of horseradish in the mix. This tostada was definitely worth having again in the future.
Next came the Tapas. We ordered two dishes from this section of the menu. First, a delicious plate of Massachusetts Scallops served with heirloom tomatoes, olives, and Spanish pepper. The whole plate was a symphony of delicious, blended flavours. It’s definitely light fare but in combination with all the other dishes it was perfect.
Our second tapas plate was arguably the star of the evening (even acknowledging our love for the croquettes mentioned above). The small, sweet carrots were roasted to perfection, and served up with a delicious combination of honey, hazelnuts, and goat cheese. To be clear, we are both confirmed, dedicated omnivores; for us to declare a plate of carrots as the highlight of a meal is a rare occurrence. But we have to confess that we could have eaten at least two more plates of this dish, then ordered another to savour later in our room! It was just that good.
Our meat selection from the Platos section was a lamb shank. Now, we love lamb in all its forms (one of us is of Scottish descent and had family who raised sheep for wool and lambs for meat) and like all lamb lovers we are particularly fond of a good lamb shank. This presentation surprised us. The lamb was shredded off the bone and formed into two cylinders. The meat was complemented by a very well-conceived cauliflower purée and roasted tomatoes. The lamb meat was outrageously tender and the blend of flavours was simply perfect.
Our final dish of the evening - from the Platos section - was a very well executed plate of Shitake and Oyster mushrooms in sherry cream sauce, served on a deliciously toasted bread. Simple, and so very tasty!
We highly recommend Tapas to anyone who truly loves great food served up in a wonderful, warm atmosphere by people who truly care about you.
Official Website: Tapascanmore.ca
Address: 633 10 St., Canmore