Bar Oso

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - TRAVELLER I CONTENT - STORY BY FIONA MOR­ROW 604-962-4540 |

When Ex­ec­u­tive Chef James Walt was seek­ing a name idea for the cozy tapas bar he was open­ing around the cor­ner from his cel­e­brated fine­din­ing restau­rant, Araxi, he started with words that con­jured up what Whistler means to him. “Snow, lo­cal, farm­ers … all those things,” he shrugs. He knew the name would be­gin with “Bar,” like so many tra­di­tional tapas places in Spain, but needed to find a Span­ish word to go with it – one that made sense in an alpine re­sort. In the end, it was Oso – Span­ish for bear – that won the day. “It was the sound of it,” he re­calls. “Oso just re­ally rolled off the tongue, and bears re­ally are a big part of Whistler.” The small, in­for­mal, 36-seat bar may be in the same block as its sis­ter restau­rant Araxi, but it is worlds away in terms of fo­cus and flavours. “We wanted to cut loose and be very dif­fer­ent from Araxi,” he ex­plains. “The room has a ca­sual feel, pre­sen­ta­tion is less re­fined …” The space in­cludes 16 stools at the bar – where the chefs are busy prep­ping dishes – with more seat­ing along the wall and four cov­eted stools by the win­dow, for se­ri­ous peo­ple-watch­ers. Keep­ing with the ca­sual theme, wine is served in tum­blers. There are also san­grias and sherry cock­tails. Walt sug­gests a good qual­ity gin and tonic: “very pop­u­lar right now in Spain.” The bar will be man­aged by Ja­son Red­mond, who is mov­ing from As­sis­tant Bar Man­ager at Araxi and bring­ing ex­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional wine-and-spirit ex­pe­ri­ence. “We’re us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents to cre­ate cock­tails that com­ple­ment the Span­ish-in­spired cui­sine,” Red­mond says. “It’s ex­cit­ing!” Bar Oso opens at 11:30 am, and serves food right up to clos­ing – ini­tially 1:00 am but, Walt says, that may move an hour later. Though he over­saw the de­vel­op­ment of Bar Oso from con­cept, through de­vel­op­ment, and into re­al­ity, he won’t be a con­stant pres­ence in the kitchen. That re­spon­si­bil­ity falls to one of his young Araxi cooks, Jorge Muñoz San­tos, who brings not just youth, but authen­tic­ity to the project with con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence cook­ing in Spain. “He’s been with me four years,” Walt says. “He’s Span­ish, so he knows how to build those big, bold flavours.” San­tos was sent back to Spain last year to check out cur­rent trends and tra­di­tional dishes, and came back with a full pack­age of ideas and pho­to­graphs for the team to work with. “I am very much in­spired by my Span­ish roots,” Muñoz says. In the end, they de­cided to break the menu down, with day­time con­cen­trat­ing on boc­cadil­los – tra­di­tional Span­ish sand­wiches, to eat in or take out. In the af­ter­noon, the menu ex­pands to in­clude pin­chos – lit­tle skew­ers with de­li­cious bites of two or three in­gre­di­ents – toasts with var­i­ous top­pings, and then larger tapas such as chorizo with soft egg and Wagyu beef cheek. “We’re us­ing all our lo­cal prod­ucts as we usu­ally do,” Walt notes. “But we’re adding those tra­di­tional Span­ish flavours – very good olive oil, very good pep­pers, ex­cel­lent pa­prika – and us­ing flavours like sofrito (slow cooked onions and pep­pers) as the base.”

And ham. Al­ways ham.

Bar Oso of­fers three grades of Span­ish ham: Ser­rano, Iberico, and the holy grail of cured pork, Bel­lota, from pigs fed on acorns. But in ad­di­tion to the clas­sic and im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate Span­ish hams, Bar Oso Chefs are cre­at­ing their own cured meats. “We have a new set-up in the back,” Walt ex­plains, “a ded­i­cated fridge, tem­per­a­ture­con­trolled, where we’ve been mak­ing our own char­cu­terie.” He’s also em­ployed a cook ded­i­cated to pro­duc­ing what he calls “fresh” char­cu­terie: “Foie gras par­fait, rab­bit ter­rine, pork hock ter­rine with bold Span­ish flavours in there. I’m re­ally ex­cited about this, and it will def­i­nitely have an in­flu­ence on what we do at Araxi.” “It’s a very dif­fer­ent idea for Whistler, and for us,” he adds. “We’re try­ing to get as much bang as we can out of a small space.” “Late nights, bar stools, lively … it’s just su­per fun.”





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