Daily Archives: September 5, 2008

An Appetizer by Any Other Name

A month ago my brother was visiting from Edmonton. He wanted to hear blues music (jazz, if not blues) and I tried to find a restaurant with said music. We found one in Yaletown (and spent a half hour finding parking) and finally went into the restaurant called Capone’s. As you can guess, it’s an Italian theme, with some pasta dishes on the menu. Not particularly memorable food either.

But there on the first page was “Tapas.” My brother raised an eyebrow and said, “We call these appetizers in Edmonton.” And you would think in an Italian restaurant these dishes would be called “antipasti,” not the Spanish “tapas.”

Well, I explained to my brother the new wave of tapas bars or restaurants in Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant you have a tapas menu and on it you list all sorts of sumptuous morsels. You bring them out on simple plates, but elegantly and artistically arranged. Then no one seems to mind that they’re paying $12 for three scallops. Tapas menus tend to range from $10-$14 with $12 being the average.

If you switch out the word tapas and pop in “appetizer” suddenly it’s not as appetizing and people would protest paying the higher price for just an appetizer. Granted we don’t need as much food as our hunter-gather ancestors did but the tapas drapery does seem to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Sure some restaurants do have appetizers reaching that range but the prices are not comparable always to the style of restaurant. Stella’s in East Van is a Belgium beer and tapas bar. A little cultural mixing there. Their dishes are pretty tasty.

Last night I was at Habit on Main St. They have a small menu with items ranging from $9-$18. There is no true differentiation between an appetizer and the main meal and the small menu says right at the top, Best to be shared. Some of these items that we had–the beet salad and the crispy tofu with eggplant–could have been considered tapas, but they were much larger portions and though two of us shared, these dishes could have been tapassed out to four people easily. If they had been listed as tapas, they would have been half the size for the same price.

So next time you’re sitting down to an artistic repast of bite-size tapas, presume you’re paying for the art and the name, and enjoy. Oh, and chew slowly to get your money’s worth.

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