When Chef and Sommelier are rolled into one, residents at a venue for years on end, have over twenty years of experience, and an accolade of impressive awards, you know the restaurant is going to be stellar. It is no surprise, then, that Waterfront Wines Restaurant, home to exceptionally talented resident Chef and Sommelier Mark Filatow, has been named the ‘Best Okanagan Restaurant’ at the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards for the past 9 years in a row. Most certainly one of the best dining experiences we have encountered, Waterfront Wines Restaurant is the epitome of culinary excellence
Waterfront Wines is a simple and humble space full of delightful surprises. It is unassuming, unpretentious, and welcoming. One would be hard-pressed to find elitism or arrogance here, yet such an attitude is warranted given the level of quality to be found. Mark Filatow, winner of ‘Top Foodies under 40’ bespeaks this gentle and gracious approach. A kind and smiling Chef and Sommelier, he runs the restaurant with a simple yet sharply focused emphasis: Waterfront is a restaurant that only features the freshest, most local, most high quality ingredients he can find. Proudly listing his local producers on the website, Waterfront’s menu is award-winning and the food, quite simply, outstanding. As Sommelier too, the wine list continues in this vein, showcasing the finest of the local Okanagan producers as well as those from further afield.
My guest and I arrived to Waterfront Wines on a hot Sunday evening, at the end of August. The restaurant was full, despite it being relatively early in the evening, and we were glad to have made the well suggested reservation. The venue is small and cosy, with much wood and many unassuming furnishings, creating a hustle-and-bustle style seating that feels almost French in its intimacy. We were taken to our seat, a corner table with a window view not far from the kitchen, before our kind host came to greet us with sparkling waters.
The menu is largely modern European in style. There is a tapas and starter section, featuring favourites like Pomme Frites with Lemon Pepper Aioli or House-made Ketchup, Potted Foie Gras with Morello Cherry Jelly and Toasted Bread, and various salads. The Tapas Plate features a full range with Olives, Pickled Vegetables, House-made Hummus, Toasted Almonds, and optional spread or cheese. For the mains, the options are narrower and perhaps more focussed on classics. There is a duck dish, steak, halibut, trout, lamb, and vegetarian dish (Wise earth Sprouted Legume and Green Pea Croquettes, with Roasted Oyster Mushroom, Sherry Tare, Sunflower Miso, and Soy Pickles). There is also a hearty daily cheese menu, and of course, desserts – but more on that later.
The wine list focuses mainly on Okanagan wines, and is well put together with interesting finds like the lesser known Blue Mountain Brut NV from Okanagan Falls making the pouring sparkling. Given the emphasis on local and seasonal produce, my guest and I decided to follow the recommendations of our host and try what he recommended that evening.
We started with the meticulously presented dish (on a stunning, glass plate) of Albacore Tuna Cruda. This came with Cucumber, Shishito, Pickled Ginger, Smoked Tofu and House-made Miso. The tuna was excellent – tender yet firm, full of flavour and with hints of Asian cuisine yet by no means overpowering. Elegant and simple, it made a cleansing starter that we thoroughly enjoyed. We paired this with the Blue Mountain Brut sparkling, a fine lemon and toasty wine with a crisp citrus finish. Made in the Methode Traditionnelle like champagne, it presented a lovely toasty undercurrent that added depth to the fresh flavours of the tuna dish.
Our next dish was the excellent Halibut Fillet with Scallop Cotechino Sausage, served with Corn Agnolotti, Zucchini, carrots, Corn, and Bacon Brodo. This time emerging on a white bowl, the Halibut was as it should be – firm yet soft on the inside, with a nice chargrilled finish that added savoury structure to the dish. The bacon added welcome saltiness, whilst the corn gave sweetness for balance. The sausage came as a small dome of crisp sausage meat, densely packed with rich meaty flavours that gave depth to the simple freshness of the Halibut. This came on a bed of Corn Agnolotti, tortellini style pieces of pasta filled with a dense, sweet, corn filling, A very well put together dish, we enjoyed this with the Meyer Family Vineyards, ‘Joannie Rochette’ Chardonnay 2017, from the Okanagan Falls. With lemon, pineapple, mineral notes and a luscious butteriness on the nose, this well structured Chardonnay showed good acidity that cut through the Halibut nicely, the buttery notes adding a delicious richness.
For the third dish, we had Roasted Yarrow Meadows Duck Breast with Crispy Potato Rosti, Turnips, Beans, Cherry BBQ Sauce, and Cardamom Jus. Presented elegantly on yet another style of elegant dishware, the duck was juicy and sumptuous, yet well done, showing a good finish. The cherry sauce was delightful, sweet yet tangy with a good acidity that cut through the duck. We enjoyed this with a natural pairing, the fantastic Carson Pinot Noir 2015 from Naramata Beach. Chris Carson, winemaker of Meyer, created this beautiful wine with a hedonistic expression of strong red fruit notes, almost jam like cherry flavours, but balanced with a decent savoury and spicy, acidic finish. Moreish and long on the finish, this Pinot Noir was exceptional with the duck, a very fitting pairing.
For the fourth and final dish, we enjoyed the Grilled Peppercorn Crusted Heritage Angus Flat Iron steak, served with Fork Mashed Sweet Life Farms Sieglinde Potatoes, and Sauce Bordelaise. More artistic in its presentation than the previous dishes, this came out as a mound of medium-rare, perfectly done steak on a mound of vegetables, with splatterings of dark orange sauce. Fantastically flavoursome, we were glad to end the meal on such a strong and classic note – steak done well. We drank another classic pairing, a Cabernet Sauvignon from La Frenz, ‘Rockyfeller’, 2016, from Naramata Beach. Extremely expressive of what a good, fully ripened New World Cabernet Sauvignon can and should be, this robust and savoury wine with terrific tannins (aged 100% in French oak barrels) went well with the steak. Standing up to the robust, meaty flavours, its tannins breaking down the meat beautifully in our mouths, it was a truly delightful finish to the meal.
Yet it wasn’t over yet. Our hospitable host brought out an unexpected, yet well worth experiencing, pre-dessert course of cheese. Known for its unparalleled ability to source the finest ingredients, Waterfront brings the best cheeses in the Okanagan. A lovely rustic, wooden board of various homemade breads and crackers came out with fresh fruits and flavoursome chutneys, to accompany a superb selection: amongst others, there was a brilliant Blue King Cole cheese from Upper Bench, Naramata BC, a semi-soft, full-flavoured cheese with hints of apple and pear and a soft Le Fleurmier cheese made to show a rich and velvety texture with rich, fruity, nutty flavour. These were our favourites, though the range made it hard to choose just one. We finished with the ever-favourite Quails Gate Optima, 2013, a stunning Sauternes like sweet wine made right for cheese and dessert.
The grand finale of the menu, was just this – dessert. Spoiling us to the core, our host brought us two restaurant favourites: the vegan friendly Chocolate and Coconut Semi Freddo with Quince Sorbet, Fresh Local Strawberry, Rhubarb & Rosé Mousse, and Chocolate Crumble, and the Italian Flourless Hazelnut Cake, with Hazelnut Gelato, Chocolate Pastry Cream, Morello Cherry, and Salted Caramel. Both were a feast for the eyes and the stomach, tasting as delicious as they looked. The Semi Freddo was delightfully tart and acidic with a gentle sweetness that wasn’t overpowering and made the entire experience thoroughly refreshing, whilst the Italian Hazelnut Cake was redolent of a large Ferrero Rocher – densely nutty, chocolatey, and extremely indulgent. Delicious.
By this point we were six courses in and extremely satisfied, satiated, and smiling. Every single course was a genuine delight to try, and every mouth full a pleasure to experience. Pleasantly understated for the grandiose levels of quality and fine dining it showcases, Waterfront Restaurant in Kelowna is an absolute must if you are seeking a truly exquisite and memorable dining experience. We look forward to coming back to a new season and new menu, eager to try more of Mark’s culinary creations. Thank you, Waterfront, for an exceptional evening.
Waterfront Wines Restaurant
1180 Sunset Drive #104
BC V1Y 9W6