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Unique micro eatery 'Chulo Tapas & Bar' debuts this week

"The vibe we're going for is Basque tapas house meets Barcelona gin and tonic cocktail bar."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Chris Royal, PIerre Geronimo, Shawn Dalton of Chulo Tapas & Bar

Chris Royal stood in the still-under renovation midst of what within a few days time will be the city's newest restaurant, creatively advising PentictonNow readers what to expect from a space that not so long ago housed a garage door supplier.

Today the garage door place is long gone. And the heavily industrial neighbourhood all around it is transforming, the victim of a changing Penticton face, changing Penticton demographics, and the reality that the expansion of the city's red hot food and beverage zone -- loosely clumped around the intersection of Winnipeg Street and Westminster Avenue West -- simply isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Royal played a big role in establishing that food and beverage zone. In late 2019, the restaurateur, along with two experienced pizzeria partners from Vancouver, opened a classy Penticton pizza joint, Pizzeria Tratto Napoletana, at 256 Westminster Ave. West.

It dawned just after The Black Antler restaurant a few doors away and Wayne and Freda coffee shop, also a few doors away. All three injected some sophistication into the area, as did Neighbourhood Brewing approximately a year later.

Now there's lots more to the new zone, including the re-do of Bad Tattoo Brewing, purchased last year by the same folks who own Neighbourhood and Port Moody's Yellow Dog Brewing. It'll be called...Yellow Dog.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Chulo (far right)

As it turns out, the Penticton Yellow Dog is just a few doors and a minute's walk away from Royal's highly unique, and interesting, new eatery.

It's called "Chulo Tapas & Bar." And yes, it'll be unique.

For starters, it'll specialize in a food you won’t find very often in Penticton: Tapas. Yes, those creative, sophisticated "small bites" that hailed originally from Spain and have since become a global obsession.

There aren’t many tapas restaurants locally, and even fewer where the main dishes are concocted, prepped and cooked by a chef hailing from the same global region.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

But that's not all. It'll also be one of the smallest eateries around. How small? Small enough that occupancy maxes out at 22 people inside (four tables seating 12 to 14 and eight bar stools) and eight more on the patio.

Royal says he likes it that way. He loves the intimacy. He likes the small kitchen with what he calls a "mighty" oven. Indeed, he proudly calls Chulos a "micro" restaurant.

And there's one more parameter that puts Chulos into a class of its own: A humungous window perched between the bar area inside and the patio outside. It'll be wide open much of the time, allowing patrons to do cool stuff like order on the go and chat up bar manager Shawn Dalton, who sounds quite genuine when he says he's looking forward to it.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Royal, who says business at Tratto has been "on fire" since winter, has no doubt Chulo will see the same level of success. No doubt at all.

"This came from a couple of other ideas we wanted to do," he said. "Then when Pierre (Chulo chef Pierre Geronimo, also chef at Tratto and at his own Origine Catering) and I talked about food, we talked about what we think this town needs and what he's done.

"Then when Mike and his wife (Michael and Ayse Barluk) opened up Elma, I was like, 'Come on man, if they can open up a Turkish fine dining restaurant, I can certainly open up a Spanish joint.'

"I think when people taste the food and the drinks here, they'll freak out."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Royal describes Chulo as "utterly and totally Basque," then describes "Basque" for anyone who doesn’t know, like this reporter, as "basically the Pyrenees area of northeastern Spain all the way down to Barcelona, then into the south of France."

And he's thrilled his friend Geronimo is handling the menu and much of the cooking.

"Pierre is from the region, and he's cooking his food basically," he said.

"He's done a bunch of wonderfully delicate French food and mixed Mediterranean food at Origine. This will be a bit more focused.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Chef Pierre Geronimo discusses his menu

"The flavor profiles are Spanish, so you're looking at stuff like saffron, onion, tomatoes. Pork is used all the time. And seafood. You'll see octopus on our menu."

Chef Geronimo says being a Chulo customer will be a simple, happy affair.

"The goal is to have some small bites with a few drinks, " he smiled. "You chill, and you order a bunch of things."

But that simplicity does not extend to the prep of the menu items. There's some sophisticated stuff going on in the Chulo kitchen.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"We're seafood oriented as are most restaurants in Spain," said Geronimo. "For example, we have torched octopus brochette. That's octopus that is braised in a sangria juice. We reduce the juice when the octopus is cooked, then we brush the octopus and then it will be torched."

Geronimo tossed more impressive examples our way. Like stuffed squid with chorizo, which involves braising the squid with fermented red pepper.

"It will break down the protein of the meat. It will be super tender because of this process," he said.

And paella, a "classic Spanish dish with rice, same rice as risotto, with saffron, chorizo, pork or chicken and veggies like peas and peppers - whatever is in season."

For Geronimo, the love of Spanish food comes honestly.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I'm originally from southwest France," he said, "but all my family and 90% of my blood is Spanish.

"And my great grandfather has a flat in Valencia. So every summer I'd go there for two, three months and eat some good food. So that is something that’s calling me."

Bar manager Dalton, meanwhile, suggests his menu will "give a nod to what you'd drink in a little bar in Spain at the seaside."

And that means a preference for gin.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"We have a list of six or seven cocktails we've created," he said. "We're Spanish influenced, definitely focusing on gin. Gins and brandies.

"Gin and tonic will be a big thing. If you've ever been to Barcelona, you've probably had gin and tonics."

There'll be a limited wine selection too. "Five or six at a time," said Dalton.

"I used to import Spanish wines for ten years, so I have a lot of friends over there."

Chulo will feature two taps to start, one with a Slackwater Brewing-produced Spanish-style lager and the other with cider. Or perhaps vermouth.

"You'll be able to get stuff here you can’t get anywhere else," Dalton promised.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

As for the Chulo space, well, did we say it's small? But it's also modern and efficient, built from scratch in the past few months during an extensive remodel of the entire building -- a remodel that'll see an adjacent, much larger space that almost surrounds Chulo hold events and house a number of work spaces.

And every bit of kitchen and bar equipment is brand new.

"This is our version of Yaletown," said Royal. "This used to be a railway building. It took a little bit of hunting to find an engineering firm willing to bring it up to code.

"But Eric (Eric Thor, building owner and owner of Terravista Vineyards winery, a guy Royal says has a "dream of transforming Penticton a little bit") built all of this out for us and got it ready for us to come in and do the finishing."

And now, it's mere days from its debut. Indeed, it may open as early as this Thursday, July 13.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Sous chef Tyler Krebbs in the kitchen

To start, operating hours will be 5 pm to 10-ish, Thursday through Monday. There may be adjustments down the road, such as earlier openings for lunch once the tourist season has ended and later closures because bars and late hours are fun.

"When I arrived here (from the lower mainland) seven years ago and looked at the space where Black Antler is now," said Royal, "I had a bunch of people tell me to stay away from the neighbourhood because it was dead.

"My feeling though is that this is was the undiscovered country of Penticton."

So far, Royal's prognostic feelings -- he grabbed the Tratto space not long after -- have paid off, in a big way.

Now he'll see if that good run continues.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

For more on Chulo Tapas & Bar at Suite 105 of 124 Estabrook Ave., hit up the website here.



Send your comments, news tips, typos, letter to the editor, photos and videos to [email protected].




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