Roaring tapas |

Roaring tapas

Wren Wertin
AE Blue Tiger3 SM 3-12 Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Mussles, Hot and Sour Bok Choy, Edamame, and Shrimp Won-Tons are some of the special tapas Pepper will prepare for you at the Blue Tiger in Vail

Dinner and a movie has reached an all time high in Vail with a particular cerulean feline.

Blue Tiger, the valley’s newest restaurant, is also the only tapas bar. Located in the old Cascade Gallery space, adjacent to Cascade Village Theatre, Blue Tiger is a whole new world of food.

“I call it confusion cuisine,” said General Manager Bryan Wachs. “A cross between Spanish and Asian.”

The space toes the line between clean chic and easy comfort. A nod to its gallery roots, the walls are still diverse with art.

The menu also covers the gamut from working class prices – $4-$7 for tapas – to fine dining – $12-$18 for rather large and wonderful entrees.

Executive Chef Jeff “Pepper” Nathanson has been in Vail for 13 years. He’s excited about the menu.

“I love it,” he exclaimed. “It’s diverse, heavy on Mediterranean and Asian tapas, along with a sushi bar.”

My dinner date and I started with a recommendation from our server, Eric Mohn. Mohn is no stranger to the restaurant business in Eagle County, and has worked at such far flung establishments as the Dancing Bear, the Lionshead Marriott and RiverHouse. He has a particular affection for wine, and sees pairings as his own personal challenge.

To start things off, he brought us tuna pica ($7) and Takara Nigori, an herbaceous cold sake. The tuna pica has a plethora of flavors and is served with a jolt of nuts and herbs. The whole shebang is drizzled with sweet soy. The crisps stole the show, dusted with chile powder and packed with flavor.

From there we settled down to tapas in earnest. The crispy shrimp wontons ($6) were our hands-down favorite – they were pure shrimp and flavor, not a lick of cream cheese. The masala nuts ($3) were lightly toasted and a good counterpoint to the Spanish cheese and chorizo ($7). The hot and sour bok choy ($4) gave us the dose of greens we were looking for.

For round two, Mohn set us up with some Norton sauvignon blanc ($5.50), a beautifully floral and light wine. It held up well to the tapas.

At this point in the evening, we were wondering how we’d be able to eat anything else, never mind the two entrees we’d ordered. It’s a good thing we went the distance.

The Spanish paella ($18) was great with seafood and chorizo – you can order it with chicken or beef as well. Not as soupy as I’m used to, the saffron-infused dish was tasty. The curried duck breast ($16) was packed with sweet and earthy flavors. The coconut risotto made a good match, rich and creamy. Somehow, we ate it all.

And for this course, Mohn pulled out his trump card – Delucca tannat ($7). Rich and smooth with a satisfying complexity, we kept ordering more. We flirted briefly with dessert – the cinnamon gelato was good – we reverted back to the tannat to finish the evening off cleanly. The feel of the room encouraged us to stay and talk for hours, which we did.

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