For Gord Harris, executive chef/owner, tapastry by Amici, in Winnipeg, creating the perfect small plates is about fusing eclectic cuisine with tapas presentation.
by Suzanne Boles
Photography by David Lipnowski
A chef for 35 years, Harris opened tapastry in March 2013 after leaving his job overseeing four restaurants owned by McNally Robinson (known to many for their bookstore operations).
In a previous existence he had worked as a chef at Amici restaurant in downtown Winnipeg, which was purchased from the previous owners by Brian McKnight. McKnight asked Harris to partner with him and open a second Amici restaurant at Niakawa Country Club.
Customers who had been expecting the exact same dishes at both locations got a surprise, says Harris. “Two people in different locations can’t make the exact same thing, so I came up with tapastry by Amici.”
“Our motto for tapastry is eclectic cuisine designed for sharing. Small plates are huge in Winnipeg. People are eating a lot less now. They don’t like to eat a huge meal. With small plates they get a chance to share a variety of items,” and, he adds perceptively, “this creates more interaction” at the table, rather than heads down focused on the large plate entrée.
Harris acknowledges there are quite a few tapas places popping up in Winnipeg, but says tapastry focuses on the “small plate designed for sharing” and the menu itself isn’t traditional Spanish dishes. “We offer more of a continental menu, [prepared with] fresh, interesting products.”
Currently there are 18 small plate and five entrée items on the menu because some of the club members (700) do want a full meal, “so we try to appease everyone. Whatever dishes we offer as a tapas we can offer as an entrée.” For example, “instead of half rack of our popular dry-rub ribs, we can offer a full rack with a starch and vegetable.”
Asked what makes a tapas restaurant successful, Harris says it’s all about incorporating a variety of products into the menu and changing the menu itself four to five times a year. “So you’re constantly looking for new and different things to put on the menu,” to change it up and keep it interesting.
- Change your menu frequently. You want people to keep coming back for that signature dish, but you want to keep it interesting for them and give them different things to try.
- Make it unique. A large number of tapastry’s dishes are served on fused-glass plates. Harris’s wife designed a couple for the restaurant, enhancing the uniqueness of the menu.
- Listen to your customers. They will tell you what’s good and what’s not, and your sales will dictate what’s a keeper and what isn’t.