A Spanish wine and tapas bar in Richmond

ARC owner Antonio Romero Casado carves a ham leg. Photo by Leïla Kwok.

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ARC tasting room and wine bar

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Or: 1020-2471 Horseshoe Way, Richmond

When: Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Info: 778-998-5322, arcimports.ca

In a semi-industrial area of ​​Richmond, something is happening in a warehouse. Inside is zsa zsa zsu, something Carrie Bradshaw described as “the butterfly belly thing that happens when you not only love the person but you have to have them.” Kind of like lust.

The stimulant zsa zsa zsu at ARC Iberico Imports is the Cinco Jotas Iberico de Bellota, the queen of Spanish hams, classified in the highest category of a premium category made by a Spanish company founded in 1879. The ham is certified to 100 percent pata negra, or black-hoofed pigs, which are acorn-fed and raised on a minimum of two hectares of land per animal in a designated area. It’s a beautiful product, ruby ​​red, slightly nutty with a voluptuous umami. It is the brand of choice for superstar chefs like Ferran Adria in Spain and Jose Andres in the United States.

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In Canada, ARC, which imports high-end Spanish food, is the exclusive distributor of Cinco Jotas and sells to restaurants such as Bearfoot Bistro, Elisa and soon, Boulevard and Bar Oso. ARC also operates a small retail store and a tapas and wine bar – the bar is nothing fancy and most are outside, in a tent, heated in cold weather. Spain isn’t all that sunny, but if you want to be there the food and friendly Spanish-speaking staff will take you there.

Spanish wine, vermouth, sherry, or cava will lubricate the path, and there is a wide variety of snack-sized dishes given this is an operation with the most minimalist cuisine. The menu includes appetizers, salads, tostas, tapas, seafood and meat snacks, ham and around 20 top quality canned or canned seafood to snack on with crackers. There is also a bocadilla menu with simple but very good quality baguette sandwiches. They are available Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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ARC owner Antonio Romero Casado carves a ham leg.  Photo by Leïla Kwok.
ARC owner Antonio Romero Casado carves a ham leg. Photo by Leïla Kwok. Photo by Leila Kwok /jpg

ARC takes its name from the initials of owner Antonio Romero Casado. He comes from a family of hoteliers and restaurateurs in southern Spain. His boutique and tapas bar in Richmond opened last July selling the bocadillas and has since expanded the menu and service. For example, if during the holiday season you want zsa zsa zsu for an event, Casado, a master jamon sculptor, can set up with a whole jamon leg and carve beautifully plated pieces for the guests – it will cost $ 400 plus the cost of the ham leg, another $ 1,900 to $ 2,000.

A taste of Spain at the tapas bar, however, is less of a splurge. Bocadillas are mostly under $ 10, with the exception of the one with pata negra jamon at $ 16.90.

A 50 gram plate of premium jamon costs $ 42, and it would be a shame not to try it. I also liked a dish I often ate for breakfast in Spain – crushed tomatoes with good olive oil on a toasted baguette ($ 7). So simple, so good.

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From the conserva menu, we ordered mussels in pickle sauce ($ 16.37) served with crackers. Tosta with grain ham, tomato and olive oil ($ 12) was not the top notch ham, but still excellent.

El Navarrico White Asparagus with Mayo ($ 15) seemed overpriced for four pieces, but they were fat like cigars and delicious. Gildas, or anchovies with olives and guidilla pepper ($ 6), tasted quality. By the way, most of what you eat on the menu can be purchased at the store. I ordered the next dish because it came with Spanish chips so prominently in the store – more anchovies draped over the chips. I overdid the anchovies, but liked the fries. The sweet pork belly ($ 25) with candied artichoke is substantial, the size of a main course, and delicious.

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For dessert, especially, you should try Mis Padres’s Tarta de Queso, or “Antonio’s Parents Secret Cheesecake” ($ 10). And he’s very serious about the secret – I couldn’t take anything away from Casado until he finally gives in and reveals it’s not done. Either way, it’s velvety and not too sweet with the exception of the dark caramel drizzle.

And a word of warning – every Sunday the tasting room offers 15% off the jamon, conservas and vermouth menu. It’s a nod to the Spanish Sunday tradition of having a stain of vermouth with ham.

ARC ticks all the right boxes when it comes to Spanish libations – wine by the glass and by the bottle, sangria, sherry, cava, vermouth, Estrella Damm beer and three gin and tonics. An impressive lineup for such a small and laid back place, although the wine markups seem to be quite steep.

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And another head held high. Casado has expansion plans for the store and tapas concept. “We’re going to open another one in Vancouver at Yaletown or Mt. Pleasant, and then we’ll slowly open one in Montreal and Toronto. It’s great to try these products and be able to buy them afterwards.

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ACCOMPANIMENTS

Relieve the stress of the holidays

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President's Choice Lobster and Scallop Dish.
President’s Choice Lobster and Scallop Dish. jpg

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