UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar – 900 Seymour St. Vancouver
I have always thought of UVA as a date place because of its intimate seating (most of the tables seat two comfortably, or a maximum of four), romantic ambiance (dark and candle-lit), and date-friendly bite-sized tapas (because a date place would never serve you a stressful, super-sized plate of messy ribs). The menu items specifically are sure to contribute positively to the outcome of your date, even if just subliminally; for example: aphrodisiacal oysters, and wine with descriptions like, “…a tease of banana, a kiss of Asian pear…a wine to be smitten with”, “…caressing…nervous, exciting & gratifying. Kind of like your first kiss!” and “A bouquet of spiced-rose petals from your fantasy crush!…skinny-dipping wine!” (these three wine descriptions are from the “Pretty Things’ Flight”, and you’ll just have to go taste them to find out which wines they describe!). Talk about setting the mood! What kind of bribes are you accepting from our dates, UVA?
Only a few of us could meet up, which ended up working out well since the seating in UVA is better for smaller groups, although there is a lot of room for larger groups next door at UVA’s adjoining restaurant, Cibo Trattoria, or in their private room. We would like to come back with our larger group and try some wine tastings and italian fare in their Madonna Room, which is a grand, gilded, glistening room perfect for a girls night of dressing up like a bunch of Donnatella Versaces and ordering some fancy flights of bubbly.
I got to UVA earlier than the other two Winecouverites, and immediately felt like I was waiting for (or stood up from?) a blind date. Maybe it was the couples seated around me, each in their own romantic worlds while I sat solo at a candle-lit table with too few human shadows, but I was definitely starting to wonder if this was a good place for a girls’ wine night out. As soon as that thought entered my mind, however, Roy was there to prove that thought wrong. With an inviting smile, a bottle of sparkling water, menus, and just a general sense of genuine hospitality, he immediately made me feel more than welcome. It is important to note here that this hospitality was being exuded not only within minutes of entering the establishment, but before we even arrived (we decided to meet at UVA because of their friendly social media posts, including some welcoming tweets from Robert Stelmachuk), and it continued consistently throughout the night. Once the other girls arrived, not only were we never without a full glass of wine or water or delicious tapas in front of us, but the service was so friendly, organic, and unforced that we felt more like we were at a friend’s dinner party or our local watering hole (where everybody knows your name!) than at a wine & cocktail bar (this video is a hilarious example of a stereotypically pretentious wine/cocktail bar – and UVA is definitely not one of these!).
UVA Wine Director and General Manager Robert Stelmachuk (Voted #3 Best Vancouver Sommelier by Westender Readers!) is not only extremely knowledgeable (a Sommelier with over 25 years of experience), but his enthusiastic passion for wine, coupled with his sincere, outgoing nature, make him the exact person any oenophile would want to share a glass of wine with. No wonder he refers to his wine tastings as wine “adventures”, because he truly thrives to take his customers out of their comfort zones in order to be amazed by selections that they wouldn’t normally try. Along with the flights of wine and bubbly, we sampled wines by the glass, being schooled and enlightened with choices we would have otherwise overlooked. These included the Rhone-style TeMata Syrah, which we were surprised to learn hails from New Zealand, and the Grüner Veltliner ‘Terrassen’ Federspiel from Domaine Wächau in Austria – not our typical go-to white wine region, which definitely got one of our Winecouverites out of her Pinot Grigio comfort zone.
We ordered some tapas – crispy risotto balls, and bruchetta (we tried the Ricotta, Herbs & Chili; Olives & Asiago; and Peas & Fava Beans) – perfect fuel for our wine tastings. Executive chef Faizal Kassam (previously from Bin 941, La Brasserie, Bacchus, Hawksworth) says, “rustic flavours and new age techniques, showcasing local and organic ingredients, is my main drive behind the menus of Cibo and Uva. Using only the finest products is what this farmer-driven dining experience has come to be.” We will definitely be back to try more substantial items from his main menu. We can be harsh critics when it comes to Italian food (we have an Italian Winecouverite whose family recipes are hard to beat); however, our tapas were not only full of flavour, but they deviated far from the appealing-to-the-lowest-common-denominator status quo that we find with lots of Italian restaurant menus (i.e. they were much more complex than just garlic and parmesan). We will plead ignorance again for expecting anything less than perfection from Chef Faizal. We should have just read and trusted this praise ahead of time: “Faizal’s competitive nature and relentless pursuit of perfection is reflected by his growing number of fans who consistently return for an extraordinary dining experience”. We can’t wait to come back for a wine-paired feast.
For those who aren’t into wine (obviously we don’t know each other), UVA has an excellent reputation for their cocktails. Bar Manager Lauren Mote (also co-proprietor of Bittered Sling) is a well-known mixologist in the Vancouver scene, and her creations are sure to satisfy. “The black widow” (el jimaor reposado tequila, cacao & coffee, red bush tea, averna amaro, cherry liqueur plum & rootbeer bitters), “liberation” (pere magloire fine calvados, campari, lillet, fino sherry, cascade celery bitters), or “muchacho” (cazadores reposado tequila, fidencio mezcal, amaro montenegro, blueberry liqueur, moondog bitters) sound like the perfect drinks to order with your girlfriends before a night on the town, don’t they? These lascivious libations are the final confirmation that UVA is the perfect location for anyone wanting to indulge in wine, cocktails, food, and fun – no date required!
We look forward to many more wine adventures at UVA!