A new restaurant at Christina Lake is taking the Boundary by storm with their fresh take on food. Chef, manager and part-owner Jordan Cooper has taken the lessons he learned while working in big restaurants in Calgary and overseas to Babalooz, which opened their doors on June 21.
“In the evening we do a tapas menu,” he said. “Unauthentic to a Spanish tapas, we do more of a North American tapas—it’s much more approachable.”
Cooper said the tapas are meant to be shared among friends. “The idea is coming in and having numerous different flavours rather than one meal where you have one flavour but lots of it,” he said. “So you come in and have different dishes and enjoy a bunch of different flavours.”
Cooper said tapas are small bites, which are served on small plates. Some of the favourites at Babalooz are wild mushroom sauté with truffle oil, minted candy cane beets with balsamic reduction, and parmesan eggplant stick with roasted cherry tomato dip.
This reporter sampled the zesty meatballs with tomato sauce and beef skewers with citrus crushed cashews and had to say they were very tasty. The meatballs were among the softest, most tender I’d eaten served with crustinis and drizzled with parmesan cheese.
“Our calamari with tzatziki is also popular,” said Cooper. “One of our most popular dishes by far the plato, which is great with beer or wine. That gives you a selection of different meats, some cheese, olives, house-roasted nuts and an antipasto. Right now we’re offering arancini, which is typically an Italian dish, which is deep fried risotto balls.”
Cooper was looking to open up his own restaurant after working in so many others. He and girlfriend Katey Fisher looked at different places and found that Christina Lake was lacking in eateries.
“At the time we opened Lisa’s Bistro was the only restaurant here,” he said. “We knew the Lake needed another restaurant but we didn’t just want to open up another restaurant serving the same old fare. We wanted to do something different. Something a bit more refined. So we do the tapas by the lake in a wonderful presentation using as much organic products as possible.”
Babalooz gets most of their fresh produce from Grand Union Farms out of Grand Forks. They also sell baked goods from Ravenous bakery in Christina Lake.
For lunch, the restaurant offers traditional fare such as sandwiches and burgers as well as some less traditional offerings such as beet and goat cheese salad with balsamic reduction and crispy eggplant ciabatta with a roasted cherry tomato spread.
“Lunch is more casual,” said Cooper. “We try to appeal to everybody. Not that the tapas menu isn’t but it’s more burgers and that. We have a nice Babalooz burger with bacon and cheese. We have a grilled club sandwich. We do a nice vegan goat cheese salad. It’s organic beets done with goat cheese, lettuce, balsamic reduction and crustinis. We also have a mixed greens salad.”
Babalooz is fully licenced as well with a couple of beers on tap as well as a full selection of wines.
Cooper began his culinary career at the tender age of 15 when he worked at an Earls in Calgary. By the time he was 19 he was managing many of the Earls and Joey Tomatoes Restaurants in Calgary.
“They’re big volume kitchens but it kind of put me off cooking because you’re serving the masses and not taking the time to get to know the food or the customer that well,” said Cooper, who ended taking a job as maître D at Rouge Restaurant. “I started to learn about using higher end products and really found my passion for the industry.”
He then opened up a couple of restaurants in Calgary with a well-known Italian chef named Guiseppe Digennaro. Cooper then travelled to England where he opened up a fish market near Brighton. After a stint in the Cayman Islands operating a craft beer restaurant, he and Katey found there way to Christina Lake where he opened up Babalooz with an unnamed silent partner.
Babalooz is located beside Huckleberry Market and is open from Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and closed Sundays.
Reservations are recommended at 250-447-6518.
Babalooz will be hosting a brewmaster’s dinner on Oct. 24, which is a five-course dinner served with different beers from Okanagan Springs.
“We’re going to have a brewmaster educator here from the brewery talking about all the beers and how they’re made,” said Cooper. “Beer will be the focus and food will be the complement.”
For tickets or further information, email Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.