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Category: Middle Eastern

Chambar, terrace open

As of June 1st Chinatown’s best patio is open for the summer season. And to help celebrate, they are launching a new happy hour menu to mark the occasion.

Located right by the Stadium skytrain station, “Chambar” is easy to get to for an early brunch or an after hour cocktail. And patio is open morning to late, serving everything within, outside on their sun soaked patio. An oasis of brick, leafy greens and vibrant florals. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served. With no reservations allowed. So come early and enjoy it fully.

My recap today won’t be of the actual experience, but of the festivities leading up to the launch.

Nothing spells summer like a cool cocktail on a hot day, and we would enjoy 4. Three of which are barrel-aged and highlighted on their updated happy hour menu (which they call an “interlude”).

First it was the “Le Soleil Punch” with Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Mount Gay Eclipse rum, Cointreau, House limoncello, Aperol, and an iced tea blend. This was an easy sipper perfect for patio drinking.

“Lind’s Lemonade” had a beautiful hue to it thanks to the hibiscus flower used. Matusalem platino, house made limoncello, hibiscus, fresh lemon, and Talisman pale ale. A slightly floral, spiked lemonade without sting of alcohol, a dangerous drink if you take in to many.

The “Zenzero Spritz” made for a good digestive thanks to the ginger. It was light tonic with a low calorie feel. Bianco vermouth, ginger, sparkling wine, and soda.

The “Botinst G&T” was a refreshing classic. Bontist gin, house tonic, grapefruit, and rosemary.

They also had bottles of rose and white wine on ice, and red at the ready.

And “Strange Fellows” brewing had their beer cart set up to pour their ales, lagers, and IPAs.

As this was a mix and mingler, we didn’t get the ability to taste full plates, only teasers of what they offer from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menu. Enough to wet my appetite and have me curious over what the full servings would be. But sadly I didn’t get enough of a taste to really review them for you here, but they are as follows

Duck confit & eggplant wrapped in phyllo dough. A little dry and heavily if not fully drizzled and smeared with the cream and orange blossom syrup.

Veal stuffed calamari. The taro chips served as great little spoons to scoop up squid and cream. A descant one biter that maybe too much as a full serving.

I loved the colours of English pea dumpling with spicy carrot hummus. Plenty of pea purée stuffed into chewy wrapper. The hummus offered spice, but I would have preferred a sour cream to dip into as well.

Chicken sausage and chorizo manchego sausage. Served in zesty slices with dollops of cream and pesto, the full sausage is typically featured on their brunch menu and in their paella.

Poached prawns on sourdough bread with jalapeño and fish roe. Piled high, there was a lot to unpack in this. I liked each individual element, but not necessarily all together in one bite. This was especially the case for the pickle ginger, which would have been better served as a finale palette cleanser.

The grilled asparagus with olive oil and shredded cheese was exactly as expected.

I loved the visual of this colourful presentation. A pick-a-bite platter with beet mousse over flatbread, fried halloumi cheese, pea falafel, and flatbread with carrot hummus. A little dry and plain, I would have liked a sweet and tangy sauce to dip into for some character.

The one bite of beef striploin was perfectly tender. Prepared with cioppino onion and A truffle aioli I found myself eating a couple of these. I wouldn’t mind trying the full serving of this one.

The seared tuna and Japanese yam with a beurre blanc was another classic bite well executed, that I wanted more of.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
All in all this was enough of a taste to have me planning a trip back to enjoy full plates, more cocktails, and their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHAMBAR
568 Beatty Street, Gastown Vancouver BC
604-879-7119
chambar.com

Jam Jar, revisit

This is one that I said I would be back to and here I was today. Since my original visit they have opened up a new location on South Granville, that was actually our original destination, however given the traffic and the proximity of their original location to my home, I decide to save myself the road rage and pull up to the one on Commercial Drive instead.

To read about the decor and the restaurant’s setting visit the link below, for the post of my original visit.

Jam Jar

 

We began at the bar and moved to a table once one cleared, not that it was the best decision. We ordered enough food for four but only had a table for two. The result, dishes coming to us one after another, and no room for a plate to eat off of. I ended up balancing one on the ledge of the table, over my lap and spilling the contents over myself, all over the floor. I broke a plate in the process and interrupted everyone else dining around me in doing so. The lesson I learned: don’t be greedy, order less or eat faster. Better yet, ask for a table for four to be able to house it all comfortably.

We made it in just at 6pm, the cut off of happy hour, however our server was kind enough to extend the discounted prices if we ordered right away and we did. One of each of their discounted menu items and a couple of their cocktails on special. They were items we were planning on getting anyways, and this way we ended up saving ourselves at least $15. Including trying the “Lebanese tacos” that weren’t even on their menu.

The “Makali” is the one to get, one of their more popular plates. Deep fried cauliflower in a pomegranate molasses. You expect it to be crispy, but instead it’s more soggy with the syrup pooling at the bottom. You also don’t get any of the sweetness you’d expect from the fruit, but instead a strong lemon citrus tone. It wasn’t the greatest, but something about it kept you going back for more until the bowl was empty, then thinking when would you come back for some more next time. But texture-wise I wanted them crispy with the molasses as a dip instead of a dressing.

The one I will always get and recommend is their hummus trio. They make all their hummus in house and it is always served slightly below room temperature. They are also the creamiest that I have ever had. The flavours of two of two rotate seasonally, with their “original” always included as a good benchmark. Today the former was a very savoury “sun dried tomato and basil” and a sweet “”strawberry lemonade”. The former was very herbaceous, more basil that anything else. It started almost spicy and ends light, making it a good transition into the sweeter latter. The “”strawberry lemonade” was definitely a dessert hummus, accurate to its name. It was like the summer time beverage in tang with sour lemon to start and sugary candy crystals to finish. It also had the texture of a smoothie without ever melting. Nothing you’d expect, and one you need to try a lot of to decide wherever you like it or not. I just wished that you get more pita to enjoy with it, and that they stay fluffy and warm for longer. In hindsight, I guess I could have just ordered some more, as the order only comes with two and you get plenty of the three hummuses to accompany it.

The “Lebanese tacos” were three mini tortilla rounds stacked with pickled and shredded vegetable, a salsa or spread; and either lamb sausage, falafel, or cauliflower. Basically each bite gave you a taste of a few of their other appetizers. The cauliflower being prepared just like the “Makali” cauliflower above.

The one with “Makanik” gave us a taste of their lamb sausages prepared with red wine and seven spices. They were a little on the dry side and unsubstantial like this. It left me wanting a juicy sausage to bite into, one with a crispy coating from a good grill, with all the flavours it had now.

The one with a falafel gave you their take on this popular chickpea and lentil fritter. Crunchy on the outside and a tad dry and ashy at its centre. This wasn’t my favourite for its texture.

The “Marinated prawns” were not on the happy hour menu, but with all the vegetable product above, my guest and I wanted some meat. They were made with Moroccan chermula, parsley, cumin, and cayenne. They were juicy and zesty, and quite very refreshing. Whereas I was expecting more grill and char. I enjoyed it the most paired with the rice from the dish below.

The “Riyash” was two lamb popsicles rubbed with cinnamon, turmeric, seven spices and Greek yogurt. I found isn’t didn’t pair well with the rice it came with. I found both items were on the sweeter side, where as I wanted one to balance out the other with savoury salt. The cinnamon was strong on the lamb and with the raisins and nuts this reminded me a lot of oatmeal, especially given the starchy chew of the rice.

The “Cheese rolls” came highly recommended by our server, so we got some too. They were like a spanakopita with the cheese and spinach. I am normally not a fan of them given the wilted nature of spinach, but they weren’t noticeable here and the crumbly texture and salty flavour of the cheese mix was ideal. Delicious, surrounded by the crispy flaky pastry. You didn’t really need the sauce it sat in, as it was just the same sauce that what was already heavily present in the “roll”. Instead, I wished for some plain pita. The cucumber helped to add some freshness, but there was not enough pieces to have one to chase every bite of roll with.

During this meal, everything had so much flavour to it. Normally you follow strong bites with more refreshing ones. But here everything was combating everything else with punches of similarly fragrant, yet very different flavours. The hummus was the lightest, so I could have used a side salad for balance. Where we got some help was with our happy hour $7 cocktails. The “Hibiscus bloom” was a cooling drink with fresh cucumber (you got its seeds in the brew too), their homemade hibiscus syrup, lime juice, gin and tonic.

On a following return visit, they released two new seasonal hummuses, which sounded the most exciting to date, (in my opinion). The partnering of salty and sweet with a beer flavoured hummus featuring “33 acres brewery” and a decadent “butter tart”. The former wasn’t bitter like beer, but strong and full bodied like a pint would be. The latter creamy and sweet enough to smear on a baked crust and call it a butter tart.

During this visit, we were just looking to snack so followed the above up with a bowl of their “seasonal olives” seasoned in cumin, dill, and lemon.

Which paired well with the “Batata Harra” as a starchy base. Cubed potatoes tossed in garlic and cilantro.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
My favourite place for hummus in the city. Unique interpretations and fun flavours, just like the restaurant as a whole. And they have yet to disappoint. I come in knowing what flavours I am going to get, and they deliver. The food was great, but be warned, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. With all the plates enjoyed all together, I found myself overwhelmed with flavour. So I recommend them more as a snacking spot. Small plates paired best with their artisan cocktails. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

JAM JAR
2280 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B5
604-252-3957
jamjaronthedrive.com

Salchica

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I have never tried, or do I have much experience with Northern African or Middle Eastern cuisine. So today I was excited to have the opportunity to explore both a little more through a media event, host by local food blogger, “Foodgressing”.

This was a well run event where local food lovers who not only eat, but photograph and write about their meal came together to catalogue a shared meal, in support of a newer restaurant.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Sadly the restaurant was dim and set with yellow bulbs, so excuse the quality and tone of my photos. They not only washed the food out, but didn’t do the plate justice. But as always, I try to bring my readers the most authentic look in to each of my experiences. This is so that you know what you will be getting from a restaurant in food, setting, and service. I do not edit any of the photos on this blog, and like it is with me, what you see is what you get. Media tasting or not. However there were a few bloggers who do put in the extra work to give you, their readers and followers, a more beautiful photo. Even going so far as to bring each plate served outside, for a natural lighting photo shoot, I suggest visiting them for some more delicious looking plates.

Located on the Granville entertainment strip, the restaurant doesn’t immediately stand out. A white awning with its red bull logo framing the name. A couple of chairs and a sandwich board out front. Nothing that would stop me in my tracks, and usher me in.

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Inside, a miniature bar in red fronts the place. The narrow room has tables and chairs on either ends. On the right is a unique high top-counter installation. It is a table with piping for legs, supported by another pipe attached to the wall. You sit on shelves with and back cushions glued to the wall. I appreciated its creative assembly. But as a larger group we were seated at a long table made out of all the smaller two tops pushed together.

Despite where you sit, everyone earns a view of the kitchen’s operations towards the back. A stainless steel counter fronting a ceiling to floor brick wall. This handsome wall is branded with their name. With a ding of a bell and a window pass, dishes move from kitchen to service within seconds.

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The room was decorated in pickling preserves. Mason jars and reused pickle jugs on the counter and on the shelves along the wall. Carrot shards, whole nugget potatoes, and cauliflower florets, out of the ones I could identify within the murky waters. The vibe as a whole was more casual and mellow, despite the dance music with poppy beats.

The menu was an easy to read and a well explained listing of appetizers, salads, dips, pickles, and entrees. They even made their own healthy shakes from vegetables and fruit. Knowing that many may not be familiar with their cuisine, they took the time to describe each dish with detailed sentences, which I appreciated. I like knowing what I put in my mouth and fully enjoying all the ingredients they make mention to. Not having a list, denies me of that oral pleasure.

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We started off with their popular dips with and bread. The serving allows you to choose three dips from their traditional dip menu, which comes with a side of toasted focaccia bread. As it is typically with such dishes, there was not enough bread for all the dip provided. The bread gave each bite most of its flavour, with the dip being more of an accent point.

The red coloured “Harrisa” is a spicy traditional Moroccan paste made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. Given its ingredient make up and bold hue, there is no surprise that this was prick your tongue spicy.

The green coloured “Sahuog” was another spicy and traditional dip, but this time its origin is yemenite. It is a sauce made of green pepper, cilantro, and garlic.

The off white “Garlic mayo herb” dip was helpful in pulling the other two together, and decreasing the tinge of burning they left me. It is made with Italian parsley, cilantro, spinach, and garlic aioli.

We ordered more of their focaccia bread and had it with the four salads below. Especially when I consider two of them as more dips than salad.

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“Baba ghanoush” is roasted mashed eggplant in a tahini lemon garlic seasoning. It was the perfect paste-like texture to scoop up with bread. It was served cold and creamy with mild chunks.

The “Hummus” is made in house. It is a roasted chickpea dip topped with garbanzo beans and extra virgin olive oil. It tasted exactly as you expected it would. It too is paste-like and chalky thick.

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The “Tabbouleh” salad was made with bulgar (a kind of dried cracked wheat), finely chopped tomatoes, cilantro, Italian parsley, and mint. Then seasoned in olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. It was a sharp salad full of refreshing mint and herby bites. A great side when needing a break from something to spicy or rich with meat.

The shredded carrot and lettuce coleslaw was not mentioned on menu. It too made a great side, something to give you a break in between more flavourful bites, shame it was served as a starter instead. And alone I found it too creamy with overwhelming mayo and too tangy with excessive vinegar.

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The “Chicken skewers” were marinated and grilled chicken breast, served with their in house made garlic chipotle mayo. The chicken was a little over charred and had an acrid taste. However the creamy mayo highlight was more than enough to have you forgetting all about that. The dip had a nice light flavour that also complimented the vegetable served as garnished. Together with the chicken, it made for a more comprehensive bite with creamy, fresh, salty and meaty; all rolled into one.

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The “Antipasti” is oven roasted vegetables topped with extra virgin olive oil. The assortment included eggplant, bell pepper, yam, carrot, and zucchini. They made eating vegetables fun with this one. Nicely grilled with a smokey flavour, but it could have been served warmer. The sweetness and the starch of the yam made them my favourite.

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The “Sweet liver pate” was not the most appealing dish. Not only because it looked like mud, or worst smeared on to a plate; but because you don’t typically use the descriptor “sweet” for ground up organ meat. This was stir fried liver and onions made into a pâté, flavoured with cinnamon and a bay leaf. And served with toasted focaccia bread and a homemade cherry tomato jam. I couldn’t wrap my head around this one. You tried it and went back for more to decide whether you liked it or not. The liver was pronounced, the sugar used was only so effective in hiding its distinct flavour. The one isn’t for me.

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The “Beef kebabs” were wrapped around a cinnamon stick and grilled. They were served over their baked potato cream purée, with a side of roasted tomatoes and shallot onions. Then all of it was topped with a sweet reduced balsamic sauce. This extra sauce was unnecessary, as it was an already pretty tasty version of meat and potatoes. Similarly the cinnamon added nothing but aesthetics to the meat. The beef was cooked to a nice pink, but was left on the drier side. I would have liked a nice gravy or jus to moisten things up with.

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The “Cherry salad” was a nice refresher. Made with three colours of tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, mint and feta cheese shavings. It reminded me of a sweet Greek salad, but with the refreshing twist of mint. And more importantly it was well dressed, every element was glistening from the vinaigrette, with plenty more to dip into at the bottom.

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“Couscous maraguez”. “Couscous” is small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a stew on top. Today that stew included traditional Moroccan spicy sausage made with fresh Alberta lamb, and a reduced harrisa sauce. “Harrisa”, is the dip from above made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. It being reduced meant it was less spicy, and the couscous also helped to mellow out the heat. The stew was compared to a ragu, especially with the soften vegetables. The sausage had a great flavour, but I wished it wasn’t so tough. It was dry and gritty to bite through. When I think sausage, I crave the kind that leave juices dripping down my chin (there is no way I can describe the feeling, without sounding dirty, this is my third edit). And sadly the same sausage, with the same dryness made an appearance in the dish below.

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“Shakshouka maraguez” was the same spicy maraguez sausages surrounded by slow cooked spicy tomato sauce and poached eggs, on a sizzling plate. It was served with more focaccia bread and a tahini sauce, that wasn’t necessary and that we didn’t use. Once the sizzling subsided we stirred the eggs in, the yolk offering some moisture to aid in the dryness of the sausage, but both it and the stewed tomato could only go so far.

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The “Spring chicken” was my favourite. Moroccan seasoning, marinaded chicken strips grilled with fresh rosemary leaves, served with carrot rice and drizzled with date molasses. The chicken was so tender and juicy that compared to it, the rice was too dry and hard. But not enough for me to stop eating it. The zesty chicken went really well with the flavour of the rice. The sticky syrup helped to add some moisture to it and give things a hint of sweetness.

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Our meal ended with the only dessert they offer, “Malabi”. “Malabi” is a traditional Arabic dessert of corn flour and milk, soaking in rose water and maple syrup, topped coconut shavings and crushed peanuts and almonds. It looks like custard, with a slightly firmer texture, but is like nothing I have had. The rose water was strong and distinct, it definitely was the front facing flavour. I would have preferred a light cream instead, and less sweet maple syrup. One guest was allergic to almonds, and they were kind enough to prepare a whole new serving for her without it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great place to grab a quick bite at, and expand your cultural horizons within. Many of the flavours and plates I have never had and have never tasted, definitely worth taking a second look at. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALCHICHA
1065 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L4
604-620-0306
salchicha.ca
Salchicha Meat Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Afghan Horseman

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This would be my first time having afghani cuisine. I didn’t know what to expect, but have only heard positive things about the “Afghan Horseman”. Although, I guess when you are the only game in town, it is easy to be the best in your field.

However, the main reason for our visit was actually for their unique dining experience. We heard it was cushions and dinner on the floor.

We choose their newer location for our visit, just before the Granville Island entrance. A walk up steps led to a roof top patio with gazebo and potted plants. However it had yet to open for the season.

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Inside, you immediately take in the lush setting. It was exotic with patterned fabric draped over the ceiling. The sheets sagged at sections as if it was dripping towards to floor. Off it hung lanterns and lamps dressed in metal and accented in colourful pom-poms. You could tell this was no ordinary restaurant.

We were given the option of dining in the regular dining area: on regular chairs, against regular tables. But we, like many others, gravitated towards their on the ground experience.

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We were asked to remove our shoes before threading on the carpeted floor. With the fabric ceiling and the narrow entry way, we felt like we were in an enclosed tent; it somehow made the setting more inviting and the food taste better.

The room was cozy with much of its four walls covered in patterned drapes, fringed carpet, and framed photos. The photos depicted Afghani rural life and portraits of their people. Surrounding the parameter of the room were the coffee tables we were to eat off of. Each one draped in cloth and set with a contrasting placemat. You face one another in a circle around the room. Here, you are able to talk or shout across the way. This makes it a great option for a larger group dinners. The central open space allowed for the servers to approach and tend to each individual table with ease.

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We sat with our backs against the wall, and it offered the perfect support for lounging at an incline. It was so comfortable and we felt so relaxed that we immediately got to talking and forgot to order. As a result we embarrassingly sent our server away several times, in order to give us a chance to eventually look at the menu.

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Going through the menu there was much I didn’t know and much more I wanted to try. We decided on the “Vegetarian’s delight platter for two” in order to try as much as we could. The serving started with a plate of appetizers. Two pitas paired with hummus and a spinach dip; and a salad.

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The “humus” was an Afghan style lentil dip. And the “sabzi mast” was the spinach and yogurt dip. They had the same creamy whipped texture, and I really couldn’t tell the two apart by taste. They were best enjoyed with the dipping of pillowy and fluffy pita bread.

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The salad was a mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and onions. It was served in a homemade cilantro dressing with walnuts, and had a healthy sprinkling of feta cheese.

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The rest of it came on a single platter that includes baked rice, ravioli, eggplant, lentil stew, and potatoes slices.

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“Kabuli palaw” is the baked rice topped with sauteed carrots, raisins, and almonds. The rice was salty and sweet with the juicy raisins and zesty spices. It had plenty of flavour on its own, offering a great break in between bites of its neighbours.

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“Aushak” is the ravioli stuffed with cheese and topped with cooked spinach and yogurt. It came baked in a ramekin, and reminded me of Italian cuisine in look and flavour. Chewy pasta, lumpy cheese, and a familiar tomato flavour.

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The “Badenjan Borani” is baked eggplant seasoned with herbs and topped with Chaka. It was slightly soggy, but enjoyable with a creamy texture. I don’t know what “chaka” is, but it’s flavour of tomato and cream really came through.

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The “Kocha soup” was a special Afghan lentil soup that is a mix of lentils and beans. It had great squash-like flavour, but I wasn’t partial to its sandy’s texture.

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The battered and baked potato slices were my favourite, especially when dipped into the tangy cooling tzazki-like sauce.
The sauce is called “khayar mast”, and like tzazki, it too is made from yogurt and cucumber. The potatoes were not heavy with grease of a thorough deep fry. They had a good amount of crunch, but not enough to be classified as a chip. And it was chewy, but not tender enough to be considered scallop potatoes. It was a happy medium I could enjoy as a basket on their own, or as a side with ketchup.

There was more than enough food for the two of us and we struggled to finish. We ended up packing majority of what was left, for lunch the next day. They were just as good then, if not better; when the sauces were allowed to be absorbed and after the flavours sunk in. As for the food, I found everything great and oddly familiar in flavour profiles, therefore questioned how authentic the dishes were. Especially with the potatoes and pasta. But seeing as I know nothing of the cuisine, I will just confirm that my first taste of afghani food was a success, and that I will be back for more soon. I only tried their take on vegetarian, but if the rest of it, including the meat dishes are this good, I will definitely be having more.

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This packing home of food allowed us to save some room to try their authentic desserts, like the rice pudding. They had a similar rendition with milk instead of rice, making it more watery. But the rice version with its porridge-like consistency had a nice mashy texture, contrasted by the crispiness of the crushed pistachios. It made for a great after meal palette cleanser.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The are certainly one of a kind. With their patterned fabrics and rich cultural pieces you were swept away. Why would anyone sit a regular table when given this option? I wouldn’t necessarily crave any of the cuisine again, or would come back just for a dish. However I will be traveling back for the space, when trying to bring guests to somewhere original and different. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

AFGAN HORSEMEN
#202 – 1833 Anderson Street, Vancouver BC, V6J 1H2
604-873-5923
afghanhorsemen.com
Afghan Horsemen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Donair Town

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My partner was looking for convenience eating, a quick bite to tie him over in between meals. He often finds donairs a good solution, so we found ourselves stopping here. “Donair Town”, with its orange and blue awning and and its name in red between matching flames.

This was fast food made to order with a few small tables for those who didn’t enjoy eating upright and on the go. The sun allowed for outdoor seating, in front of their all glass exterior; and their mezzanine inside allowed for a more private setting upstairs, by the television. Both available if you didn’t like the table directly across the service counter, with the view of butts waiting in line, obstructing your meal.

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The shop was set up very functionally.
Faux stone floors and matching counters, made for uneven surfaces to walk on and lead against. The only elements of decoration was the painted mural of the Mediterranean, buildings of stark white against blue skies and bluer waters. And a storage closet painted in a similar blue and white hue with a thatched roof upstairs.

They fit the cuisine well consider donairs are Greek or Turkish in origin, known as “doners” and “gyros”. The donairs that we know today and would be enjoying now, were an adaptation from them and of the “Halifax” donair. “Halifax donairs” are characterized by having a very sweet sauce. This sauce is made from condensed milk, sugar, garlic, and vinegar. This concept was brought over to Canada by a Turkish immigrant.

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The counter where they made their wrapped meals was right by the door. Behind it, the typical hunks of meat spinning on a rod, waiting to be craved and served up. They were available in chicken, beef, and lamb. The process begins with a pita, it is filled with one of the three meats above. To it they add a bevy of fresh vegetables and hearty sauces. The pre-cut ingredients are kept cool in metal bins for an easy grab and add add method. You can craft each to your liking with lettuce, onions, cucumber, pickles tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, tzatziki sauce, tabouli, hot sauce, and a garlic sauce.

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But they also had unique combinations with equally unique names for those who didn’t feel like being creative. Like the “Halifax” with only onion, tomato, and that sweet sauce that I mentioned above. The “Lebanese” came with tabouli and hummus. The “Hawaiian” offered pineapples that their sweet sauce. The “Caribbean” came with jalapeños. And the “Greek” with olives and feta cheese. For vegetarians they had a “mushrooms” donair with onions. They even had a donair poutine, their ingredients and sauces over fries.

Once tightly packed and rolled within the pita, the pound of food gets some time on the grill. This warms it all up and melds it all together. This is one of the only places that did this, and my partner liked them for it.

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He went for a chicken donair and to it he added the “regular fixings” and a request for the sweet sauce. The “regular” ingredients were listed as lettuce, onions, cucumber, and tomatoes, with your choice of sauce. So he was very disappointed to bite in and discover red and yellow peppers in the mix. He does not like peppers, and didn’t know to specify “no peppers”, they were not mentioned any where. The result was, after one bite it became my donair.

It was a heavy bundle with plenty of sauce, a messy affair needing lots of napkins. Stuffed full with charred chicken, lettuce, and red and yellow peppers. The sweetness of the sauce played off the sweetness of the grilled peppers well for a harmonious sweet and tangy flavour profile. I took just the one bite, and it left a lingering taste to come. I was an interesting mix with the sweetness, one that I didn’t mind trying and could continue to finish. But it isn’t one that I would order again. I prefer my donairs with the tang of sour cream or ranch dressing.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was a quick stop, the food came fast, it was eaten fast. The service was efficient and the place clean enough. Your standard donair place with no complaints. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DONAIR TOWN
1793 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C9
604-569-1124
Donair Town Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jam Jar

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A recommended destination when those who don’t eat meat dine with those that do, with enough gluten free and vegan friendly options to satisfy all preferences. This restaurant is definitely one I would suggest if trying to accommodate the vegetarian of the group, giving them more than just the option of salad or soup. With plenty of meat dishes to keep omnivores happy as well. There aren’t many vegetarian heavy restaurants I would venture to if given the choice, so this one is definitely worth writing about.

 

The exterior looked chic with its wood framed glass with polished windows. Although not very telling of what they offered and what they specialized in. The menu taped to the glass helped in this: folk Lebanese cuisine.

You walk in through a narrow corridor, up a ramp with rail, framed by wood panelled walls. You take a pause at their hostess booth, which is a repurposed bar cart with wheels. There was plenty of seating, but in order to plan and accommodate their guests to come, we were asked to wait for a table of two to be cleared and bussed for our group of three. As we waited I helped myself to one of their complimentary chalky lollipops as I took in the theme of the room.

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The “folk” extended in style and substance. From the twang of the music genre, to the functional but worn furniture, and the overall simplicity of the homespun food. The rusted folding chairs that we sat on as we waited, built on to this. And the scuffed wood floors, the scratched up decorative mirror, and the stained booth cushions all added to this immersive theme.

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I liked the rustic bar the most, even despite the tiled pillar separating the station in two halves, blocked my full view of it. The tiling on this pillar was isolated here and on the base of the bar. It had a very European subway look and feel to it. White tile with dark grout under a brushed metal counter top. Though it was the gathering of wooden crates on the wall above that drew the eye. Various sizes and dimensions of crates attached by it bottom to wall. A clustered set of these supported spirit bottles and their jiggers; the other adjacent, housed glasses for use. It included the very folky mason jar, used to take home their homemade hummus. The line of bulbs above the bar highlighted it perfectly, with small bulbs close to the ceiling and larger ones suspended from cables.

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As I mentioned earlier, we were seated at a two top that easily converted into one for three. It was by a lengthy section of couch with two rusted fold out chairs, all framing a wooden round of a small side table. Just as well, the whole premise of the place is to share your plate and your food. So we really didn’t need any additional space.

It is worth noting that their speciality group table is located in the corner by the front windows. It’s seats were attached to the actual table and easily extended out for use, then swung back in to conserve space when not in use. I also imagined it fairly easy to sweep under with this set up.

The menu delivered on their promise of “… East Mediterranean flavours that utilize fresh vegetables, olive oil, & lemon juice as a base for dishes that are crafted with aromatic spices”. Their intention is to bring you meals you normally would only find in Lebanese homes, paired with freshly baked flat bread. And from what I can tell they do it fairly well. The menu was a long list to read through. Ingredients I was familiar with, but most I have never had together. Chickpeas were plentiful, and I saw a lot of eggplant and yogurt. Cumin, red pepper, and five spice were common seasonings. It was a warming array even with the divide between hot and cold appetizers.

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Given their focus and the popularity of their hummus, we figured the “Hummus trio with seasonal flavours” was worth giving a try to. This month’s rotating flavours were thyme and sage, butternut squash and honey, and their original. I can never commit to finishing a whole tub of hummus from the grocery store, so it is nice to have the option of sampling serving sized portions here, as you liked it. “Amazing” was the word my guest used to describe this platter. Each dip was served cold for dipping, drizzled over with a healthy coating of olive, oil and served with a side of room temperature pita. Though it would have been nicer to have the pita folds baked warm, to give it a nice and steamy contrast to the chilled spreads. We ended with more dip then bread so were forced to order a section batch to finish the hummus with. They were rolled up and placed in a tin bucket,like a vase of flowers.

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The thyme was distinctive, with plenty of flavour. The exact tone you would imagine when thinking of Lebanese food, but it had a freshness of spices to it. This gave it a balanced mix of sweet and spicy.

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The one with squash had the heaviest and creamiest texture. With it also being sweet and nutty, it bordered on dessert with its caramelized finish.

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The original was most familiar. Earthy and creamy with the most pronounced chickpea essence and grainy texture of the three.

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For an entree we choose the “Falafel”, it is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas. This was their rendition of the popular vegetarian alternative. We made this hot mezze (appetizer) a full plate for only dollars more. The $3 additional gave us batata harra, brown rice or both; and our choice of salad and cold mezze. Each lunch time main such as this, is available as a mezze, wrap, or platter; depending on your hunger needs.

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In the platter it was either the “falafel” or the cauliflower. We exercised the third option and had a bit of both, with no regrets. The cauliflower was amazing, the best cauliflower I have ever had and know I would want more of. It was salty and zesty with a crisp coating and a tender, slightly soggy centre. Similarly the falafel had a hardened crispy shell with a moist whipped centre.

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We also got the both the cubed potatoes and brown rice when given the chance. Well roasted, the potatoes were a nice base, starchy, much like the rice.

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For our salad we had the “chickpea lentil salad” with green lentils, cilantro, cumin, and tomatoes. Everything glistened with a thorough coating of olive oil. It gave the lot a nice flavour peaked by the spices used. The salad was the refreshing element on the platter, a quick and easy break in all the fragrant and rich sides.

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For our cold mezze choice there was some confusion. We had the “Muttabel”, a roasted eggplant dip, but could have sworn we ordered their “spinach dip” with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. The eggplant dip had a similar look to the hummus above, but was completed with a much chunkier texture. It also had the gummy property of eggplant embedded. Easy to scoop up with the whole round of pita included with it. The pita also went well with the dish of dip centring all the elements. Which in turn complimented everything else. Using it was an easy way to rejuvenate the plate.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As a whole, I really liked the place: It’s a good one to start a conversation within, a great one to bring a date to, one to take a pause for a snack at; and best of all, a restaurant to enjoy good food for an even better deal. I only regretting not taking some hummus back home with me. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

JAM JAR
2280 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B5
604-252-3957
jamjaronthedrive.com
Jamjar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urban Gate

An introductory lesson in Persian cuisine~

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Having never had Persian food, I thought my first time would be best spent with one native to the cuisine. “Urban Gate” came highly recommended as one of our Persian host’s favourite. We came as a group to have our dinner navigated and food translated for the most authentic of experiences by her.

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I stereotypically envisioned ornate rugs, rounded cushions and velvety curtains; instead we got a sports bar with faux leather booths, barstools, Canucks pendants, and flat screens. Completely not what I expected when I asked her to take us to the best place for Persian. The exterior was modern with their own parking garage under the building and its own grocery store adjacent. Both the restaurant and grocery were family owned and operated. Both shared the same name and the same black and green signs.

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Waking in, the fist thing you notice is the large fish tank on your right. It is an underwater wonderland decorated with plastic plants and speckled pebbles, where a few tropical fish swam. Set atop were two large scale ships, wood waxed and sails spread. Both items were use to fill the glassless window ledge that separated the joining grocery store with the restaurant.

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As I mentioned earlier the decor was that of your regular sports bar. A television round every corner and a pull down screen for more media to be protected on to. Tonight’s sporting event: darts. Who knew this was such a highly followed activity? The room was kept darken. Majority of the light came from the windows looking out on to the patio, and the back lit running water feature behind the bar. With spacious booths and long tables for family style sharing there was the possibility to host several large parties. And with secluded corners and tucked away nooks they had also had ideal seating for those wanting more privacy with their dinner.

The menu was a compilation of common and casual bar fare. But between the salads, burgers, and steaks, were Persian influences and Persian dishes. Calamari, nachos, and crispy lavash bread under bruschetta. Fettuccine Alfredo, chicken parm, and wraps marinated with Persian specific spices. Their slogan of “integrating the world of different tastes” was accurate. They offered something for everyone while catering to the demographic of their area.

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“Dojh”. A traditional yogurt drink made with water and mint. It smelled and looked like salad dressing. Shockingly it was savory and not sweet like what you would expect from a creamy white drink with a thicker consistency. Apparently this is a healthier drink that keeps you cool when its hot, that also aids in digestion. There is also a westernized version that is sweeter and carbonated. Though the herbaceous-ness of the version before us was hard to get past without food, with its sour and watered down ranch-like taste. I am glad I got to try, but would never actually buy. I had another swig or two with my entree and found the spices in both really complimented one another. Still hard to drink with its texture, but better the second and third time around.

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We were kept waiting for our appetizers but they were certainly worth the time. Once again flavours and textures I have never had together, and a true experience I am happy to have tried. “Kashke Bademjan”. Grilled eggplant mixed with whey sauce (kashk), spiced with special seasoning and garnished with fried mint, onion & garlic. And although it wasn’t listed on the menu we confirmed there were walnuts present. A dangerous fact not to mention for those with allergies, like one of my guests today. It certainly tasted a lot better than it looked. This thick and juicy mix was better eaten in large mouthfuls with the accompanying room temperature pita. Though the pita could have enhanced things by being toasted for a nice crunch.

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This is the Persian equivalent of tzatziki made with shallots and yogurt. It tasted similar to the Greek tzatziki even without the use of dill and lemon. The spread had a cream cheese flavour with a Greek yogurt texture. A light taste with hints of tang and sour. And like tzatziki it pairs well with bread, rice, and grilled meats.

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The “Urban signature kebab selections” are smaller cuts of meats, poultry, and vegetables threaded on a stick and cooked over a slow fire. Their technique of making Persian-style kebabs comes from their family’s Iranian traditions. Each order is served with a basmati rice cone topped with saffron, a BBQ roma tomato, raw red onion, a wedge of lemon, and a small house salad on the side. “Bakhtiari”. One skewer of “Barg”, Sirloin Steak marinated in yogurt, onion, and saffron. And one skewer of “Jujeh”, chicken marinated in lemon, yogurt and saffron.

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For a little bit of everything we had the “Urban Persian Sampler”. 1/2 an order of “Jujeh”, chicken marinated in lemon, yogurt and saffron. 1/2 an order of “Barg”, Sirloin Steak marinated in yogurt, onion, and saffron. And a full kabob of “Koobideh”, ground beef & lamb, mixed with onion and spiced with saffron. All the meat was tender, each block consistently grilled from skewer to skewer; and surprisingly juicy for how lean it was. The rice was light and airy, it made the ideal base to allow the seasoned meat to shine as the star of the dish.

We unfortunately had one of our two sampler orders forgotten. Apologizes were given but nothing was done to make amends. By the time the second portion came out my guests who had ordered it to share were already full. They kept busy snacking on dips and filling up on pita as everyone else ate. I would have like to see a discount offered or a complimentary dessert given to better smooth over the situation.

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“Gheimeh”. A red stew made with lentil beans, tomato paste, and lamb; and topped with potato sticks. It had a nice tart flavour to it from the stewed tomato, and a strong rich flavour from the saffron. The fried potato sticks on top gave a good crunch to compliment and contrast the softness of the lentils.

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“Lamb shank” served over top “baghali polo” and accompanied with hot lamb broth & a house salad. “baghali polo” is basmati rice prepared with fava beans and dill. The rice was amazing, like regular basmati it was kept light and airy, but made savory with all the fresh herbs used. A taste that matched the gaminess of the lamb. I could have eaten the rice as it, it was so thoroughly seasoned and filling with the lentils. The broth was used more as a sauce to dip the tender pieces of lamb into.

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There was no desert menu, all desserts came from the bakery and grocery store next door. Choose a slice of cake to eat in or take home a box of pastries at $10 per pound. Like the pub, they too offered Persian specialities intermingled with North American favourites. Cream puffs, fruit cakes, and chickpea cookies. Muffins, fruit Danishes, and baklava. “Falot”, a yellow cookie filled with jam”. And “Zoolbia”, deep fried sugar syrup.

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A collection of pastries and sweets I purchased.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I can successful deem our first experience into the world of Persian cuisine a success. Out of our group of ten and us eight that made this our first time try, we all raved over what we had. Other then getting too full too fast on rice and pita we had no complaints. For me I found the food comforting with its similarities with Greek cooking. Familiar with seasoned rice, a slow roasted or gently grilled meat skewer, a side salad and the need for lemon. We were just missing the roasted potatoes, but were given roasted tomatoes in exchange. There was definitely value in our meal, things were even better as leftovers the next day. Overall great price for amount of food we got to enjoy. Don’t deny your cravings.

URBAN GATE
1158 The High Street, Coquitlam BC, V3B7W4
604-472-8888
urbangate.ca
Urban Gate on Urbanspoon

East is East, Middle Eastern cuisine

When West Meets East ~

“East is East” is a one of the few restaurants in Vancouver, serving Middle Eastern cuisine. They are well known for their vegetarian and vegan offerings. Walking into their Main Street location is like walking into another realm; it is modelled after quaint eateries along the ancient Silk Road. The décor really sets this place apart and brings you into a cavern of wonder. Your senses are delighted by the rich smells of spice lingering in the air, your eyes behold the luxurious carpets underfoot, and you hear the exotic sounds harvested from live instruments. It is really a full experience in dining. All the furniture is unique and hand crafted from full pieces of wood. Cracks and ragged edges have been left to give a piece its character, the finished product it is polished to a shine. The same type of wood makes up everything else: the walls, tables, chairs, benches, desks, and even the load bearing columns. This gives the restaurant its warmth, and is further accented by their low hanging lamps and their flickering tea lights. Everything feels so organic with the addition of fresh petals and delicate flowers at each place setting. All this is centred around their open stage; Here, different artists and musicians performing daily.

This was both our first visit at “East and East” and we wanted the full experience. We choose to particpate in the “Silk Route Feast”, which is their signature tasting menu. You choose from a set of preselected dishes. Each comes with as many helpings of dhal soup, organic salad, boulani, roti, garlic pickles, Afghan and basmati rice, that you can stomach. To start, each person is only able to select two dishes, in sampling sizes; but are able to try them all and as much of each without limitation. The purpose of this is to get you acquainted to the food and to help you really enjoy all the different spices used. Your meal starts with a sample of chai tea, spiced to the point it burns the back of your throat. And it ends with a fruit smoothie with more spices, but these help to cools the tongue and neutralize the pallet.





“Quinoa Tabouli Salad” & “Persian Salad”. These were not to my liking, as is uses a lot of cilantro, which I am not a fan of. But the Persian salad would have been great as a spicy salsa for tacos.


“Sambal Squash Soup”, think squash puree, but with chunks. It could have used some more salt and a creamier texture.
“Mystic Soup”, made with lemon grass, green curry, ginger, and mushrooms in coconut milk. It was really beautiful, but was far too salty and sour to be enjoyed.

“Minced Beef Kebab”, beef pan kebab with mushroom, green peppers, tomatoes, and herbs.
“Chicken Masala”, Chicken in creamy masala and herbs. A very similar texture and resemblance to butter chicken; but without all the butter it is not as rich or delicious.
One the side is the basmati and Afghan rice. The later was my favourite, and had the addition of raisins for a sweet pop of flavour.


“Afghan Eggplant”, baked eggplant sautéed with herbs, tomato, onion, and garlic.
“Eastern Ratatouille”, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, grilled garlic sautéed in herbs and spices.
And another side of basmati and Afghan rice because it was bottomless.

“Peas & Cheese”, peas, paneer cheese and potato mixed with spices. So Simple and yet so good.
“Beet Salad”, simply house made pickled beets.
“Dhal Soup”, three different kinds of lentils, cauliflower, spinach, herbs and spices.
“Seasonal Fish Curry”, tasted like yoru run of the mill curry, with fish as your protein.
“Wild Salmon”, baked miso salmon in coconut milk, lime leaves, and red and green Thai curry.
“Alu Gobi”, cauliflower and potato in a tangy tomato coconut sauce.


“Spinach Panner”, whipped spinach and paneer cheese with mushrooms.
“Baby Okra”, if you like the gummy texture of okra, you would appreciate this dish. I sure did.
“Lamb Pan Kebab”, lamb roasted in ginger, onion, tomato, garlic, and five spice curry.
“Mango Butternut Squash”, butternut squash and mango cooked with coconut milk, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and curry leaves.

Would I go back? – No. In totality this was a one of a kind experience, and out of my eating norm. I did not grow up with these flavours, nor have heard of some of these spices until tonight. On the same token, this is something that I am glad to have tried. It is always a treat to try something new. If you are a vegetarian this is the place for you. “East is East” offers many dishes that don’t all taste like cardboard. Everything is distinctive and rich in culture.
Would I recommend it? – Yes! “East is East”, or its sister restaurants, “Silk N’ Spice”, and “Chai Gallery” are all worthy of trying. They offer healthy dishes, rich in vegetables; and exciting with flavour. And you get to enjoy them in such a dynamic environment.
Don’t deny your craving on this one, and take a trip down the Silk Road.


EAST MEETS EAST
4413 Main St, Vancouver BC, V6K 2H5
604-879-2020
eastiseast.ca

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