For the most part I try to avoid the rumour mill or hearsay, because unless you were there and a part of it, it is hard to confirm what you have heard to be true. Case in point: I have been hearing a lot of press regarding Qube, word-of-mouth says it had a rocky start when then first opened. However more recent videos, reels, and comments posted by local food writers I trust, have said they’ve been incredible, and the food tastes like nothing they have had. So the only one way to find out what is true is to try them for myself.
Mind you a lot can happen in a month, especially when starting a new restaurant. So my experience in this review can be vastly different from how far they have come to this point. The example I have is regarding their drink menu.
During my visit, I offered some unsolicited advice to the chef after he was not shy to admit he is only 21 and has had no professional experience in the kitchen; a brazen thing to do in Vancouver’s food scene, while dawning chef whites. Originally his drink menu had all their cocktails numbered numerically QI to QXIII, his reasoning was that it is easier for the bartenders. But what about the customers trying to decide what to order. They have to read each line of ingredients to know what to choose. And QIX tells me nothing. I myself, only had one drink because I didn’t want to have to go through the lot of it again trying to choose a second.
Although I must say their glassware is magical. A series of unique stems from birds to mushrooms, and even a jelly fish to capture whimsy in a cocktail.
This was much like their decor with its warm woods and bright faux greenery. A nice contrast to the other side of the room with its cool leather and back lit mountain scape art pieces.
In a similar tone the table was set with sparkling glass ware for water, golden cutlery, and all the plates served were of a stunning stone. You got such an elevated setting that the use of paper napkins (cited for hygiene reasons) did stand out as an eye store.
I digress, to double back: I was not joking about not wanting to leaf through the drink menu so simply ordered QI. Jalapeno infused Tequila Blanco, Strawberry, Jalapeno Syrup, Seed Lip non alcoholic Spirit, Lime, & Firewater Bitters. Having the non-alcoholic liquor the drink feels like it ought to hit you harder than it does. So this would be a great option as a lunch cocktail. I do like a savoury cocktail, so appreciated the strong spice and liked how the pepper dominated with a back of the throat tingle, paired with a whisper of fruit barely noticeable.
One of my dining companions ordered the QIlI, described as a “gentleman’s drink”. Brandy, Laphroaig Single Malt Peat Scotch, Black Peppercorn Syrup, and chocolate Bitters. Served in a jellyfish glass with a semi-sphered King Cube & an Amarena Cherry, like an old fashion. It was predominately smokey with the Peated scotch at the forefront. I tried hard to get some of the aforementioned peppercorn and chocolate, as I thought it would have added some nice depth to the otherwise one toned glass.
Before our meal began we would learn a little more about the cuisine. A collection of recipes passed down from the owner’s grandmother from Lebanon. All of which contains no garlic, as the goal was to have the diner leaving light with a pleasant after taste in their mouths; and they believed garlic deters from this.
The following is a collection of their best selling dishes and the kitchen’s favourites, shared amongst three women. Many of them familiar plates, for those accustomed to the cuisine. Note, all the starters dips that we had, came with a basket of store bought pita to use as scoops.
The Muhammara is a mix of walnuts and cashew nuts with capsicum, cumin, and tomatoes. This was a rich dip, heavy with the weight of the nuts that ended with the flavour of tangy tomato.
The Moutabal is roasted eggplant, mixed with garlic, tahina, yogurt, and lemon juice. It was tasty with a lovely roasted flavour to it, but this and all the other dips were a little steep at $16 an appetizer plate. Definitely an indulgence for the quantity and truthfully it wasn’t unlike other such dips I have had else were, and at other restaurants for less.
The Makdous was a bed of Labneh topped with oil aged eggplants, each filled with walnuts and red peppers. As is the flavour of the pickled eggplants was much. The yogurt did its best to neutralize, but I still found myself reaching out for a drink to chase a bite with. I typically love a good brine, but found these pickles abrasive.
I was interested in the Chicken Liver and am always down to try something unexpected. These were Sauteed chicken Liver with onions and pomegranate molasses. I imagined it like pate, but it was more like nuggets of liver. As is it was too much, and felt like it needed a base, something to mask some of the gamey texture and taste. Bread would have been nice, especially as we barely had enough pita for the dips as is. Thankfully we were sharing, a dish like this for one would get monotonous quick.
The Fattoush Salad boasted twenty ingredients of which included local vegetables, herbs, and oils. We actually counted and couldn’t make out the full twenty. But gathered it was nine ingredients, leaving the rest to be eleven types of seasonings. It was a nice, but standard salad. Light and bright, but nothing had it standing out.
Their Hummus Beiruty is original hummus topped with sauteed lamb tips. The humus was some of the lightest I have had, and without the garlic it ate clean, as promised. Here, the meaty morsels of lamb had it finishing a lot heavier, especially with its charred edges. These two were an unexpected and nice pairing.
In hindsight, it would have been nice to have tried all of the above as a sample board, and to not have to commit to their smaller, full serving sizes. Maybe something they will look to doing in the future.
Moving on to entrees the Fried Kibbeh was house fried kibbeh shells stuffed with onions and rib ground beef, served with yogurt and mint. Perfectly shaped rounds over scattered lettuce. Sadly they were bland, even with a generous dunk in mint and yogurt.
Housemade Lebanese sujuk is their house spicy sausage sauteed with onion, garlic, lemon, and pomegranate. They looked like breakfast sausages, but with layers to it and a flavour that grew the more you ate. It started spicy then ended sweet with the sauce. As is, it felt like it needed a base, something to pair and play off of it. A buttered bun would have done nicely.
The Fattah Lahme is a bed of fried pita covered with herbed chickpeas, cured yogurt, cold pressed olive oil, basil butter, and pine nuts. We opted in for the add-on of the beef slices at more, for more. This looked to be a Lebanese take on nachos, and much like any plate of nachos, the chips were quick to soften. And in this case they grew incredibly soggy from the heavy dip. It would have been nice to have them separated on the plate. Other than that the overall flavour was well received and the beef well prepared.
The Lamb Belly was a little too fatty for my tastes, even with the inclusion of the potato puree and seasonal local vegetables as sides to take off some of that gristly tension. This got more indulgent with the heavy handed use of the cilantro olive oil in the sauce. I did like the whipped smoothed potatoes, but thought the asparagus over cooked and wilted. It is worth noting that the owner did mention this was not traditional Lebanese fare from his grandma, but his own take and preference on a plate.
Samke Harra is a spicy fish dish, and sadly it didn’t look as appetizing as the other plates. Marinated haddock topped with a samke harra salsa and an eggplant thyme emulsion. The fish was overly softened and could have used a crispy crust for some texture. As is, it felt under seasoned. The vegetable mix on top was pleasant and necessary for flavour, but it hid the fish under its physical weight and punchy taste. I did like the loose pile of eggplant dip on the side, but it needed some pita to go with it. And seeing as this was an entree, we had finished our basket of appetizer pita long ago.
And for dessert we ended with Baklava and ice cream. These were not made in house. Flaky pastry that claws at the throat, with a nutty sweet filling; and ice cream to chase.
At this point the restaurant has most likely updated their menu, as they continue to take in feedback and adjust. It is commendable that they’re listening to their customers and making adjustments to grow their fan base; while also taking into consideration the locals in the area, that appreciate the diversity they bring into the neighborhood.
Qube Lebanese Cuisine
1850 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC