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Qube, revisited

Entertaining season is upon us. The colder weather is driving more and more indoors, and people don’t need excuse to get together over dinner. So I have an unexpected recommendation for you, thanks to our most recent visit to Qube to celebrate a birthday with family. Six adults and two kids, the latter, less adventurous diners. However, unanimously, old and young alike, everyone had a fantastic time and a meal of authentic Lebanese cuisine to remember.

This is my second visit in a few months and honestly the two experiences were day and night. I could see how much the chef and kitchen has grown. They are already known for taking feedback to heart and enacting on it to best serve their local community.

Not to skip ahead, but there was a great selection of proteins and sides. Best ordered with multiple mouths to feed. Sharing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, helped to round out a filling meal.

Although, I would note that on this night the bar seemed to struggle, as we waited well into the meal before having our ordered drinks. And then sadly not wanting to have more, less there be another wait and they arrive well after the food is done.

Their bar menu has a slew of classics, all easy to read and order from. My original visit had me commenting that listing their drinks by number did little to serve the restaurant or their customers. As ordering required reading every itemized option in order, to make your selection from Q1 to Q13. So now with actual names it was a matter of weeding between the classics or one of their signature cocktails. Overall, this list was pretty standard. Whereas I would have liked to see them incorporate more of their culture with seasonings and spices used in their cocktails. Something different to truly make it their own, and pair better with their cuisine.

The Classic Negroni was equal parts Gin, Campari, and sweet Vermouth; finished off with an orange twist.

They’re Elevated Old Fashioned featured Bullet bourbon, a splash of spiced syrup, a few dashes of angostura bitters, and all finished off with an orange twist.

The Mai Tai Mirage has Lavender infused rum with lime juice, triple sec, lemon grass syrup, lavender syrup, grenadine, and lavender bitters.

The Caffeine Kiss was their take on the classic Expresso Martini with espresso bean infused vodka, kahlua, vanilla syrup, and coffee.

My order was the Fiery Fusion, looking for a savoury cocktail to better pair with the food to come. This was jalapeño infused tequila, lime juice, strawberry, and jalapeño syrup. Not as spicy as the same suggests, but sweet and tangy instead.

As for food, we would get to taste majority of their updated menu, to share family style across the table. Grabbing a scoop and passing it on.

Here, I would note the service didn’t match the standards of the food. We had to ask for plates and utensils. And were left waiting for the pita to enjoy with the dips to start. This was point I made to our server three times, and on each occasion she returned empty handed. She was also curt with me, just as annoyed that I had to follow up three times. However, the kitchen was quick to push out even more plates, not giving us breathing room to start and enjoy the food as courses. Although we made, due and the quality of the food well made up for this.

Muhammara is the red coloured dip made from walnuts and cashews, mixed with together with capsicum, cumin, and tomatoes. Zestier than the hummus above with the sweetness of the tomatoes coming through.

The Pomegranate Moutabal is roasted and mashed eggplant dip with garlic tahina, yogurt, lemon juice, and fresh pomegranate. Thinner and lighter than what most of us know this dip to be. The kids loved it with the accent of sweet pomegranate seeds.

The Labneh & Zaatar offered a tangy contrast smear to the sweeter dips above. Strained soft yogurt topped with Lebanese wild thyme. It offered a nice palate refresher between the more heartier bites from the entrees bellow.

Another one the kids loved was the Fried Kibbeh, House Fried Kibbeh shells stuffed with onions and rib ground beef, plus yogurt and mint. These were like meatballs, but as a football shaped croquet, with a crispy coating. For my tastes I have liked a tomato based dip to better compliment this, whereas I found the yogurt on the side similar to the dip above, obscured the natural flavours of the ground beef.

The House stuffed grape leaves were served chilled. Leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, and tomatoes; then cooked in a lemon broth. They ate like a one bite meal all bundled up as a canapé. I personally am not a fan of the texture of the wilted leaves and found them to be bitter, taking away from the filling.

The Makdous was an interesting one. Oil aged baby eggplants filled with walnuts and red peppers, served over a bed of strained yogurt. There were too many bold flavours on this plate. The small bulbs of eggplants were heavily pickled for a tart lip puckering sensation. It didn’t compliment anything on the table or the yogurt on the plate. This one left me craving a beer to help curb the saltiness. I had it last visit and today had the same feeling for them, as now. Thankfully one of us at the table absolutely loved them and had it all.

The table as a whole loved the Calamari lemoni. Fried calamari tossed in a zaatar lemoni cream sauce. None of us have had calamari like this before. It had a different texture with its chunky, grainy breading. This was the saltier side and heavy handed on the citrus. Yet another dish that would be great with some beer.

Similarly, the Batata harra was a nice small plate to have accompanying drinks. Fried potato cubes tossed in a garlic, tomato, and cilantro seasoning. For me they served as a nice side for the entire meal, acting as a base to help balance out some of the more punchier sauces.

The Lamb Rib was a whole 2lbs piece served on a wooden chopping board. It was slow cooked then glazed in a Lebanese sumac BBQ sauce. The bones slid out from between the meat with ease, and each morsel practically melted in your mouth. It was familiar when compared to other sweet honey barbecue sauces, but prepared with their zesty Lebanese twist. It just would have been nice to have a side of seasoned rice or potatoes to go with this. As is, the meat alone felt incomplete as a whole dish.

The Surf & Turf was yet another modern dish given Qube’s own interpretation. When was the last time you saw Lamb Shank and Lobster tail together on one plate? The familiar Lebanese spices and use of molasses and fresh pomegranate gave it its character, bringing all the ingredients together to have the dish feeling cohesive, to itself and with all the others. Both proteins well coupled with the sea of buttery mashed potato they sat in.

The table was gobsmacked by what the menu titled “Lebanese Birds”. These were three oven roasted hajal quails. The novelty was really having a whole fowl to yourself. Once again, the kids really gravitated towards these, given its size to their proportion. As for the way it tastes, I could have used a gravy with it. Something to add salt and some moisture to an otherwise dry bird.

The Chicken Tawouk was Marinated Chicken with house pickle and Turmeric Saffron, served with Rice dressed with Hot sauce and a Garlic sauce. Once again, perfectly tender, slow cooked meat that flaked apart. And this time a side to best enjoy it with for a more fulsome bite.

The table unanimously enjoyed the two fish options. The Fish & Tajen was BC Haddock white fillets, sliced then cooked in a Lebanese Tajen sauce, and served with their House rice. It felt homey in the casserole dish, and ate as hearty as a stew. Anyone would have been happy to have this to themselves. Plenty of creamy sauce to drench the fish and a generous helping of rice to help carry all that flavour.

Although the Salmon Lemoni was the favourite of the two. BC King Salmon with capers, and artichoke; drenched in a wild zaatar and sun dried tomato cream sauce; all over a bed of house mashed potatoes. I really appreciated how they don’t cheap out on sauces and they are using the correct dishware to allow it to pool. This was so rich and buttery for salmon and its roasted skin so well crisped, but the cream was really the star of this, giving extra body to the potato whip, for a richly satisfying mouth-feel. No complaints here.

Now the Baklava Pie is a game changer. Instead of the typical sweet filling that comes in this flaky baked crust, it is stuffed with a whole savoury meal of rice, peas, marinated beef, a wide variety of nuts; and yogurt. Think shepherds pie but crispy and less dense.

And for dessert we had the regular dessert Lebanese Baklava with nuts baked into a flaky dough, served with some vanilla ice-cream. Good, but honestly hard to follow after the savoury rendition. This was highly enjoyable for its mild sweetness and crispy to crunchy textures. The melted ice cream offered a change of taste and a sauce of sorts.

But if you can only get one dessert let it be their house made Kanafeh topped with Lebanese qater. Be advised there are limited quantities of this, so it is best to make reservations and order ahead to secure yours. This, I really enjoyed as a savoury over sweets person. This is basically a pie with a thin hash brown-like crust filled with stringy salted cheese. The juxtaposition of sweet and salty meats crispy and gummy are wonderful bed mates. I have never had anything like this, and would want to relive this experience again.

In short, my second visit to Qube was a successful one, and I can confidently say that the more I return the better they get. I would love to continue to watch and taste them grow and evolve, as this young chef and owner takes more of his grandmother’s recipes and makes them his own, with modern interpretations for the Vancouver consumer.

Qube Lebanese Cuisine
1850 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC
V6J 1M3
(778) 378-9089

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