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Zarak, weekend brunch

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to visit Zarak, better known as the elevated sister to the beloved, Afghan Horseman.

Today we were here for their fusion brunch, described as a West Coast inspired breakfast with Afghan flavours.

The restaurant looks much larger from the exterior. It is shaped like a “L”, with the bar by the door, and additional seating when you turn the corner.

Decor is minimal with a few nods to the culture through shapes, design, and mixed media materials. Most eye catching is the wall of mirrors decorated with Arabic lettering.

Their menu is a scan-able code, and it honestly doesn’t do the food justice. It gets to the point, but you do not get much description of what it is you will be having. Plus all the warmth and flavours from the Afghani influence is lost in its translation.

The drinks on the other hand are a fun story, an update told through colourful sketches. It drew me in and made me want to try and order them all. Visit their website, and you will see what I mean.

For the most bang for our buck we would try their two different weekend brunch flights.

The first is a Mimosa Flight, presented in test tubes, standing upright on a wooden stand. They looked like a lab experiment. Eye catching, but smaller pours. In candy flavours like mango, lychee, and pomegranate; this is ideal for the one who doesn’t like to taste their cocktail. Each was true to their flavour, coupled with a very low ABV percentage.

If you are looking for something that drinks like a snack then direct your attention to their Caesar Flight. Here, the ounces are doubled for 3 ethnic takes on the classic Canadian caesar, and 1 that is more traditional. Only the latter is available as its own cocktail, but they are best all together as a trip.

The first was Korean inspired with Gochujang, Gochujang Salt, and spicy Cheetos for a crunchy garnish. This is the build up for the others, as the most mildest. Be sure to drink this one quick, because as the ice melted, the beverage grew dull. Otherwise the sweetness in the Korean sweet chilli paste shines in this, tempering any would be overwhelming heat.

The second is a Chinese seasonings inspired caesar with Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce, Black Bean Salt, and a dumpling as garnish. I liked the extra sensation the fat and fulsome dumpling offered, but I waited too long to get to it, and by the time I did the radiating chill from the ice had cooled it. And a cold dumpling isn’t all that delicious. I still ate it, as to not waste it, but could tell that warm, this would have been a tasty and zesty pocket of meat and dough that would have paired well with its intended similarly zesty beverage. I found this the spiciest of the quartet.

My favourite was the Caesar with Afghan Chutney, Cumin Salt, Tabasco, Dill Salt, and a Fried chicken sandwich topper. Same advice as above, eat the garnish first when it is still warm and crispy. The undressed bun helped to balance out the deep burn of the spice in this one, acting as a palate cleanser.

And the last was a more traditional Caesar with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Walter’s Craft Caesar, GF Worcestershire Sauce, and two takis as the Seasonal Garnish. Compared to the other four this was lack lustre.

Other notable cocktails I didn’t get a chance to try, but definitely caught my eye were the “Fruit Loops” mixed with an oat cereal milk and actual cereal. And the Bamyan which is a mango number finished with a Mango Melona Bar. This doubles as a drink and dessert.

As for a non-alcoholic option I had to try their Turkish Coffee that comes with a Turkish Delight. Served in a precious gold set that includes a cloche for both the espresso shot and the dish of candy.

The coffee is prepared in a Turkish cezve coffee pot using very finely ground coffee beans, boiled without filtering. The result is a full bodied, bold coffee with a thick layer of grit at the bottom. You don’t drink this as it does leave a chalky finish.

Moving on to food, the one to try is their Full Afghan big platter, which includes a taste of everything. Lamb sausage, fried eggs, a kidney bean curry, eggplant, and they’re in house made potato flatbread. This is like a big breakfast platter, but with an Afghan take. The lamb sausage was fatty and tender, where the gristle only adds to it. I liked how the beans here weren’t gritty, but had a nice whip. The eggplant was the highlight, roasted and smooth like a pudding, it contrasted the earthy mushrooms.

And the chewy pancake served as a base to build everything on. It was a traditional flat bread stuffed with mashed potatoes and green onion. This reminded me of a flatbread samosa, especially with the tangy yogurt on the side. The yogurt acted as the ideal compliment to this and all of the above, adding freshness and a breath of air to an otherwise very dense serving.

Seeing as we had their other flights, we couldn’t miss out on the Benny one. All three of their Benny options, presented open face, only as a half. Three pieces served with a heaping pile of spiced hashbrowns.

Here, the eggplants I liked so much made another appearance. This is their vegetarian Benny option with eggplant, potato fritter, and seasonal greens. I did not miss meat in this.

This is the owner’s favourite as well. He is actually allergic to eggplant, but done like this he doesn’t get any of the symptoms. The technique is to fry the eggplant for 50 seconds, then to allow it time to drain so that the allergens are removed. To it tomato and fresh vegetables are added, before it is all slow baked until velvety smooth. This Benny was well designed and curated, served on a pakora-like fritter in place of the traditional english muffin. Definitely my favourite for the mix of textures and the creative retelling.

By comparison the pulled lamb shoulder and pickled cabbage was less exciting. Although it was still tasty. So juicy, that I was surprised to read it was lamb that laid under the perfectly soft boiled egg. Once the yolk was popped and it coated the meat, the Benny as a whole had an amazing gummy texture and mouth-feel.

Out of the three the beef brisket with caramelized leek was the most flavourful. Here the spices really sang. The seasonings for this dish and all the others dishes are all hand blended by the owner’s mom, ensuring that no two taste alike.

More modern is the chicken + waffles, but they have given it their twist with a seven spice buttermilk batter, a mango chilli aioli, and maple syrup with a cardamon accent.

The latter was really the game changer. The cardamon gave the syrup and the dish a savoury quality, one I appreciated as someone who prefers salty over sweet. It helped to tie everything together and was a lovely accent to the crispy herbed breading. The waffle was somewhat lost in the exciting shuffle. This was good, I was impressed.

In short, this was one of the most memorable brunches I have had; and one that I will recommend. So good, that I already have plans to try their dinner menu this week. Apparently, where brunch is more fusion forward, dinner service is more traditional.

Zarak by Afghan Kitchen
2102 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3C5
(604) 318-3456

2 thoughts on “Zarak, weekend brunch”

  1. A delightful culinary experience at this dining spot. Thanks for highlighting the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely brunch at Zarak—we’re eager to indulge in delicious food and a relaxed atmosphere during our weekend visit!

  2. Zarak’s weekend brunch blends Afghan flavors with West Coast breakfast staples, creating a unique dining experience in Mount Pleasant. Their innovative brunch flights, such as Mimosa and Caesar, offer creative twists on traditional cocktails. Highlights include the Full Afghan platter with lamb sausage and roasted eggplant, and inventive Benny options like the vegetarian version featuring eggplant. The chicken and waffles dish stands out with a seven-spice buttermilk batter and savory cardamom-infused maple syrup. Overall, Zarak delivers diverse and flavorful brunch offerings with a creative flair.

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