For a long time, people stepping into 1850 W 4th Ave in Vancouver's Kitsilano would be in pursuit of pasta; from 1988 to 2007, the address was home to Chianti Cafe, and from 2008 until just this spring, Glowbal's popular Trattoria concept.
Now, the marina has given way to muhammara and shawarma and other Lebanese specialties, thanks to newcomer-to-Canada Daniel Berro and his bold new Vancouver restaurant, Qube.
Qube (so named because, as Berro explained during a dinnertime visit, it simply sounds cool) had an admittedly rocky start, as the restaurant's initial concept was meant to be a Nordic-inspired steak and seafood spot. And, in fact, Vancouver wasn't even Berro's original Canadian destination. The chef-entrepreneur, whose company also supplies Qube's furniture and beautiful serving ware, was initially headed to Ottawa to open a restaurant. A visit to Vancouver, and in particular Kitsilano, changed the course of his fate. When some behind-the-scenes shifting went down as Qube was in development, Berro refocused the concept on his personal roots in Lebanon.
The result is a heartfelt dedication to showcasing the myriad flavours and textures of Lebanese fare while showcasing stunning B.C. products, offering Vancouver diners authentic dishes that represent the food of Berro's native village.
Rooted in a desire to present Lebanese cuisine without a heavy Westernized lens, Berro's menu at Qube includes many dishes - or iterations of familiar dishes - that you may not find elsewhere in Vancouver when seeking Middle Eastern fare.
Qube: What's on the menu at this new Vancouver restaurant
The starters represent an array of classic mezze, and could handily constitute the entire focus of your meal at Qube, with dishes like muhammara (a dip of chopped nuts and red pepper), stuffed grape leaves (a vegan option with fresh grape leaves rather than tinned, rolled in-house), or house-made sausages available in two versions, including the smoky, subtly spicy sujuk.
You would do well with all the dishes that work best when eaten with pita triangles as utensils, like the moutabel (eggplant dip) or the Beiruty Hummus. The latter is made by boiling fresh chickpeas and removing the thin outer skins before it is turned into a silky, creamy dip topped with Lebanon's answer to France's lardons - crispy-fatty little nubbins of lamb.
Rivalling the Beiruty Hummus is something called makdous: plump baby eggplants that have been boiled and oil-cured, stuffed with nuts and peppers, and served atop labneh, the strained yogurt that's a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. The eggplants resemble oversized olives, and their tangy, briny taste does little to counter the notion you might very well be eating tender supersized olives.
The mains are where you will see Qube work in a lot of top-of-the-line British Columbia protein, like halibut and salmon. Berro says some of the mains are where he's little more flexible with preparations, leaning a bit to the western side with French influence, but in the mix are some definite highlights that represent what many Lebanese families will serve up in their own homes.
While a piece of meat with mashed potatoes and fresh veg does seem Euro-centric, one of such items on the Qube menu is lamb belly, which is as rich and gamey as you might expect; for fans of lamb, this is a fun option, especially if you are sharing, as it is hearty and intense.
On the lighter side is a cold main called Fattah Kawarma; the base - the "fattah" - is fried pita strips with chickpeas, and the kawarma - the variable topping - is once again bits of lamb. Creamy sauces with the fried bits and the juicy, deeply flavourful lamb make this a fun option worth a shot, as you may not have encountered this on any other menu in Vancouver.
Brunch in the works, how to save a little on your bill
Qube typically has baklava with ice cream for dessert, though it was not available the day I went it (and, to be fair, I was so full, I don't think I would have appreciated it). Berro says he also has a few specialty items he keeps off-menu, including caviar, that he can work into dishes upon request; repeat customers may want to get his number so they can give him a call to put in any special requests. Plans are also in motion to expand Qube's hours and offerings to include daily brunch, which Berro says will also focus on traditional Lebanese items.
Pricing at Qube is kept deliberately competitive, with starters as low as $12 and mains peaking at around $30. Qube also discounts its house cocktails to $8 each after 8 p.m., making the restaurant's prominent bar a great option for a cocktail and some share plates later in the evening.
Currently, Qube's dinner service runs nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. Follow @qubevancouver on Instagram for more information and updates about the restaurant.
Video: Trying authentic Lebanese food at new Vancouver restaurant Qube
@forkingawesomevia Fun new Vancouver restaurant! 🇱🇧🍽️#forkingawesome #vancouverbc 🎙️@LindsayWR ♬ Good Vibes - Rerewrpd
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