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Watch: Palestinian-Israeli restaurant Bar Haifa opens in Vancouver

"Our focus is connecting people through shared experience and finding a commonality between people through food.”

After much anticipation, Vancouver's outpost of Toronto's acclaimed Haifa Room - called Bar Haifa - is open for business, after

Bar Haifa illustrates a remarkable example of co-existence in the form of its ownership team of partners who are from Palestinian-Muslim and Israeli-Jewish backgrounds.

The Vancouver restaurant opened downtown at 410 W Georgia St on November 24 for dinner service and will begin serving lunch on December 7. 

Named for the port city of Haifa, Israel, the restaurant began in 2021 in Toronto as a takeout window, launched by friends and restaurateurs Waseem Dabdoub, Fadi Hakim, Yossi Misrahi Eastwood, Daniel Suss, and Mark Kupfert. The Haifa Room quickly became known for its grab-and-go items, like sabich (pita sandwiches filled with eggplant) and falafel. 

Restaurant's opening faced lengthy construction delays

Ultimately, the business grew and the Haifa Room added on dine-in service, with Chef Jason Hemi (formerly of Fat Pasha and Rose and Sons) behind the menu serving a 28-seat dining room in a casual atmosphere. Among Haifa Room's signature dishes in Toronto are its Fennel and Apricot Labneh, Kofta, Boneless Lamb Shoulder, and hummus.

For its venture west to Vancouver, Haifa Room announced its presence on the ground floor of the Deloitte Summit building on Georgia at Homer back in May. The restaurant had been aiming to open by July but faced construction delays. 

The 55-seat Bar Haifa offers an "expanded menu that showcases the terroir of its new location," according to a media release for the Vancouver restaurant. 

What's on the menu at Bar Haifa

Diners can expect locally sourced ingredients to be front and centre, including fresh seafood, and a "dedicated take-out only street-food menu."

Incidentally, in addition to listing the menu items in English, Bar Haifa provides the names in Arabic and Hebrew. 

Dinner selections include a sous vide lamb shoulder with roasted veggies, a karaage-style Jerusalem artichoke with miso sumac dip, and Nazareth Fried Chicken, as well as dips and share plates, salads, and several vegetarian options.

At lunchtime, Bar Haifa is all about casual eats packed with flavour, including mezze platters, salads, pita sandwiches with fries, and larger plates for sharing or a larger meal. Dishes include a shakshuka with hearty tomato sauce and poached eggs with a side of fluffy pita for dipping and malawach, which is a flaky, layered Yemeni flatbread loaded with a refreshing chopped salad, spicy zhug sauce, tahini and a soft-boiled egg.

The sabich is a pita stuffed with eggplant, hard-boiled egg slices, shredded red cabbage, and chopped salad while their signature falafel is the perfect balance of crispy exterior and soft interior, loaded into a pita with all the trimmings. The sandwiches are flavour explosions and incredibly filling; make sure the spicy, pickled pepper is tucked in there for a few fiery, tangy bites. On the side are crispy fries dusted with za'atar; if you also happen to have the shakshuka on your table, be sure to dip the fries in the tomato sauce for a nice smoky kick.

While Toronto's Haifa Room has more of laid-back vibe, Vancouver's Bar Haifa is honing in on top-tier service. To that end, Bar Haifa has some impressive local hospitality vets on staff: Cassandra Mosher, known from past roles at Bao Bei, Como, and Bacaro, will serve as General Manager, and Alex Thornley, of Published, Bar Susu and Como, is joining the team as Wine Director. 

Bar Haifa's bright, modern, and lively interior features "a cocktail bar, chef's table, banquette seating, and an open kitchen, along with a spacious outdoor patio that will double its seating during the summer."

Look for some playful items stashed amidst the shelves above the kitchen, including one whimsical nod to Bar Haifa's Toronto roots: a model of an old yellow and red Toronto streetcar.

'We all have family members living in Palestine and Israel'

The Bar Haifa team acknowledges that the restaurant's opening has fallen at a sombre and troubling time when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations.  

“At first, words failed us. We’re devastated. We all have family members living in Palestine and Israel,” said Hakim. “As we grapple with the situation, we grieve for all the civilians, our helplessness. For now, our focus is connecting people through shared experience and finding a commonality between people through food.”

Video: Trying dishes from Bar Haifa's new lunch menu

@forkingawesomevia I tried some lunch menu dishes at this new Middle Eastern restaurant in Downtown Vancouver. Can you spot the clue they’re from Toronto? 😉 #forkingawesome #vancouverbc #vancouverfoodie ♬ Otra Vez - ProdMarvin

Bar Haifa is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are available online via Resy. Follow @barhaifa on Instagram.

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