I don’t consider myself to be too picky of an eater (although my mother may disagree), and in general, I’m quite open to trying new and different foods. For one thing, I get quite excited whenever an “exotic meat” (a.k.a. anything outside of the usual realm of pork/beef/chicken/lamb/duck/seafood) is available on a restaurant’s menu. Well, this food adventure didn’t feature any exotic meats, unless you consider lamb to be exotic, but it was still exciting in that it was my first time trying Lebanese food.
Nuba is a popular chain in Vancouver, with four locations located throughout the city. Gawa and I decided to lunch at the location on Main and 3rd one Saturday afternoon. It’s kind of an odd location, and, true to the spirit of the city, surrounded by apartment buildings in various stages of construction. Still, it ended up being a good choice for lunch, especially for Gawa, as it has an extensive selection of vegetarian items.
The waitstaff were especially helpful and enthusiastic to help us make our choices, and good thing too. Despite my unfamiliarity with Lebanese cuisine, everything on the menu sounded delicious. In any case, we started off our meal with a Mango and Orange Juice for Gawa, which was the juice of the day in addition to the usual flavours available. Gawa generously allowed me a sip, and, to be honest, it tasted mostly like orange juice, with the mango flavour being not as apparent. It was still refreshing and enjoyable, but I would have liked it more if the mango flavour had been more pronounced. But then again, I’m not much of a juice person. As far as juices go, it was tart, refreshing, slightly sweet, and ultimately satisfying. And honestly, what more can you ask from juice?
As for our mains, we both ordered off the “Plates” section of the menu, where the entrees are accompanied by hummus, salad, pickled cabbage, pita bread, tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), hot sauce, and a choice of either roasted potatoes or organic brown rice. Gawa chose to have her Eggplant Stew with the potatoes, while I had the rice. Although she enjoyed the meal as a whole, she had more than a few critiques of the food. She found that the salad wasn’t well-dressed, and the dressing itself wasn’t anything special, while the hummus could have been more flavourful. Still, she enjoyed the olive oil that had been drizzled onto the hummus, which appeared to be of a good quality. As for the other sides, she especially liked the pickled cabbage, which, being extremely sour, served as a refreshing palate cleanser. As for the stew itself, she thought that it could have used some other types of chunkier vegetables, to add variety of texture as well as dimension of flavour, as it ended up being a bit too mushy and one-dimensional. Despite these complaints, she thought that the experience was a positive one, and would definitely consider returning.
I decided on the Lamb Kafta ($12), a grilled grain-fed halal lamb patty, served with the same sides (although with the rice instead of the potatoes). I enjoyed the lamb, although I thought it was served with way too much tzatziki. The dollop of tzatziki was pretty much the same size as the lamb patty itself, which was just overwhelming. Anyways, the tzatziki itself was fine, being chunky, sour, and tangy. It was a nice complement to the slightly gamey, salty flavour of the lamb. The rice tasted exactly like how I expected it to taste, with the texture being more apparent than the flavour of the rice itself. As for the sides, my opinions echoed Gawa’s, although I especially enjoyed the hot sauce, which was the type with a subtle spicy kick rather than an obvious heat.
Both of our meals were accompanied by some Pita. Gawa thought that the pita should have been thicker, but I personally had no opinion about it one way or the other. To be honest, I was quite hungry so I inhaled the food without too much thought. And although it seems like we had a lot of complaints about the food here, we genuinely enjoyed our meal, although that may be in part due to our hungry hungry hippo-ness on this particular day. More than the food, we enjoyed the atmosphere here. The dining area was clean and modern, and the service was friendly and accommodating without being overbearing. And, of course, the menu is a refreshing change of pace from the overwhelming dominance of Japanese food in Vancouver (although, as you know, I enjoy Japanese food as much as the next person). I would definitely return to Nuba to try some of their other dishes, especially Najib’s Special, which is apparently the dish to get here. I guess we’ll save that for next time.
146 East 3rd Avenue
Let’s just say my summer English class has been a little…tedious. The readings are surprisingly interesting, but the prof? Not so much. So after our second-last class, Erin and I decided that we needed to celebrate the almost-end with a good meal during our break.
Although we had a few places in mind, we weren’t entirely sure where to go–so we hopped on the 99, got off at MacDonald Street and meandered around. Our friend Franki had mentioned liking Nuba (which happened to be on my list of places to go as well), so we ended up going there. Turns out we arrived just in time to catch the latter end of the lunch, which meant that we were only one of a few tables in the restaurant (but not a cheaper menu, just a less extensive one).
We were greeted warmly by our waitress, who promptly brought over two glasses of refreshing cucumber water to our patio table. Neither Erin nor I have eaten Lebanese food before, so we asked her if she could give us a recommendation. She deftly explained everything, and in the end, we ordered the La Feast, which was a two-course vegetarian sampler of their mezzes and salads.
Our first course arrived after a little wait, and we were presented with a platter of (clockwise from bottom) Baba Ghanooj, Pickled Cabbage and Hummus and Taboulleh, served with a side of pita bread. We thought that the Baba Ghanooj was a little on the bland side– honestly, I wouldn’t have been able tell that it was eggplant puree without the waitress’ explanation. It was unpleasant per say (I usually find my tongue feeling funny after eating eggplant), but it definitely could have used more flavour, as even the lemon juice didn’t help very much. The Pickled Cabbage was an interesting addition to the plate. Tasting more like beets than cabbage (it was pickled with beets, which explains the vibrant fuchsia), they were crunchy and only slightly sour. The remaining two samples were our favourites: even though we aren’t big on hummus in general, this Hummus was rather mild, and didn’t taste too much like garlic. It was just right, with a good balance of garlic, spice and lemon flavour. The Taboulleh, consisting of chopped parsley, quinoa, tomatoes and spices (including mint) was really refreshing and… green tasting. It certainly offered a different texture that complemented the goopier Baba Ghanooj and Hummus.
The remaining second course arrived while we were still working on the first, which meant our small table was a little on the cramped side. Served on a peculiar square donut plate (there’s a hole in the middle), there was a surprising amount of food for the money we paid. More on the plate, we found that it was pretty difficult to scoop some of the food without dropping food onto the table. It was definitely a very beautiful display, but it wasn’t very practical.
From left to right, there were several pieces of Garden Falafel, Eggplant Stew, and Mjadra. I forgot to take a picture of this, but the inside of the Falafel was a very vibrant green– probably due to the ingredients of fresh veggies, in addition to the usual ones of chickpeas and fava beans. These were deep fried to a lovely brown and crispy exterior, and went very well with the tahini sauce and tzatziki. Since this was my first time trying falafel, I can’t really say how it compares with others around town. I did like the greenness and the light spiciness of it, though. The Eggplant Stew was their current special, and was served over organic brown rice. Again, I couldn’t tell that the stew had eggplant in it, and had to ask the waitress what was in it a second time (to make sure I didn’t hear wrong). This was also lightly spiced, and was made with chickpeas, onions and tomatoes. The Mjadra was also a chickpea-and-lentil-based stew, made with a little bit of rice, jalapenos and onions, and topped off with a large chunk of avocado and a plethora of caramelized onions. The trend seems to be that everything here is very slightly spicy, and the Mjadra was no different. Erin commented that the onions and avocado completed the dish, and I definitely agree– each spoonful (rather, forkful) needed to have a good balance of the stew, avocado and onions, or else it would have been one-note, in terms of flavour and texture.
Now, for our favourite part of the meal (right to left): Najib’s Special and Fattoush Salad! Najib’s Special is described in the menu as crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt, which to me didn’t sound as tasty as it actually was. The flash-fried cauliflower was browned nicely and maintained its texture and shape; coupled with the salty and tart seasoning, this made for a very delicious dish. We’d probably come back and order a plateful of this just to munch on, it was THAT good. The Fattoush Salad was made with the usual veggies like tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and other greens; there was also a good amount of chickpeas as well. We really liked the vinaigrette (also a lemony and salty sauce, like what the cauliflower was drizzled in) and the toasted garlic pita, which is their version of the crouton. The rest of the plate consisted of olives (which we didn’t eat, because we aren’t olive people), more pickled cabbage, and chunks of fresh feta cheese, which were very mildly flavoured (and not too salty).
In general, we had a very good time at Nuba– the waitresses were all very friendly and helpful, and we really appreciated their recommendations. Of course, there were only two other tables at the time, but I’d like to think that they would be that helpful when the restaurant was full, too. In terms of the space, the restaurant itself was very large, with an extensive bottom floor as well as a smaller second floor. The restaurant had a modern-Mediterranean vibe to it, made so by the dark wood columns, white walls, and teal and green decor. Prices here are quite reasonable for the portion size we got (we actually couldn’t finish everything)– the La Feast cost $30, and most of the entrees are under $15. Since this place is so close to school (around a 10 minute bus ride), I would definitely consider going again for a snack or even dinner, especially if I needed a change of pace from the usual fare of Subway or burgers!
3116 West Broadway