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Tibisti Foods & Grill on Victoria Drive, Vancouver

Tibisti Foods & Grill has been on our wishlist for a long while. Ben had been away for business trips a lot. Finally we managed to go to Tibisti before his long assignment to Beijing again.

Tibisti Foods & Grill is an all day grill which serves Mediterranean food and middle eastern food. It is a halal restaurant.

We should have come on a Wednesday as the Roast Lamb Meal is at promotional price of $9.99 on Wednesday.

There is nothing much on decoration in this restaurant. Just some tables and chairs which are spaciously set. I came here for the food and I’m not bothered by the decor as long as it’s clean.

Ben ordered the Lamb Chop Meal for $14.99.  All the meal here is served with biryani rice, Greek salad, Tzatziki sauce and baked potatoes. Somehow, Ben’s plate is missing the baked potatoes.

The server told us that the lamb chop is made with fresh lamb. There were 5 pieces of lamb chops. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Garden City Kabob Grill on Blundell Road and Garden City Road, Richmond

I got to know Ada and Heidi from A Taste of Community Kitchen event. They were born in Malaysia but grew up in Hong Kong. They are Muslims. We talked about eating out for Muslim which is quite limited here as there are not many halal restaurants that I know off. These are a hand full of those that served halal food: Kedah House, Seri Malaysia, Xin Jiang Delicious Food in Richmond Public Market, Darya Restaurant, Anatolia’s Gate Turkish Restaurant and Abdul’s Sharwarma. Beware that not all Malaysian restaurants are halal. The restaurant is deemed halal only if it gets it’s meat from a source which is certified halal.

Ada and Heidi wanted to eat out at Kedah House and invited me to come along. This is their second attempt to try Kedah House’s food as their first attempt failed because the restaurant was closed on the day they went. So, this time, I called up Kedah House to find out the days that they are closed before we went which is Monday and Tuesday. So, we decided to visit Kedah House on a Thursday. What a bummer, the restaurant again was not opened on that Thursday. Apparently, when we checked with a neighouring shop, we were told that sometimes Kedah House will closed if they have a banquet to cater for. What a disappointment to Ada and Heidi.

So, we had to go for plan B. Fortunately, Adaand Heidi have another place that they can go to, which is halal, of course. It’s Garden City Kabob Grill on Blundell Road and Garden City Road. This place was previously owned by a Lebanese but it’s now taken over by a Filipino family.

The sharwarma can be seen the moment you enter the shop. Sharwarma is made by skewing meat on a metal rod and slow roasting the meat on all sides by the rotating spit in front of a heat source for hours. In Turkish, sharwarma is known as doner kebab. The cooked meat is shaved off the stack and made into a sandwich wrap with a tortilla or pita bread and dressed with vegetables and dressing.

Garden City Kebab Grill is a small place with a few tables and you help yourself with the cutleries and condiments located along a wall.

Their menu is simple, some rice combo with kebab, wrap, fish and chips and even vegetarian spring rolls. Click on the image to have a large view.

Ada ordered two items from the menu. The first item was Gyro Chicken Donair on Pita for $5.69. The donair is big and I’m surprised … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Darya Persian Restaurant on Pendrell and Denman, Vancouver

Of late, Suanne and I had been trying to make our dining out a learning experience.  This all started from our gastronomic tour of Spain. In the tour, we had taken on an entirely new perspective of food. We had come to appreciate the origin of the cuisine and how it had evolved over the years — stories behind food.

Growing up, we carried the view that Chinese cooking is supreme in the culinary world. We thought it had by far the widest variety and the longest history. Even the culture of the Chinese people are centered around food … i.e. the Chinese celebrate the new year, birth, marriage, birthday by banqueting. Why, even at a funeral, food is part of the ceremony. Fasting? Virtually unheard of.

So we were intrigued by cultures which has a long history in the area of culinary arts. The more we read about them, the more we wanted to find out more. One of them is the Persian cuisine. In the learning process, we understood the pride that Iranians have in the rich heritage of their cuisine.

Suanne and I arranged to meet up with Mohammad and his lovely wife, Ilham. I asked that he recommend his favourite Persian restaurant. Being such an overly considerate person that I had known him to be, he suggested one place that is the most convenient for us … in downtown Vancouver instead of North Vancouver where the best of Persian restaurants are situated.

We met in the Darya Restaurant. Darya is located on a side street called Pendrell, just off busy restaurant row of Denman. The location of Darya is somewhat hidden and you will most certainly miss it unless you drive into Pendrell from Denman.

One tip about parking here … you know how difficult it is to get parking around the West End. Now, if you could not find a parking spot, you can actually go in and ask the owner and he will let you have the keys to the car park underground.

Darya labeled themselves as a Persian AND Mediterranean restaurant. This is quite common practice for Persian restaurants in Vancouver because not a lot of people understand and appreciate pure Persian cuisine. So to broaden the appeal to western customers, some Persian restaurants tag on the “and Mediterranean” label to the name. I felt it is unfortunate because the Persian cuisine is one of the richest and oldest in the world.

Darya is a very clean and pleasant restaurant. It is a self-service restaurant where most customers order and pay at the till. When we were there, we did not even had to order at the counter. Instead, the owner asked us to get seated and came by to take our orders.

We started the meal with some appetizers. We got something called Dolmeh Grape Leaves ($10). It is leaves wrapped with rice. We get a choice of hummus or salad.

There are many variants of Dolmeh with a lot of regional differences. This is a simple dish and is stuffed with rice. It is served cold and taste-wise, it is sourish.

The other appetizer is called Mirza Ghasemi ($9) which is an appetizer unique to North Iran. North Iran has the richest in culinary history and the region is rich in food produce.

Mirza Ghasemi is smoked eggplants, tomatoes, garlic & onions sauteed in extra virgin olive oil.

Suanne and I did not understand this part where it says “sauteed in extra virgin olive oil”. There are many types of olive oil for different purposes. For all we know, extra virgin olive oil is meant to be used for salad and for dipping. We thought that one should never use extra virgin olive oil for cooking because it burns easily.

The Mirza Ghasemi was really delicious eaten with the pita bread … and a healthy appetizer too.

The Baghali Polo Mahicheh … oh man, this dish is awesome.

I would just call this the Lamb Shank Rice but Mohammad was saying that it is not just any rice. It is basmati rice with fava beans. When he said that it just dawned on me that Persians take a lot of pride in preparing their rice. I learned that there are many ways that rice are prepared and many of them involve a complex process.

For the Chinese who eats a lot of rice, cooking the rice is a simple affair and often it is the only no-frill items on the table. Not in the Persian Cuisine. The rice must be perfect. I remember Kazem (an Iranian friend at work) used to tell me that rice used to be a food for the privileged and for special occasions. As such a great deal of care is placed in making it perfect. I remember I was quite amused when Kazem told me that in Iran, a prospective daughter-in-law is often judged by her ability to make the perfect rice (and tea).

I like the flavour, fluffiness and texture of the rice. It is not starchy like those in East Asia. As much as I thought this was perfect, Ilham complained that there were … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Nuba Authentic Lebanese Cuisine on West Hastings and Cambie in Downtown Vancouver

Just as we were walking out of the La Taqueria Taco Shop having just had 4 tacos for lunch. @604foodtography suggested that we all go for dessert.

For a person who usually have light lunch during the working day, I was not too keen on doing this. That was until @604foodtography said the dessert he was talking about is one of the 101 Things To Taste Before You Die identified by the Vancouver Magazine.

That … is one thing I will not pass up.

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That restaurant is located at the basement of the Dominion Building, one of the grand historic buildings in the young city of Vancouver. This 99 year old building was the tallest building in the British Empire when it was built. Because of its ornate structure, this building had been used to film many movies some of which includes The Neverending Story and Battlestar Galactica.

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Nuba is the name of the restaurant we went to. The entrance to the basement restaurant is just at the corner of West Hastings and Cambie.

Nuba is a Lebanese restaurant. It was interesting to note that Nuba used to operate from the very spot that the La Taqueria Taco Shop is today. I guess business is good and they moved to this new location. Actually Nuba also has another smaller restaurant on Seymour too.

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The decor is trendy and chic. It has a nice ambiance and just the perfect setting for a simple leisurely meal with friends.

Nuba menu is known for their Mezze. Mezze is like Spanish tapas … small plates. Nuba’s Mezze is quite reasonable too with prices ranging from $4 to $7.

Anyway, I am more interested in this one item of the 101 Things to Taste Before You Die. You know what it is?

Well, it is this … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Chowtimes Readers Dinner at The Afghan Horsemen

Suanne and I had a great time yesterday.  We really did.

We felt so honored that there are so many of chowtimes readers who would sacrifice a Saturday evening to attend the dinner.  The response was beyond our expectations.  Having been blogging for so many years, it is events like this that we get to know the readers on a personal basis.

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I had been flip-flopping on the location of the dinner.  I found and made tentative arrangements with a restaurant which had the perfect setting — a very nice newly renovated private room AND a fantastic wrap-around balcony for the entire evening.  Unfortunately, I was not sure of the food because it is traditional Japanese … i.e. lots of raw food.  I did not want to put it up for a vote because you know how messy it could get when you put things like this up to a vote.

LotusRapper made an off the cuff suggestion to go to The Afghan Horsemen.  Suanne and I checked out the place and thought it would be fun and will be an unique experience.

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The Afghan Horsemen had two true Afghan style dining rooms with low tables and cushions on the floor.  We managed to secure a room save for three tables.  For all intents and purposes we got the place almost all to ourselves.  The room sure was dark especially when one just walk in from the outside.

We were asked to take off our shoes before entering the dining room.  They sure packed as many as they could so much so that it was an uncomfortable squeeze for all.  It did not help because we had one extra person more than we had booked for.

The Afghan Room has a relaxing ambiance but because everyone was seated against the wall it does not allow us to mingle as much as we wanted.  It was certainly not romantic as they advertised.  I thought that if it is to be romantic, you should have the couple seated facing each other, not side by side … and certainly not facing other couples across the room.  This morning I woke up with sore muscles because I had to get up from the floor so many times throughout the dinner … am getting old!

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There was belly dancing as a bonus for us.  This was unplanned for and unexpected.  I think they have this on weekends.  I can’t help but to notice how the belly dancer had strategically placed a $5 bill on her hips in clear view of everyone.  I think it was a $10 on the bra — I dare not have a closer look because Suanne was there.

It was funny when the dancer was using her sword and poked Henry’s bum to get him seated.  I think he panicked — LOL!  He squeezed me out of my cushion so much that I had to move across the room.  Or maybe he just wanted to have closer view of the dancing from my seat.

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I knew it!  I knew it would happen when the dancing started.  The dancer was looking for “the director” of the dinner and everyone just had to point to me.  I think everyone pointed to me not so much because I was the organizer but because they wanted all to be de-risked from being picked to dance.  Agree?

On hindsight, I should have excused myself to the washroom and let Suanne be “the director”.

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Some of the ladies were not spared either.  They all had the easy part … dancing in a group.  Let’s talk about the food …

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Almost everyone ordered the Horsemen’s Special Platter. The platter costs $50 and is meant for two people.  Suanne and I just ordered one platter to share with Anita.  The starter consists of Humus and Sabzi Mast, Salata with Feta and whole wheat pita bread.  The whole wheat pita bread was great with the humus.  Rooskie certainly liked it a lot. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Falafel Town in Downtown Vancouver

This was a pretty random pick.  Suanne and I was walking along Granville St checking out the place.  We wanted to just grab something light to eat and came upon the sign that says “Best in Town”.

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I was thinking that Falafel Town could be as good as Abdul’s Sharwarma in Burnaby which I enjoyed a lot.

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Falafel Town is a Lebanese restaurant. We know very little about Lebanese food, as a matter of fact we only got to learn what a Falafel really is here. No, we did not try the “best in town” Falafel here.  They looked kind of too dryish for our liking that day.

The owner was a really friendly chap and he put up with our questions.  As a matter of fact he was quite eager to educate us.  We were told that contrary to the spicy hotness of some of the Vancouver mediteranean food, Lebanese food in essence are not spicy.  One thing to describe Lebanaese food is that they are almost always garlicky.  They commonly use olive oil and lemon for seasoning too.

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Kash Cool Restaurant in North Vancouver

Updated: 17th Feb 2011: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Hi All: I wanted to let you know that I had feedback from a few readers (Iranian and also non-Iranian) that some of the comments I had made on this post is generalizing, disrespectful and particularly hurtful. I had considered the feedback and re-read carefully what I had written. I do agree that some of the words were totally misplaced and that it could be interpreted as disrespectful, particularly to the Iranian community. For that I do sincerely apologize to each and everyone of you who felt offended. I want to admit that I had been insensitive in the poor choice of words used. It is very important to me (Ben) that I set things right. As such, I had made amendments to this blog entry by removing those words. Again my sincere apology!

If there is one major cuisine that I have never tried before, it is Persian cuisine. This is despite that there is actually quite a large Iranian community here in Vancouver, particularly in North Vancouver. My personal impression about Iranians in Vancouver is that they are either very rich or that they are great Java programmers. LOL! This is because ALL of the leads programmers (I had three of them!) I had on my project teams were Iranians.

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There was this day when I had to go the North Shore, I thought I should take the opportunity to try out Persian food … and I wanted to have real, authentic Iranian Cuisine. So, I asked Kazem who works in my company for a recommendation. Without any hesitation … he said Kash Cool.

Kash Cool is located on Pemberton in North Vancouver. Even though I have not been to North Van for, oh, 5 years already, it was easy to find Kash Cool. We met up with Angie (of Sea Salt With Food) and her kids for lunch here.

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Before I went, I asked Kazem for recommendations since the only Persian food I know of is Lubria Polo which Suanne had blogged before. Kazem was giving me names that simply confuses me. So, I got him to write down his recommendation on a piece of paper for me to bring to the restaurant.

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Kash Cool does seem very authentic. They have a little fish pond right in the middle of the dining room. I find it kind of cool since most restaurant will maximize the floor space with dining tables. I later learned that having a pool with red fishes are very common in Iranian home’s front courtyard.

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Kazem told me that the owner decorated the entire place himself. There are a lot of large painting and sculptures everywhere. I find that very impressive and does think that the owner sure had an artistic flare in him.

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I also noticed there were quite a number of pillars. I think they are mainly for aesthetic purposes. I later found out that pillars are core elements of the Persian architecture.

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I had to ask them why the name Kash Cool. I teased the friendly wait staff if they love money because of the name. She chuckled and told me that Kash Cool is the name of a dish.

We were the only Chinese looking customers there. I initially feared that I might have problems ordering. However, they were extremely helpful and could see that we are unfamiliar with the menu.

However, I also felt uneasy about being pushed. I felt there were an certain unnecessary degree of hardselling. It was when I ordered ONE chicken and ONE lamb and they will repeat TWO chicken and TWO lamb. I then repeated ONE … and they repeated TWO … this went back and forth for like five times. LOL! It sure made me uneasy, awkward and embarassed especially when I had friends there too. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Shawarma from Abdul’s on Kingsway

Shahdad swore that the bestest Shawarma in Vancouver is found in Burnaby’s Abdul BBQ, He brought us to try it out and it was simply fabulous. So, over the weekend, I simply had to bring Suanne and try it herself.

Abdul’s BBQ is located in the Crystal Mall on Kingsway and Willingdon. It’s a small shop located facing Kingsway. You will not miss it driving past the Mall on Kingsway.

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Abdul’s is a small shop with about seating for 12 on the inside. Abdul also set up a couple of tables outside his shop. Ordering is very simple because he had very big pictures posters of his menu plastered on the outside.

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Shawarma (sometimes also spelt as shawerma) is a middle eastern way of cooking meat. Common meat used are beef, lamb and chicken. The meats are cooked on a rotating machine with sources of heat over a period of several hours.

Abdul has three shawarma machines, each skewered with beef, chicken and lamb. He said that he normally will finish selling all these food by the end of day. His business had steadily grown since he opened his outlet in the Crystal Mall. He told me that when he started he had only a quarter of what you see above and today he often had to turn away customers at the end of day because his is completely sold out.

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The meat that is slowly cooked is then shaved off with a large knife and drops to a circular tray below to be retrieve. Abdul was kind enough to show me close-up the shaving of the meat. It was simply juicy and mouth-watering. I had to swallow my saliva twice while taking these pictures!

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Abdul is a very friendly and chatty owner of the shop. He told me that he’s Syrian and had been doing this for 16 years now. Abdul told me he uses nothing but the best quality meat for his shawarma. For beef, he uses only top round beef and for lamb, he uses only lamb shoulder.

Suanne and I were not particularly hungry and decided to order his Mixed Shawarma Platter. The Mixed Shawarma Platter was huge that it was enough to give both of us a good full meal. It consists of the three types of shawarma meat served with rice and pita. It also came with four sides. I felt that it’s pretty pricey as it costs $10 — but then I can accept that because Abdul did really use the best of ingredients and the food was great.

Here is a description of what the Mixed Shawarma Platter we ordered:

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The shawarma meat was well done and is served on top of the rice. It was a bit dry for us — we like our meat to be moist-er. Not complaining here … perhaps shawarma meat are like that. However, the taste of the meat were distinct and is awesome eaten with the rice.

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Abdul cooks his rice with butter and salt. They were aromatic and loose. It was so good that we can even eat the rice by itself only.

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This is our favourite part — the pita spread with what Abdul said is his secret sauce spread. We could order it spicy or mild — we chose spicy hot and it was really, really HOT. It’s not so hot that it burns but it’s … never mind, it’s hard to describe here.

The spread was what made Abdul’s pita so different from those I have tasted before. Abdul said he uses a garlic sauce made out of seven different types of spices. Abdul sears it slightly on the Shawarma machine before serving. It was really that good — you MUST try it.

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Here are the first two of the four sides. The main side is a salad of tomato, cucumber, lettuce. The other pinkish looking sides is a cabbage salad. The cabbage salad is dressed either in yogurt or sour cream — we’re not sure. Both of these are a bit sour.

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There is a hummus dip and italian parsley salad.

This is a must-go-and-try place and is one of those great lesser known hole-in-the-walls. BTW, the address is 1691-4500 Kingsway, Burnaby and he’s opened seven days a week.

Abdul's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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