Archive for the ‘$$$’ Category

Nuba Restaurant

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Lebanese
Tofu puffs: 4 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Time visited: Nearly a dozen
Location: 207-B West Hastings Street (at Cambie Street)
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Contact: 604-688-1655
Website: http://nuba.ca/

Entrance to Nuba Hastings

Entrance to Nuba on West Hastings

Like its nearby neighbour Gorilla Food, Nuba is another one of the relatively rare subterranean restaurants in Vancouver. Located at the corner of West Hastings and Cambie Street, Nuba’s laid-back, minimalist décor and tempting menus mean this place is hoppin’ from the moment their door opens for lunch until the last call late at night.

Once inside, you’ll see that Nuba has two areas – one with table service and the other with cafeteria-style seating where you mosey on up to the counter to peruse the giant chalkboard menu on a wall. If you’re keen on table service, reservations are a must, especially in the evenings. Show up without a reservation and the staff will try their best to accommodate you. But be prepared to be a bit rushed though your dinner. Our experience has been that while we get a table, it’s usually been reserved for someone else. Try not to be offended when the bill ends up on your table before you’ve finished eating. The servers do their best to be polite, but they can be quick to usher you out the door in time for the arrival of the next guests.

The Spoonies love Nuba for a several reasons: there are quite a lot of vegan options (the menu states everything is vegan unless otherwise noted), the food is delicious, and anyone you take there will find something on the menu to love, which makes it a great place to go with omni friends.

Mhjadra Plate

Mjadra Plate

There isn’t one thing at Nuba we’ve tried that we haven’t liked. The Spoonies are divided on the roasted potatoes that seem to be paired with many offerings. But that’s just about personal finickiness. Keep in mind that there are separate lunch and dinner menus at the Hastings location, though most of the vegan items available on the lunch menu are available during dinner service.

Even the most committed eggplant hater will adore the baba ghanooj. It has a luscious smoky caramelized flavour and you won’t be able to stop dipping into this creamy appetizer. While hummus may be a common offering on many a menu, Nuba steps theirs up a level by drizzling a heavenly golden, fruity olive oil over their hummus.

We lust over the Mjadra (pronounced “mah-ha-dra”) and Najib’s Special so much we often negotiate who’s ordering what, just so we have at least one or both of these dishes. The Mjadra is an amazing green lentil and rice dish of the most delicious flavour, topped with perfectly crisped onions. The Najib’s Special is crispy browned cauliflower perfectly paired with lemon and tahini. Be sure to order the mezze size of both these dishes if you want a little for everyone to share. If you’re not so much into sharing, we also highly recommend getting a plate instead. Just beware that you’ll likely be plenty full with a plate, if you manage to make your way through one.

If you and your dining partner(s) feel like grazing, splurge on the La Feast (just remember to ask your server to make it vegan). The mezze and pita falafel offerings are equally good, but we’ve found the mezze size to be more than filling where we’ve ordered other appetizers. Sadly, the mushroom-y vegan hushwie has disappeared from the both the lunch and dinner menus, but we hope that someday it will make a reappearance.

Najib's Special

Najib's Special Plate

On the dinner menu, the vegan options from the lunch menu are still available. One shining difference is the vegan meshwi. If you order this offering, you’d better arrive at Nuba very hungry. The dish’s skewers of grilled mushrooms and vegetables are large the hummus and taboulleh plentiful. Since the Spoonies can be creatures of habit when it comes to finding really good dishes we like, we’ve yet to try the eggplant with Lebanese ratatouille, the house fattoush salad, the eggplant stew, or the grilled laffa and labneh. But, if these dishes are like everything else vegan on the menu, we’re certain these items won’t disappoint.

Of course, there’s dessert options as well, along with freshly squeezed juices and a decent selection of other beverages, including wine (not all of them vegan). We’ve never had enough room left for dessert and usually avoid ordering drinks since it means less room for the all important food. If you’re brave enough to have tried the dessert, let us know. One of these days, we’ll learn to leave a little room for a sweet encore.

As much as we love Nuba, it does have some faults. During several visits, our dishes arrived without some ingredients. Specifically, the Mjadra frequently doesn’t come with the promised avocado or jalapeno. The hot sauce included with some dishes almost never makes an appearance. The baba ghanooj and hummus mezze never come with as much pita as they require. And once in a rare while it takes the servers a few tries before they remember what drinks you ordered or that you ordered a drink at all. Despite these sticking points, the service is generally friendly and there’s usually a quick turnaround from the time we’ve ordered to the time our food arrives at the table. And the atmosphere is easy-going with a hang-out kind of vibe. Nuba’s definitely the perfect place to take out-of-town friends, for a romantic tête-à-tête, or to rest your weary feet post-downtown prowl. Come hungry and leave plenty stuffed and happy.

Nuba 1 Lentils

Mjadra Mezze

mushroom plate

Veggie Hushwi Plate

Falafel

Falafel Plate

 

OrganicLives

100% vegan

Cuisine: Raw
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Times visited: 4
Location: 1829 Quebec Street (at 2nd Avenue), Vancouver
Hours: 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Contact: 778-588-7777
Website: http://www.organiclives.org/

Creamy Zughetti - OrganicLives

Creamy Zughetti with Earth Salad.

However you choose to pronounce the name of this place, it really doesn’t matter. Once you’ve taken a bite of their delicious fare, all you’ll remember is that you must come back for more.

With a take-out deli and juice/smoothie bar, grocery section, and sit-down dining, you really can’t go wrong with whatever catches your eye at OrganicLives. It seems that almost from the moment this place opened last spring, it’s been a hit with most everyone who’s walked through their doors. Owner Preet Marwaha told us that some folks like the food there so much they drive in from dozens of miles away just to stock up on supplies and  satisfy their cravings for a little bit of organic raw goodness.

And if you’re not local but you’d like to see what they have on offer, head on over to their website and peruse their online store. In addition to a number of food ingredients, they also have the much sought-after VitaMix blenders for sale, as well as books, DVDs and a larger selection of dried fruits and other goods not available in the store.

The location Organic Lives occupies is part of a large former warehouse that’s over 100 years old. Various architectural features of the original building structure can still be seen throughout the restaurant. It’s a very simple space but clean, with seating for 16 people and plenty of room to maneuver about the other customers with your shopping basket. There’s also some bar seating available in front of a picture window with a full view of the behind the scenes preparation. There are two entrances on Quebec Street (one with stairs, one without), and a large bathroom at the south end of the restaurant, roomy and accessible, with a few turns.

Raw Pizza - OrganicLives

Flatbread Pizza with Caesar Salad.

If you can get past gawking at the unusual selection of raw ingredients displayed in-store, you’ll find an extensive selection of gourmet dishes on their sit-down menu. Rather than muck about with creating silly names for things like “cheese” and “milk”, the menu gets straight to the point, calling mock dishes by their not so vegan names, such as the chive foie gras in the French Country Feast. Not to worry, everything on the menu is 100% vegan, so order with abandon!

The offerings in the deli section are equally tasty, with wraps, sushi, prepackaged dessert nibbles, freshly juiced concoctions, smoothies, and more available for toting away. And lest your eyes and hunger get the best of your reason, know that the smoothies are large enough to be meals themselves. So beware when you’re thinking of ordering a smoothie, lunch, and dessert. You’ll likely not be hungry for many hours after eating that much food.

When you see the desserts you’ll be sorely tempted to start with those first. Staff say that customers have named the desserts themselves, calling one of them “heaven in your mouth” (this is the cake slice simply known as Ganache). There’s a dessert for nearly every taste and craving, some of the most delicious being the pecan pie-like Caramel Cinnamon pie, the Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake, and the walnut-studded slice of fudge. The dark, dense macaroons are also popular, as is the unusual strawberry shortcake. It may just be that after seeing their resolve-weakening creations, you might just skip the main course altogether and just have desert instead. Paired with their delicious Almond Chai Latte (either hot or cold) or and espresso, dessert will leave you as pleased as a cat with catnip.

Raw Caramel Pie - OrganicLives

Caramel Cinnamon Pie with Pecans.

If you can’t decide what entrée to go with, we can promise you the pizza, which is much like Hawaiian pizza, is an excellent place to start. The pizza’s accompanying Caesar salad’s almond croutons are a delicious surprise. If pizza’s not your style, the Lasagna’s tasty combination of herbs with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese, sun-dried tomato sauce, and hemp basil pesto will definitely have you wanting to dance on the spot with happiness. The Mexican Spirals and Thai Curry dishes are also quite tasty. Want a dinner for two? Many of the entrees are easily sharable, though we think you’ll want to have many of the dishes all to yourself.

The appetizers on the menu are perfect for sharing, especially if you have several friends dining with you. The delicious Crackers and Cheese are belied by their simple name, and the staff swear the Bruschetta & Peruvian Olive Platter, though small, is very popular and worth a chance. It’s a good thing most of the appetizers are small, because you’ll need the room for the main course.

Speaking of the staff, they’re some of the most sincerely nice and attentive servers you’re likely to encounter in a restaurant. They’re observant, thoughtful, quick and eager to offer menu suggestions and a “tour” of the desserts displayed in the deli case. In fact, the servers very much cultivate the pleasant and relaxing atmosphere, the absence of which would make Organic Lives an otherwise sparse space. Preet and his staff are always excited about striking up a conversation and giving you honest answers to any questions you might have.

And one last note: be prepared to spend some time here. Most dishes from the sit-down menu are made from scratch when they’re ordered, and this may take a little time. We assure you – you’ll be more than pleased you waited. If you’re in a hurry, then visit the deli section and have a look at take-out options for quick to-go options.

This is a place we hope to visit many more times to come, and we think that once you give OrganicLives a try, you and even the most anti-raw person you know will want to come back for seconds too.

Raw Lasagne - OrganicLives

Lasagne with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese and Caesar salad.

Raw Nachos - OrganicLives

Nacho platter.

Raw Mexican Spirals - OrganicLives

Mexican Spirals.

Raw Crackers and Cheese - OrganicLives

Crackers with three cheeses.

Raw Strawberry Shortcake - OrganicLives

Strawberry Shortcake.

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake - OrganicLives

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake.

Raw Tiramisu - OrganicLives

Tiramisu.