Saanich Peninsula Dining and Ethnic Cuisine food. Don Denton photographs

Flavours Of The World

Ethnic cuisine dining choices spice up the Saanich Peninsula

  • Mar. 5, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Hans Tammemagi Photographs by Don Denton

An army marches on its stomach,” Napoleon once said. The military genius’ words might also be applicable to travel during this prolonged and painful pandemic. And although we can’t travel internationally, we can still savour the character and flavour of faraway lands by visiting some of the Peninsula’s divine ethnic restaurants. With this in mind, I set out to taste the world through culinary experiences.

Zanzibar Café

The first stop in my around-the-world culinary quest is Zanzibar Café. Tucked away on the outskirts of Brentwood Bay, it offers a unique peek into North Africa.

Entering, I immediately discover a delightfully funky setting, with open, upside-down umbrellas, hanging from the rafters beside large fans. African pots and carvings adorn the walls. Patios grace the front and rear of the one-storey building; the rear patio emerges like an African jungle with the beams entwined by vines and surrounded by greenery.

Co-owner Mohamed Dehairi, a Le Cordon Bleu chef from Algeria, has created an intriguing menu, featuring dishes that reflect his love of North Africa as well as the west coast.

Mo proudly presents a beautifully decorated serving dish and, lifting the lid, releases the succulent aromas of an apricot and olive tagine. I bite into the spicy chicken and merguez (spicy lamb sausage), closing my eyes to focus on the rich combination of spices.

“I named this restaurant the Zanzibar because markets there provide the best, most diverse spices in the world,” Mo explains.

Leaving, I can’t wait for the weather to warm (and the COVID-19 pandemic to relent) so I can return and enjoy a meal surrounded by vines on the rear patio.

Royal Aroma

I stroll to the nearby Royal Aroma restaurant, where the dishes emit wonderful aromas of spices. Long attracted to the multicultural traditions and rich history of India, I feel like I’ve finally arrived.

The walls are covered with dozens of photos showing ancient forts, temples and palaces, ladies in bright saris, painted elephants with armour, festivals and rituals. Indian music, with the distinctive sitar, plays softly in the background.

Arsh, the sister of Raj, the owner, explains that their family hails from northern India, and goes on to describe the menu of more than 70 dishes, including curries, naan, biryanis, masalas, tandooris and samosas.

The most popular dishes are the Malabar Coconut Curry and the Mughlai Shahi Korma. I have long been infatuated with Indian food, especially its rich spicy sauces, and I’m impressed that these are offered in six “heat” levels from mild to Indian hot.

Taste of Tokyo

Next, I travel (a few blocks) to Japan and enter the Taste of Tokyo. Just like in Japan, the staff, all dressed in black and wearing masks, are extremely polite and offer impeccable service.

The photos and décor are from Tokyo, but include some west coast influence.

Jonathon, one of three owners, guides me through the menu, which includes tempura, noodles, bento boxes and dozens of sushi rolls.

I bite into a Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll (their most popular dish) and I’m smitten by the flavours of avocado and sriracha mayo, mingling perfectly with the spicy tuna and enriched by teriyaki sauce and tobiko (a type of fish roe).

Good Fortune

Soon I arrive at Good Fortune, which has been serving tasty Chinese (Cantonese) dishes in Sidney for more than 30 years.

Yen Li—who, with her husband Ben, owns and operates the restaurant—shows me around, and I feel like I’ve arrived in the Middle Kingdom. The detailed and attractive décor reflects the long history and traditions of China, and, in fact, many of the artifacts here have been collected by Ben from China. There is a large, elegant aquarium full of colourful koi, and a small shrine to god Guan Yu sitting high on a wall.

I’m impressed by the careful attention to detail. Cloth napkins are folded into various origami shapes. Tables are unique and made of solid mahogany. A model junk and various pots and artifacts are tastefully displayed and there are subtle undertones of red, which Yen explains is one of China’s national colours.

Sipping a green tea, I peruse the lengthy menu of mouth-watering chow mein and egg foo young varieties, and I’m drawn in by the Szechuan dishes as they are especially spicy. Delicious!

Maria’s Souvlaki Greek Restaurant

At the nearby Maria’s Souvlaki Greek Restaurant in Sidney, I gaze at the numerous photos lining the dining room walls. White houses are tangled together beside a deep blue Aegean sea. Church domes topped in cerulean blue contrast with the vivid white buildings. Donkeys laden with market goods wander along the roads.

I feel as though I’m right there in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. As I bit into one of Maria’s tasty souvlaki, oozing with tzatziki sauce, she explains that her donair and moussaka are very popular. Maria’s restaurant, run by Maria, her son and even her grandsons helping out, has brought a slice of Greece to Sidney for 25 years. You may even catch snatches of Greek being spoken.

Returning home, I was thankful that, in spite of all its difficulties, the pandemic had brought me this opportunity to travel and taste my way around the globe.

If You Go

North Africa:Zanzibar Cafe, Brentwood Bay,

zanzibarcafe.ca

Greece:Maria’s Souvlaki Greek Restaurant,

Sidney, mariassouvlaki.ca

China:Good Fortune Restaurant, Sidney,

goodfortunerestaurantsidney.ca

India:Royal Aroma Bistro, Sidney,

sv.royal-aroma.com

Japan:Taste of Tokyo Restaurant, Sidney,

tasteoftokyo.ca

Further GlobeTrotting:

Italy:Porto Osteria, Canoe Cove,

portoosteria.ca

Korea: J. Kitchen Korean & Japanese Restaurant, Sidney,

find us on Facebook

Thailand: Sabhai Thai, Sidney,

sabhai.ca

This story originally appeared in PEARL Magazine

DiningFood

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

Dianna Plouffe, right, with Mayor Gladys Atrill in front of Town Hall following the announcement she will be the new CAO> (Facebook photo)
Director of corporate services named Smithers CAO

Dianna Plouffe replaces Alan Harris who is retiring at the end of April

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Witset. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read