Nuba started out as a small 15-seat restaurant on Hastings Street in Vancouver 25 years ago. At the time, there weren’t many Lebanese restaurants around, and Hastings street was nowhere as busy as it is now.
Victor Bouzide, the founder, attracted foodies to Nuba with his grandmother’s comforting Lebanese home cooking, and sure enough, it quickly became one of Vancouver’s favourite eateries. Fast forward to now, Nuba has 4 locations in Vancouver, and each space has a character of its own.
The restaurant we visited was at their Yaletown location - no longer a hole-in-the-wall eatery, this Nuba is an airy, warmly lit space with a modern edge. Their playful injections of pastel colours and geometric patterned walls artistically represent the bold flavours of Lebanese fare and Nuba’s evolution with time. Their current menu not only contains traditional staples, but also contemporary creations put together by their chefs.
When you look closely, you’ll notice they have also incorporated a few Middle Eastern elements, such as curved frames and ceiling lamps with tiny pores where light seeps through, creating a cozy dining atmosphere.
To start off our meal, we had three drinks from their fresh juice bar - Carrot Citrus, made with carrot, orange, ginger, and lime; Go Green, made with spinach cucumber, lime, mint, pear, and orange; and ABC, made with beet, carrot, and apple. Each drink is a vitamin packed concoction with a bit of zing that will wake up your senses before you dig in.
The first dish we tried was Mama Doullou’ah, a luscious roasted beet dip made with a blend of garlic, pomegranate, lemon, tahini, and walnuts. It also came with a side of grilled flatbreads. Beware - this dip is dangerously addictive. Its rich magenta hue and earthy textures, and not at all does it taste heavy, you’ll devour this entire dish in no time.
Next we tried two of their hot appetizers: Chicken Shish Tawook – chicken skewers that were juicy and packed with flavour, and Lamb Hushwie – a dish made for those who appreciate the distinctive flavour of lamb.
Lamb Hushwie is made of sautéed minced lamb with onion, pine nuts, and spices. Both dishes were served with avocados and pickled cabbage with a generous spread of their signature hummus. Spoon this creamy goodness with your favourite meat onto fresh pita breads and you’ll (almost!) be fully satisfied.
Our meal at Nuba would not be complete without trying Najib’s Special, their famous crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt. We were recommended to share a Le Feast so we could also sample a few other popular dishes, such as falafel, mjadra, eggplant with tomato stew, fattoush salad, macedonian feta and olives.
It also came with a Le Petit Feast which had both of their decadent hummus and baba ghanooj, along with taboulleh and pickled cabbage.
Once we tasted Najib’s Special, we finally understood why this vegan dish is everyone’s all time favourite. It has the perfect balance of crispiness, tanginess, and heartiness– a definite winner in our books. Besides the cauliflower, what makes Le Feast a stand out dish ultimately came down to the delightful flavours of each component, making their fresh and handpicked organic and local ingredients shine; and of course, the sheer variety offered in this share plate was simply satisfying.
Needless to say, we left Nuba with our bellies full and hearts content. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or carnivore, Nuba will be a place you’ll keep coming back for delicious, wholesome Lebanese food.
Nuba in Yaletown
508 Davie Street Vancouver B.C.
Photos: Florence Leung