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

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: New hospital shouldn’t charge for parking

Paying a parking meter is the last thing people visiting a hospital should have to worry about.

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Asparagus root, dug up from the old patch and ready to be transplanted. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Some tips on growing asparagus

When choosing asparagus I recommend buying male plants for juicier, plumper spears.

If you’re looking for a goat time, visit Russell Farms Market! (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Looking for a goat time on Good Friday

If you drive by the farm market a little slower you see the goat pen.

The McCloskey-Hydro Rain Garden, located in a sunny Hydro corridor and receiving about 2.5 million litres of rainwater runoff per year from the roof of nearby McCloskey Elementary School. (Deborah Jones photo)
A&E column: From nature to poetry to puppets, there’s plenty afoot

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment scene

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read