Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — When one of your favourite chefs comes to town, you rejoice. I’ve been a fan of Kunal Ghose’s cuisine for a while and, if you’ve been to Victoria, it’s likely you have been too. Ghose is the mastermind behind Red Fish, Blue Fish, whose lineups in Victoria’s Inner Harbour are unmistakeable. Serving fish tacos and fish and chips to go, Red Fish, Blue Fish has been doing big business since it opened in 2007. Ghose has since launched Fishhook, serving Bengali-style fish curries, in central Victoria. Now, with Masaladobo, located near the foot of Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, he has created a brilliant melding of Indian and Mexican flavours.
The menu items are delicious, affordable and healthy. Ghose doesn’t use dairy in his cooking, opting for coconut milk instead, and instead of wheat flour, he opts for chickpea and rice flour in many of his dishes. There are also gluten-free and vegetarian options throughout. As well, the restaurant is deeply committed to practices focused on protecting the environment. Waste is composted, seafood is OceanWise certified and many materials used in the restaurant are recyclable.
What is distinct, though, is the cuisine. Ghose says, and I agree, that the mixing of Indian and Mexican flavours — two of the most beloved cuisines in the world — is a good fit that’s overdue in the marketplace.
“Equatorially, they are very much aligned. The Latin flavours and the Indian flavours have so much in common. And as someone who is half-Indian, I thought it was very appealing to try to make Indian food more accessible, like Mexican food is,” he says, explaining the idea for the casual fare at Masaladobo, including the tacos, which are wrapped in roti, the Indian version of flatbread.
Opened in March, Masaladobo is one of many new and established restaurants where diners can find outstanding lunch options in Vancouver. Savvy travellers will tell you that lunch is the meal you should focus your dining plans on. It’s cheaper than dinner, wait times at popular restaurants aren’t as long and it’s healthier, because you’re not likely to have dessert. Vancouver is full of excellent lunch spots. Here are 10 you should consider.
Masaladobo (433 Granville Street) — In the space that formerly housed burger-focused Cannibal Cafe, Masaladobo had to win over one of the most important people in its operations before Ghose was given the green light for his Mexican-Indian creations. General manager Jesse Leitner journeyed to Victoria to visit Ghose’s house, where the chef prepared a feast of the items he aimed to put on the menu.
“I wasn’t sure if the concept of Indo-Mexican would work, but I went to Victoria and Kunal came out with these dishes and I was like, Oh, my God, I’ve never had food like this,” Leitner says.
No menu item costs more than $15 and several are less than $10, making Masaladobo one of the most affordable and highest-quality lunch choices in Vancouver.
Field & Social (415 Dunsmuir Street) — Massive salads with inventive ingredients from ethically sourced producers is what you’ll find at this outstanding little spot a couple of blocks east of Granville Street. Try the Kale Caesar Salad ($13), with a smoked chicken thigh, or the Farmer’s Crop ($12), with warm potatoes, seared Brussels sprouts and a soft boiled egg.
Railtown Cafe (397 Railway Street and other locations) — Proprietor Dan Olson launched Railtown Cafe following a long career in the fine-dining world. The former chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California wanted to return to his hometown in British Columbia and apply the culinary skills he had acquired to a project that fed more people healthy food. His idea has flourished as Railtown Cafe is a booming operation with more and more locations opening up, including recent additions on Main Street and Howe Street. Classic sandwiches, gourmet salads and pastries are the focus of the menu. Try the Ancient Grain Salad ($11) with red kale, organic blue barley, farro, feta, crispy spiced chick peas and tzatziki dressing, among other ingredients.
Bel Cafe (801 West Georgia Street) — David Hawksworth’s coffee shop at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia known for its macarons also serves good salads and an outstanding Chicken Banh Mi sandwich ($12.40). You’ll also enjoy the Steelhead Sushi Salad ($14) with brown rice and avocado.
Food Trucks — Vancouver is Canada’s leader in the food-truck scene. When the weather is warm, dozens of food trucks will line the streets of the city’s downtown and busy areas where businesses congregate. Read this article about the food trucks and the tours you can take during your visit.
Lunch and Dinner Service
Bauhaus (1 West Cordova Street) — The best schnitzel in town and some of the best fine dining in the country, Bauhaus continues to serve amazing cuisine. If you’re dining in spring, white asparagus from Germany and traditional Bavarian blood sausage are featured on the menu for lunch and dinner.
Rangoli (1480 West 11th Avenue) — Vikram Vij’s diner-style eatery is a lunch-time favourite for small plates of curries, pakoras and Indian-spiced salads. The Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry ($17), served on paneer and with naan, has been a menu favourite for years.
Maenam (1938 West 4th Avenue) — One of the toughest tables to get in the city for dinner, Maenam is less busy during lunch, partly because office towers and the workers who occupy them during the day are scarce in Kitsilano, the restaurant’s neighbourhood. Diners will be treated to chef Angus An’s flavourful tastes and healthy ingredients.
Nightingale (1017 West Hastings Street) — This David Hawksworth restaurant appeals to the masses, with pizzas, seafood favourites and a range of vegetarian choices. The pizza itself is a unique creation. Read about how many iterations Hawksworth and his team went through before finally finding a pizza dough good enough in their minds to put on the menu.
Royal Dinette (905 Dunsmuir Street)— Pastas with a west-coast flair and Asian flavours in many dishes are what is eye-catching about this menu, along with a number of options that take advantage of the restaurant’s penchant for pickling and fermenting its fruits and vegetables.