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 artist rendered Sadie with a few more ribs and wrinkles than she had in real life, and with the fading of her paint she looks a little sad. But real-life Sadie was an energetic hunting dog, her owner Cliff Curtis said. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Dog sculpture at Glen Lake Park based off a happy hunting hound

Sadie the dog was not as old as the concrete art looks almost 20 years later

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply as overdose emergency turns 5

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

The Latoria South section of the Royal Bay development in Colwood could include a new long-term care facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood’s Royal Bay could be home to new long-term care facilities

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $8M land purchase for purpose

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth gets combative with police at Victoria hospital

VicPD officer injured, youth kept in care under Mental Health Act

A man with a history of sexual offences was arrested after he followed and aggressively tried to talk to two young woman on the weekend. Black Press File Photo
Man convicted of sexual offences arrested after teens followed in Victoria

Women hid in a Quadra Village convenience store as man aggressively tried to get in

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

One of the grand prizes for this year's Hometown Heroes Lottery includes a seaside home at SookePoint, $1.5 million, and an Audi Quattro. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Heroes)
Hometown Heroes Lottery features seaside home in Sooke

A stunning seaside home in Sooke could be yours for the price… Continue reading

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read