When the turkey leftovers are gobbled up and you are truly fed up with cooking, may we suggest these three terrific new takeout pivots? All three concepts offer excellent quality and unique twists. And now that the B.C. government is temporarily capping the food-delivery fees charged to restaurants, you can order straight to your couch in good conscience, knowing that no one is getting fleeced.
- 1725 Davie St., Vancouver
- Open daily, 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Doordash.com or call for pickup
The wait for Arike’s buttery beef-cheek pie was long, but well worth the anticipation.
Arike is a modern Nigerian restaurant in Vancouver’s West End that transcends its humble basement setting with complex flavours and gorgeous plating. It was one of my top 10 new restaurants in 2019.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Arike was about to introduce a new upscale menu. Those plans were obviously thwarted after restaurants were ordered closed. Chef and co-owner Sam Olayinka told me he was working on new takeout kits. But by midsummer, when the Black Lives Matter movement erupted, they still hadn’t come online.
“Why aren’t you getting in front of this?” I urged by text. There aren’t many Black restaurant owners in Vancouver and reporters were falling all over themselves to interview them.
To Mr. Olayinka’s credit, he laughed off my well-intentioned suggestion for opportunism and held out until Arike’s takeout operations were finely tuned. The new menu rolled out in late October (the dining room remains closed) and is sensational.
The fresh baked pies, filled with softly braised beef cheeks or slow-roasted vegetables, are encased in rich, golden-yellow pastry made with a sweet, Euro-style butter (Churn84) that’s off the charts in butterfat.
Sink your teeth into these warm, pillowy crusts yielding to melty beef infused with toasted spices in glossy sauce and I guarantee this whole wretched year will feel better.
Four different curries come with the choice of beef shank, smoked chicken or minced vegetable dumplings wrapped in leeks. The tamarind and scotch bonnet curry is piquant and velvety. The new tomato and cinnamon curry is looser and lighter, but with amazing depth of flavour from caramelized onions that have been cooked down for hours. All are amply portioned and fleshed out with crunchy shishito peppers, creamy plantains and earthy sunchokes.
Jollof rice is still available, but do try the luscious coconut rice pilaf, which is tightly balanced with lime, chili and toasted coriander seeds.
There is also sticky tamarind-pineapple chicken, herbaceous mango salad, warm jungle trail mix with candied African peanuts and a boozy coconut cassava cake.
Nothing disappoints. It all travels well and is nicely garnished with pickled onions and scallion ribbons. The prices, topping out at $15, are exceptionally good value. Of all the takeout I consumed in 2020, this is the one I keep craving.
- 1348 Hornby St., Vancouver
- Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Ubereats.com or call for pickup
While there is no shortage of excellent sushi and sashimi options in Vancouver, the new Sashimiya hits a sweet spot between standard takeout and the more elevated omakase places such as Tetsu and Masayoshi.
For 10 years, Takayuki Omi was the smiling chef behind the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s swanky Lobby Lounge RawBar. When the pandemic hit, he lost three jobs, which included a night-market ramen stand and sushi-making classes at the Nikkei Centre in Burnaby. Dreading the thought of having to cut all his staff, he says he left the hotel voluntarily and, with his wife, opened this compact, amply stocked grocery store and grab-and-go.
The menu makes it easy to choose, with plenty of options for individuals (chef-choice plates), families (party trays) and adventurous home cooks. The portioned packs of ready-to-slice fish, sold with cooked rice, roasted nori sheets and all the fixings (including bamboo rolling mats, premium soy sauce and fresh ginger) have become the hottest sellers.
I preordered a sushi party tray (24 pieces of assorted nigiri and three rolls for $70) and was impressed by the freshness of the fish, the knife work (exquisite scoring on the squid) and the care with the garnishes (including delicate shiso flowers, minced ginger and grated chili) matched for each fish.
Takeout sushi rice will never be the perfect temperature, but he uses a premium brand from California that is a bit drier than the Japanese varieties so it holds its texture. He seasons it with red vinegar (rather than rice vinegar) for stronger punch.
This is exceptionally high-quality sushi for the price, which is kept low by sourcing widely and wisely (not exclusively from Japan) and applying all the tight operational cost efficiencies learned through decades of hotel-restaurant management.
Stop in if you can. The grocery side, an unusual delight to explore, is what really sets this place apart.
- 2611 West 4th Ave., Vancouver
- Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- Tock.com, Ubereats.com or call for pickup
If you’re looking for a change from the standard Middle Eastern kebabs and shawarmas, this new Syrian ghost kitchen will amaze you with its cigar rolls of tender grape leaves filled with seasoned rice, smoky charcoal-roasted lamb kibbeh and spicy red-pepper muhammara crowned with big, meaty walnuts and juicy pomegranate seeds.
Sami Mousattat, general manager of the Dark Table restaurant, was scouting locations for a new upscale Syrian restaurant last spring. Although he still has plans to open a full dining room some day, he is now offering a limited takeout menu off the side of his blind-dining venture.
If this is just a sneak preview of what’s in store, it’s going to be great.
The plates are so textured, colourful and bursting with freshness. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. And the halal meats are all butchered in-house. You can really taste the love poured into every labour-intensive dish.
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