While I’ve been to Nuba Cafe several times for takeout and various lunches, I hadn’t been to the Nuba Restaurant on Hastings until this year. I’ve been a couple of times now – once for lunch quite a few months back, where the menu was similar to that of Nuba Cafe, and once more recently for dinner, where there were several additional entree options to choose from.
When I went this past week, I was with a small group of girls – most of whom had not been to the restaurant before. Nuba Restaurant is located in the cozy basement level of a heritage building on the corner of West Hastings and Hamilton. I love the flavours in the Middle Eastern organic food that they serve, and the option of being able to eat vegan- or vegetarian-friendly dishes should I be feeling a bit overwhelmed by meat (and yes, it has happened a few times lately). There is also an organic wine list to choose from (although after this visit, I think I’ll stick with the reds next time)!
While debating over what to order, a few of us shared a bottle of white wine. Although I’m guilty since I was the tester of the first bottle, we ended up finding that the Villa Teresa Pinot Grigio tasted almost like watered down apple juice, and then partway through asked if we could switch to another bottle. They were able to do so, as they sell it by the glass, and just charged us per glass for what we had so far so we could make the switch. When we got our second bottle – this time an Alaris Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc – we found it to be a bit better with more floral accents, but still watered down in flavour. I haven’t had much in terms of organic wine, so I’m wondering if this has something to do with it, or if it’s just the choices we made that evening? I did try a sip of my girlfriend’s red (not sure what kind), and it was ten times better though.
At this point, a few appetizers came to the table, and the Marinated Olives with Feta were first. This was an assortment of olives, topped with thyme, lemon juice, and olive oil and a side of homemade pickles (the pink stuff). You can also order this dish without the feta. I love olives, and could happily eat them every day, before every meal.
At the same time, another two girls at the table opted to order Le Feast, which is a dinner for two for $28 that comes with a large variety of dishes. As an appetizer to this meal, the Baba Ghanooj and Hummus and Taboulleh arrived with some pita triangles. I quite like the hummus, which is made with organic chickpeas blended with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and sprinkled with paprika, but I found that it could’ve had slightly more garlic and lemon added for my tastes. The Baba Ghanooj (creamy roasted eggplant puree with tahini and lemon) was good as is, and the Taboulleh salad (parsley, tomato, green onion, and burghul in a lemon-mint dressing) could have used a bit more tomato, in my opinion.
Shortly afterward, the rest of Le Feast came to the table. It included some deep-fried cauliflower (part of the wonderful Najib’s Special dish that I’ll often eat at Nuba), Falafel (yum!), Marinated Olives, and salads, with sides of hot sauce, tahini, and tzatziki. I didn’t try everything on this plate, so I can only comment overall on what I did try.
My choice of entree for the evening was Spicy Tiger Prawns, with oyster mushroom hushwie, tomato confit, basmati rice, and a lemon wedge. I really liked the spiciness and juiciness of the prawns and the rest of the dish, but could have used a bit more to fill me up. I’m not exactly a light eater, and the serving sizes at Nuba are a bit smaller than many other local restaurants (not that that’s a bad thing – we could surely do with better portion control in North America)!
Although there were six of us dining together, and no one else wanted to have anything sweet to round off the meal, I couldn’t help but get some dessert for myself. I went with the Vegan Sorbet, served over chopped nuts. The flavour changes weekly, and that evening it was a cinnamon sorbet – a nice and light after dinner treat.
Overall, I think that Nuba Hastings is a great place to go for those who are more vegan- or vegetarian-conscious in their food choices, and also as a healthy dining alternative for everyone else. The service is friendly, the food is organic, and the restaurant is cozy and has a warm vibe.
I will be back!