One of the joys of travel is food: discovering a culture through its native ingredients, cooking tools and techniques plus customs around the table. With the pandemic pressing pause on our plans to explore other places, we can still get a taste of the world by tasting culturally diverse restaurants. Here are eateries serving global flavours in some right-sized B.C. places.
By Gail Johnson
LOKA MIDDLE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN, NELSON
Four years ago, siblings David McGlone and Lola Elgert launched Loka (meaning “world” in Sanskrit), taking over an existing Middle Eastern eatery and working closely with its Palestinian owner for years prior. While honouring the restaurant’s history, they fuse Mediterranean elements into their street-food-inspired menu. Mint, dill, cilantro and other fresh herbs are abundant; garlic, lemon, olive oil, sumac and zaatar are flavour staples. Spices like cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and paprika imbue dishes like shawarma chicken and kofta beef-lamb skewer with delicious complexity. Diners have the option of building their own turmeric-jasmine rice bowl, while wah kobiz (spreads) and wraps are highlights. A point of pride is Loka’s distinction as Nelson‘s first artisan gin bar, with a selection of spirits that spans the globe. If a Caesar is more your style, its exotic Mundo Caesar is made with house-made harissa hot sauce. facebook.com/lokafoodnelson
RUBY LAKE RESORT AND TRATTORIA, MADEIRA PARK
Chef Aldo Cogrossi was born and raised in Milano, about 50 kilometres from Lake Como. Having moved to Canada nearly three decades ago, he cooks up traditional northern Italian fare at this Sunshine Coast lakefront getaway, emphasizing sustainability. Many ingredients are grown right on-site (including the basil in the pesto sauce, as well as vegetables, herbs and more). Seafood is Ocean Wise and meats are grass-fed, hormone-free and free-range. Pasta dishes range from penne boscaiola with smoked wild-boar sausage and wild mushrooms to spaghetti primavera with fresh garden vegetables. Cogrossi’s signature Aldo’s Special, or farfalle al salmone, features marinated wild salmon that’s been smoked over cherry wood, in a light pasta cream sauce. rubylakeresort.com
MASALA BISTRO, OLIVER
Before the bistro came the grapes. Sukhwinder Dhaliwal came to Canada from Rama, India, in 1989, with his brother Balwinder joining him soon after. The two parlayed their knowledge of rice farming into grape growing. Amassing some 350 acres, they went on to become among the region’s top growers, with their fruit used in wines that consistently win awards. In 2013, the pair launched Kismet Estate Winery, which takes its name from the Sanskrit word for destiny.
It seemed an Indian restaurant was in their fate, as so many visitors asked the family to open one. Overlooking slightly sloping vineyards, Masala Bistro has a bell-shaped clay tandoor oven and makes lamb vindaloo, chickpea masala with gooseberries, prawn-studded chingari malai curry, butter chicken and crab pakoras. A roadside snack from the Dhaliwal’s birthplace is an especially popular dish: Pani puri chaat comprises chickpeas, potato, and crispy fried bread with tamarind sauce. kismetestatewinery.com/restaurant-menu
KUMA TOFINO, TOFINO
A locals’ favourite, Kuma Tofino serves wholesome Japanese-style comfort food based on heritage recipes in a welcoming, warm environment. Head chef Kei Lowes hails from Sapporo and was raised on Vancouver Island, having travelled back to Japan numerous times over the years to learn traditional cooking methods. “Professional noodle slinger” Madi Greyson helps serve meals intended to make people happy: tonkotsu ramen with braised pork belly in spicy miso-pork broth; house ramen with a shio (salt)-based double broth; and veggie ramen, made with a kombu miso broth and tofu. There’s also okonomiyaki, a Kansai-style savoury pancake, and ever-in-demand chicken karaage. From the sea are dishes like line-caught albacore tuna tartare with avocado puree and scallop crudo with yuzu-jalepeno vinaigrette. kumatofino.com
Elma means apple in Turkish, and this contemporary restaurant is inspired by owners Ayse and Michael Barluk’s family roots. Sumac, zaatar, pistachio, and Urfa pepper (a smoky, dried Turkish chile) are among the ingredients that mingle with products from Okanagan orchards and farms. Meze, which are dishes meant to be shared, are a highlight; think hibiscus-marinated cucumbers, eggplant dip with pomegranate molasses and oven-roasted beets with walnut dukkha, all served with freshly made Turkish bread. Flatbreads and grilled whole fish are other standouts, all served alongside local craft beer and cider, B.C. wine, and creative cocktails with a lake view. eatatelma.com