Every time I’ve walked by the new development going up at the corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue I’ve winced at the thought of a chain restaurant moving into one of the ground floor spaces. To my mind, a chain would only detract from the friendly neighbourhood vibe that the small and independent businesses in this area have built up over time (thank you Brassneck, Como, Cartems, The Whip, The Narrow, Itsumo Life and and Kranky Cafe). So, when I heard about the project that would be moving into the space at 2102 Main St, I was not just relieved, I was actually excited.
Zarak, brought to us by the team from South Surrey’s much loved Afghan Kitchen, is a family-run and community-minded restaurant by anyone’s measure of the concept. Like Afghan Kitchen, Zarak is owned and operated by a team of family members and friends who are sincerely motivated by the desire to share good food and create connections between people.
The 2,277 sq ft space has been brought to life by architect Marko Simcic of Simcic Uhrich Architecture (Superflux, Harken, The Birds and the Beets, Brassneck) by merging a modern design aesthetic with materials, building lines, and colour palettes based on traditional Afghan mud houses. The result is a room that subtly pays homage to a distant place while simultaneously remaining grounded in the ‘now’ of Vancouver.
Like the room, the menu also marries tradition with innovation. Owner and GM Hassib Sarwari explains: “Mum [Zohra Parwani] and [younger brother] Ehsan will be overseeing that our food stays true to the integrity of mum’s recipes. When we first moved to Canada, dinners at home played a major role in our adjustment to the country. When mum cooked for us, we felt connected to the life we grew up with, in Afghanistan, so she would cook our favourite dishes everyday so that we could be nourished and to make our new home in Canada, our home. Through her cooking, I see the connection that she fosters with four young boys she raised all by herself in a brand new country, and that same food with the same recipes will be served at Zarak.”
This means that most popular dishes from Afghan Kitchen have found a home at Zarak – diners can be assured that Bolani (a pan-fried flatbread stuffed with potato); chicken qorma; roasted lamb; Afghan rice; an abundance of dips and chutneys, and the small-batch rosewater ice cream with a cult-like following at the Surrey location will all be available. However, there will also be playful additions that will give Zarak its own identity (look for a cocktail program that incorporates flavours such as fig, almond, cardamom, saffron, and rosewater, as well as creative desserts by pastry pro Daniel Munoz.)
After having had the chance to tour the space (see pictures below), taste the food and meet the family, I am even more excited for what they’ll bring to the neighbourhood. Zarak isn’t just a restaurant, it’s also a vehicle for storytelling. From the hand-woven Afghan textiles covering the bench seating, to the almost imperceptible kite-shaped gold flakes embedded in the ceiling, there is a story hiding in almost every corner. And not just in the decor – the menu as well. When you visit this new addition to Main Street, don’t be shy. Ask questions. Try new things.
Zarak will open in early December. Keep an eye on their IG feed for an opening day announcement.
Hours will be 5-10PM, Wednesday—Sunday. CLOSED Monday + Tuesdays.