Palestinian-Israeli concept, Bar Haifa, is set to open doors inside the Deloitte Building (400 West Georgia) later this month. The downtown Vancouver restaurant is the sister location of a concept that began as a tiny takeout window in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood during the pandemic. Haifa Room has since become one of the most adored Middle Eastern restaurants in Eastern Canada, and now it’s finally branching out to the West Coast.
Haifa Room takes its name from the seaport city in Israel where Arabs and Jews were historically known to peacefully work and live side-by-side (echoing the spirit of collaborative respect between Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish restaurateurs, Waseem Dabdoub, Fadi Hakim, Mark Kupfert, Joseph Eastwood and Chef Jason Hemi). In the Vancouver iteration, the team hopes to carry on the original Haifa Room’s tradition of exploring fresh takes on their culture’s food in all of its varieties, but with a more significant emphasis on wine and cocktails (hence the name change to Bar Haifa).
Located directly across the lobby from Giovane Caffe and behind the grand Fazoli piano, the space naturally benefits from open ceilings anchored by nesting sliding glass doors that open the east wall up to the Central Library across the street. A grounding colour palette of green and yellow tones, plus warm wood accents, provide a feeling of coziness that nicely balances out the marble and textured concrete. The addition of plenty of plants plus a healthy smattering of the team’s cookbooks and knickknacks will also ground the space. Music is another huge factor: occasionally, via live piano music, but otherwise provided by co-owner Dabdoub (who often moonlights as a DJ). Think a chill, cool vibe with playlists featuring low-tempo funk, jazz and disco.
The 1850 sqft indoor space is aiming for 46 seats on the floor, eight along the bar, and 12 at the “Chef’s Island” (counter seating that looks onto the open kitchen). The massive (1500 sqft!) patio will add to another approximately 66 seats. Three long banquettes made of wood and forest green leather have already been installed inside, and additional bistro-style tables (shorter than typical high-tops) with marble tops and green accents will match the bar and “Chef’s Island.” The waist-level height is meant to invoke the feeling of sitting at the kitchen counter while friends or family cook for you, exemplifying the general ethos of making guests feel “the heart, soul and warmth found in Middle Eastern food and culture.”
Space-wise, Bar Haifa is an upgrade from the 28-seat original location – something the team plans to take full advantage of with their Vancouver food and beverage program. Sous Chefs Wayne Pardy (formerly Jam Cafe, Haifa Room Toronto) and Aaron Jude Lobo (previously The Gull Bar & Kitchen, Il Castello), along with Chef Hemi, have been working hard on building a new menu that complements the original Toronto menu. Some of the greatest hits – like Chef Hemi’s low-key famous hummus (which he’s spent over a decade on perfecting, no biggie) and the tasty boneless lamb shoulder – will be making their way to the Bar Haifa menu, while new additions will likely focus on the West Coast’s abundant seafood.
Alex Thornley, of Published, Bar Susu and Como, joins the team as Wine Director, and Cassandra Mosher (formerly Bao Bei, Bacaro, Como Taperia) takes on the role of General Manager. Together, the pair aim to create a drink list with a little bit of everything so that anyone can find something they like on it, but always focusing on small producers. To start out, there will be feature beer taps from 33 Acres, Lebanese wines from Chateau Musar and Mersel, and an ever-changing cocktail menu.
From a press release distributed earlier today:
The restaurant was originally scheduled to open in July of this year, but because of construction delays it was pushed to mid-November, placing the opening in the midst of the tragic conflict in Gaza and Israel.
“At first, words failed us. We’re devastated. We all have family members living in Palestine and Israel,” said Hakim. “As we grapple with the situation, we grieve for all the civilians, our helplessness. For now, our focus is connecting people through shared experience and finding a commonality between people through food.”
Bar Haifa is hoping to open doors to the public next week. Stay tuned here and to @barhaifa for updates (and have a peek at the photos below while you wait for opening day…)