Expands the Senses
Chef Mark McEwan of Vancouver's Sanafir restaurant guides diners on an edible excursion with a menu that features dishes with North African and Asian flavours.
Memorable meals are much akin to journeys, transporting the senses into new realms of experience. When such meals coincide with festive celebration, the experience becomes indelibly etched upon our minds. Such is a nightly occurrence at Vancouver’s Sanafir, where guests embark on an edible excursion along the ancient Silk Road, sustained by a menu bursting with the flavours of North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. As the most opulent of the city’s Glowbal Restaurant Group, Sanafir’s richly textured interior, replete with lounging beds and veils of mystery, has attracted as diverse a mix of celebrities and epicureans as any room in the country. For Chef Mark McEwan, standing at the helm of its kitchen is both an honour and an adventure. Taking his food both to and from the heart, his passions were ignited at an early age by his mother’s love of entertaining from scratch; the aromas of roasted red peppers and fresh pasta and pizza prepping have never left him. McEwan’s fingers have stretched far beyond the borders of his mother’s Italian heritage. Sanafir’s uniquely crafted menu hinges upon trios of tapas, each featuring a singular protein addressed with regional ingredients and exotic influences. “I have always thought that the best bites of a meal are the first and the last,” he explains. “The first ignites the experience to come, and the last is the one we savour. What we have done is miniaturize the meal to consist entirely of first and last bites to create an experience that continually challenges the palate with flavours from the greatest culinary cultures in the world.” Being able to tap into seasonal sustenance is another source of ongoing inspiration in any kitchen, even the coldest. For McEwan, the squashes and root vegetables, along with the game meats and mushrooms, are as exciting as the fresh greens of summer, bringing with them a whole new set of menu possibilities. “The change is always good, and each season tends to produce whatever pairs best with the weather. Winter ingredients offer up tremendous comfort.” No stranger to hosting informal nightly gatherings, as well as more intimate velvet-rope affairs for Hollywood stars and professional athletes alike, McEwan remains grounded in his approach to entertaining. Preparation, bold flavours, and simplicity remain the keys both at home and in the restaurant. “The biggest challenge is to get out of the kitchen and see what is going on with your guests. You don’t want a menu that keeps you in the kitchen all night long,” he says. “Good, honest food wins people over and relieves the stress, so you get to be part of the party.” Recipes