Every day, chef Daniel Berro dedicates three hours to a video call with his mother and grandmother. The matriarchs of his family are the driving force behind his passion for food and cooking.
In September 2023, 22-year-old Berro, alongside his family, introduced Qube Restaurant to the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The first restaurant endeavour of the family offers a taste of Lebanon through a menu with traditional dishes that draw inspiration from their ancestral northern Lebanese village of Ain El-Ghoubayeh.
Back in his home country of Lebanon, Berro frequently competed in blind taste tests against his family, with his grandmother acting as the judge. “Sometimes I win, but most of the time I lose,” he admits. “We always compete. Me against my mom, my sister, and my dad—everybody competes.”
In one such competition, Berro beat his mother with his rendition of muhammara—a traditional roasted red pepper dip made with pomegranate molasses and walnuts. He was just 16 years old at the time.
“Usually it’s only made with walnuts, but we add cashews,” Berro explains. “In my village, my grandma used to add cashews, which always seemed better. Nobody other than us adds cashews.”
In Vancouver, dishes like shawarma, falafel, and hummus are already popular, but Lebanese cuisine is so much more than that. Rich and diverse, it can be characterized by a wide variety of fresh and flavourful ingredients, often highlighting the use of olive oil, garlic, lemon, and a combination of herbs and spices. Lebanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on fresh ingredients and offers a balance of vegetables, grains, and proteins.
The menu at Qube Restaurant is a collection of recipes that Berro (who is executive chef) inherited from his family and experienced while growing up in the mountainous village of Ain El-Ghoubayeh.
Berro, joined by his father and two sisters, takes immense pride in sharing the flavours of his Lebanese heritage through Qube. The restaurant’s menu is a celebration of their traditional cuisine, featuring old-school dishes such as dawood basha and samke harra.
Dawood basha features kafta (Lebanese meatballs seasoned with parsley, onions, and a blend of Middle Eastern spices) nestled in a savoury tomato and pomegranate molasses sauce, complemented by cut-up and peeled potatoes. This flavourful dish is commonly served atop a bed of rice.
Given his village’s proximity to the Abraham River, Berro was eager to introduce a Lebanese fish dish to Vancouver—and thus, samke harra made its way to the menu. Though it is traditionally served whole (scales and all), for ease of consumption, he chose to fillet his version. It’s marinated in a special spice mix that includes flavours of tomato, coriander, and chili.
Berro’s village has also gained recognition for its apple and strawberry crops. Sami, Berro’s father, who brings a wealth of experience from his work in hotel and restaurant management across the globe, attributes the village’s success in fruit cultivation to the unique environmental landscape. The village’s elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level, combined with the use of snow water for irrigation, ensures that the soil remains consistently moist, creating an ideal environment for the thriving apple and strawberry orchards.
Berro is looking forward to experimenting with apples and strawberries once they are in season in Vancouver—particularly with a chicken and apple dish.
“We don’t have a lot of chicken dishes in Lebanon,” says Berro. “So I want to do it [the fruit] with chicken and then I also want to do it with desserts, of course.”
Berro emphasizes his commitment to combining local freshness with Lebanese authenticity. He selects local meat, poultry, and produce to ensure the highest quality. At the same time, he upholds the true flavours of Lebanon by importing essential Lebanese spices and olive oil from his homeland. This fusion of local and imported ingredients reflects the core of Lebanese cuisine, which at its foundation, thrives on freshness and thoughtfully chosen components.
Qube was originally going to open in Ottawa, but after one visit to Vancouver, Berro fell in love with the city and knew this was where he wanted to be. He worked various customer service and hospitality jobs to get to know the market here before venturing out on his own. When it came to choosing a space for the restaurant, he went with the more expensive option in Kitsilano, stating that he wanted an environment with a thriving community.
Still, it has not been easy; Berro admits that the family already had to sell a piece of land back in Lebanon to keep the restaurant afloat. But despite the challenges, he remains optimistic.
“People are loving the food,” says Berro. “I’m still trying to stick to my roots as much as I can.”