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Victoria Wholesome Food Market
1373 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, Ontario N2B 3R6
Cost: $5- $30
As you skim along busy Victoria Street North for the last few kilometers before it becomes farm land just outside of Breslau — or what is left of it — you may not notice Victoria Wholesome Food Market. But it’s there right beside the Heart and Stroke Foundation offices.
They’ve actually done some good marketing: to wit, the large photos in the windows, including the message that they have local food and grass-fed beef, and a business moniker that at once plays upon food monolith Whole Foods and local gem Victoria Street Market a few blocks further along: someone in the PR department has a true ear.
Inside is an open space bifurcated by racks of baked goods, including Afghani naan and bakalava — the latter is rich and sweet and contains both walnuts and pistachios — and a few chairs for waiting for takeaway. VWFM is a retail shop and for delivery and take-out. The flaw with that, of course, is keeping your food hot while you bring it home.
Amid the racks, you might find red chili manakish, a dish of Syria, Jordan and other middle eastern countries: a tomatoey “folded” pizza that isn’t fiery hot, it has a slight sweetness that can be eaten hot or at room temperature.
On one side of the racks are neatly arranged Halal meat coolers; on the other is a hot table, a multi-tiered rotating pizza warmer and service counter. The staff operating each of these stations are extremely pleasant and friendly. They want to talk to you about their food, and that’s something I truly enjoy about such a business.
And on the menu side, you can see that overhead on bright digital menu boards. A small three-topping pizza with a drink is $7.49, an extra large with three toppings and three drinks is $15.49. I would say that the flavour and composition is of conventional chain pizza, but there is something more appealing about the crust. Ask them to pop the slice in the oven to heat a bit further.
Appetizers include samosas, pakoras and lentil soup. There are burgers ($4.99) and several vegetarian dishes, but the thing here is the meat, given the other side of the store. The hot table has six or so steam wells with a range of foods from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan along with other middle eastern flavours. That includes Afghani rice with beef, lentils, karahi (the name of a cooking vessel) chicken stir fry with vegetables, a noodle dish and beef or lamb qorma, the latter of which interchanges daily and uses a yogurt-based cooking technique that results in a rich sauce.
The beef version is exceedingly tender — some of the meat is on-bone and comes with a delicious bit of cartilage — and the portion size is quite large. The good amount of basmati rice is again tender and flavourful with a range of spice flavours like cardamom, cumin, fennel and fenugreek.
A seekh kebab is a skewer of minced meat in Pakistani style: it has good mild but noticeable spice flavour and, again, comes with a lot of rice. Frankly, the little dish of mint sauce is delicious, bright and well-balanced: I ate it straight-up with a spoon. An order of Afghani whole wheat naan larger than an LP-record is $1 extra (but could have been fresher).
The grill specialties are eight dinners, from beef skewers and lamb chops to tandoori and a pickle-marinated achari chicken ($7-$13).
When skimming along Victoria Street, pop in and give it try.