Restaurant: Xi Shi Lounge – 1,001 Nights Middle Eastern Afternoon Tea
Cuisine: Tea/Pacific Northwest/West Coast/Fusion/Desserts
Last visited: December 4, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 1128 West Georgia Street (At Shangri-La Hotel)
Subway stop: Burrard
Price Range: $20-30+ ($34 Afternoon Tea)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 3.5 (for 1,001 Nights Afternoon Tea)
- Inside Shangri-La Hotel
- Euro-Asian/Fusion menu
- Aafternoon Tea Service
- Lunch service
- Pre/post dinner spot
- Cocktail/wine list
- Afternoon Tea with live classical piano
- 11.30am – 1am (Seasonal Patio from 11.30am – 11pm)
- 11.30am – 5pm (Saturday and Sunday)
**Recommendations: 1,001 Nights Middle Eastern theme runs until January 5, 2014. Middle Eastern Afternoon Tea available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for CAD$38 per person.
It is the lounge at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver located on the lobby level under Market by Jean-Georges. It offers an Asian inspired menu with some favourite share plates from Market, and a signature Afternoon Tea served 7 Days a week 11.30am – 5pm with live classical piano (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
This holiday season, Xi Shi Lounge at the Shangri-la is doing something different. Instead of celebrating with a Christmas theme, they’re offering something original and rather unexpected.
Inspired by “The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights,” and their sister properties in Oman, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, they bring to Vancouver a Middle Eastern themed holiday which runs until January 5, 2014.
The photo doesn’t quite capture the ambiance, energy of the room, or even attention to detail in decor, but they really went all out. The pillows, table runners, uniforms and entertainment have all been changed to suit the temporary 1,001 Nights theme, and along with that their menu.
Their traditional Afternoon Tea (available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for CAD$38 per person) features Middle-Eastern inspired bites, and their a la carte menu offers Lebanese cold and hot mezze including hummus, baba ghanooj, homemade pickles, spice-marinated olives, falafel, tabboulleh salad, lamb kibbeh, and halloumi cheese.
Desserts are homemade baklava and Turkish delight served with their variety of premium teas, Turkish coffee or Moroccan Tea. They also have Middle Eastern themed cocktails like the Sparkling Ruby, made with bubbly, raspberries, honey and cinnamon, or the 1,001 Nights Martini, a mix of vodka and brandy, with hints of apple, maple and cardamom.
On this occasion I was invited to try their 1,001 Nights Afternoon Tea, but I completely forgot they were offering an a la carte menu with more traditional Middle Eastern items. I would have definitely tried that out.
On a side note, bless them for calling it “Afternoon Tea” instead of “High Tea”. Almost everyone in Vancouver calls it “High Tea” when what they are really serving is Afternoon Tea – see my article on High Tea VS Afternoon Tea. It’s not a big deal, but enough to mention.
While the 1,001 Nights Middle Eastern Afternoon Tea was good and good value, I found the ambiance the highlight. It was really more about the experience than the food because I found the Afternoon Tea could have featured more Middle Eastern flavours.
The concept is for a limited time and I found it refreshing, fun and worth trying pre or post dinner. It is not even for people who don’t celebrate Christmas, but just another option for the holiday season. I admire their efforts to change things up so frequently and I can’t say this about many hotels in Vancouver.
I highly recommend going to 1,001 Nights when there is live music and entertainment which is available in the lounge Monday through Saturday, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Traditional sitar and oud players alternate during the week, and Tarab, a Vancouver-based Middle Eastern jazz-fusion band performs Thursday evenings. Last, but not least, they even have belly dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. I only got to experience the sitar player, but if I have time, I will go again for Tarab and the belly dancers.
East is East, Afghan Horseman and a few other Middle Eastern restaurants in Vancouver offer this kind of live entertainment on occasion as well, but it’s apples and oranges to compare. I’m all for experiencing cultures and embracing them in different ways, so if you have the opportunity, try them all.
You can buy handmade jewellery, Persian carpets, dried fruit, nuts and Persian candies, and I even did a little holiday shopping myself. The Merchants Market is open 3:00 p.m. to 7:00pm on weekdays, and 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends.
On the table:
I tried the Lychee with Rose & Almond tea and a Rose with French Vanilla tea from their Middle Eastern themed tea menu. They were similar, but the rose and French vanilla was much stronger with rose and almost perfume like. The quality of teas are excellent along with their NIKKO chinaware.
As previously mentioned, they also offer Turkish coffee, Moroccan Tea, and Middle Eastern cocktails including the Sparkling Ruby, made with bubbly, raspberries, honey and cinnamon, or the 1,001 Nights Martini, a mix of vodka and brandy, with hints of apple, maple and cardamom.
- Available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for CAD$38 per person until Jan. 5, 2014.
- While I loved the idea and found it good and enjoyable, I wish the Afternoon Tea itself was more Middle Eastern inspired.
- I wasn’t expecting traditional Middle Eastern food and they were using the same chef, but there could have been more play with the menu.
- They can’t get too exotic with a standard Afternoon Tea Menu, so I could understand why they kept things familiar and “safe”, but at times the theme wasn’t there at all.
- The ambiance had a lot of effort and it certainly made for the overall experience.
- I forgot about their a la carte menu which features Lebanese cold and hot mezze, or I would have definitely ordered from there too.
- The a la carte menu was more traditional with hummus, baba ghanooj, homemade pickles, spice-marinated olives, falafel, tabboulleh salad, lamb kibbeh, and halloumi cheese.
- Grilled Vegetable Wraps with Hummus
- It had grilled zucchini and onions and some romaine, but I could have used more hummus.
- Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese on Mini Sesame Bagels
- This was not Middle Eastern at all, so it was most out of place on this plate.
- Grilled Keen’s Cheddar Cheese (English Cheddar) and Tomato Chutney Brioche Sandwiches
- I didn’t get anything Middle Eastern from this either.
- It was shredded cheese, but it wasn’t fully melted, so I’m not sure if that was intentional.
- It was my first time trying this cheese and it had so much potential, but I could taste a hint of fridge aroma… unless that is the flavour of the cheese (?).
- Curry Chicken & Almond Salad Sandwiches
- The bread was rye and it had dried out slightly, but the curry chicken salad was good.
- This was the only thing that had some Middle Eastern flavour.
- There were no surprises here and everything was good and as described, but barely Middle Eastern.
- It was mostly West Coast and I wish there were more Middle Eastern touches.
- They couldn’t replace their signature scones and I could see why. They’re awesome!
- One of my favourites in Vancouver for sure. I had 3.
- They were very buttery, without being oily, flaky, moist, and served warm.
- The exterior was all crisp like a cookie and they must be brushed all around with butter.
- They were a little savoury and a little sweet with not too many raisins.
- I would have loved pistachio and dried cherry scones, or something to suit the theme a bit more because you’re getting 4 of the same scone here.
- It’s a plate for 2, and the scones are excellent so I didn’t mind, but variety is the spice of life… and it’s a 1,001 Nights!
- Scones infused with their Lychee with Rose & Almond tea, or Rose with French Vanilla tea, would be nice too. It wouldn’t take much effort and it’s approachable.
- Or it would be a good idea to use the dried fruits and/or nuts from the local vendor at the Merchants Market in replace of the raisins.
The scones are served with orange marmalade, clotted cream, and strawberry jam. Cardamom marmalade, rose jam or saffron clotted cream would be fun Middle Eastern twists if they were keeping with the traditional raisin scones. It was just that extra step I was missing to tie in the theme and really separate the 1,001 Nights Afternoon Tea from their regular service.
- This was the most authentic and it was actually quite good. It was my favourite on the plate.
- It was flaky, chewy, crisp and fresh with a good amount of ground walnuts and it wasn’t too sweet.
- Pistachio Olive Oil Cake with Pistachio Custard
- For a modern bite, this was also very good and my second favourite.
- The pistachio olive oil cake was similar to a Madeleine.
- It was spongy and moist with a nice custard on top.
- It’s not inspired by a Middle Eastern dessert, but pistachios are common in Middle Eastern sweets and I could see the intention.
- Cardamom Panna Cotta with Mango
- The panna cotta didn’t set so it was a bit thin and runny, but still edible and tasted fine.
- Panna Cotta is Italian, but the cardamom was the influence and I liked it. It was subtle, but there.
- Turkish Delight with Chopped Dates
- I’m not keen on Turkish delight because I find them often too sweet, but I have liked some.
- It’s just a jelly confectionary, but I found this a bit hard and heavier with gelatin** (see comment, likely not gelatine) and too sweet.
- I couldn’t taste any rose water or orange, so it was just sweet with some chopped dates (common for nice Turkish delight).
- This was rough around the edges, visually and in execution, and it wasn’t my favourite.
- The texture was a bit lumpy, but Turkish delight suited the theme.
- I always think of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe every time they come up.
- All were home made and it had the most Middle Eastern inspiration out of all the tiers, so I liked it for that reason alone.