By Kristi Alexandra
Eighteen months ago, Marwan Kanj revolutionized cuisine on New Westminster’s Twelfth Street. While the street is dotted with eateries that smell of Eastern influence, Kanj’s Wild Thyme brought full, authentic Lebanese meals to diners beyond the grab-and-go.
Wild Thyme is the definition of “homey.” With just 12 seats, diners will want to get chummy with their neighbours or take a peek at the wood-burning stove that warms the entire space (and, of course, cooks the flatbread). Be prepared to get cozy and hunker down for a several-course meal over small, crowded tables — and try not to sweat the line-up that is sometimes out the door.
Upon entering the quaint Lebanese eatery, rows of pickled vegetables catch the eye; they’re lined on ledges near the cash register in repurposed glass jars. Cauliflower, turnips, carrots, and baby eggplant fill the jars, tinted pink by beet juice.
The best part? Everything from the flatbread to the pickled vegetables that complement the kofta bowls and man’oushe is made by hand. At the moment, they’re not for individual sale – but that could all change soon.
“We’re expanding into the next shop,” Kanj reveals as he serves our table humous, roast pepper dip and a garlic dip thickened with egg whites. He points to the east-facing wall, and behind it is a now-closed tattoo parlour. With the expansion will come new developments, like serving alcohol and, hopefully for us, selling jars of pickled vegetables to take home.
“I’ve read that some people have said we don’t serve alcohol because it’s not part of our culture,” Kanj reveals. For all its popularity, Wild Thyme doesn’t have a website – but if the culinary haunt’s Yelp page is any indication, they really don’t need one.
“It’s simply not true. Lebanese food and alcohol go together,” he continues, presenting a garlic-rich kofta on flatbread and a fattoush salad. Fattoush salad, full of fresh mint, cucumbers, lettuce and ruby-coloured pomegranate seeds, he claims, is the second-most important vegetable dish in Lebanese cuisine.
“We’re looking forward to showing our customers our Arak, Lebanese wines, and a famous Lebanese beer called Almaza,” Kanj says.
Even with the expansion, foodies in New Westminster (and beyond) will be hard-pressed to find an empty seat in the joint. But you can always pop in to ask for takeout, with a side of pickles.
705 12th St.
New Westminster, BC