The Dish

Faraway flavours inspire chef Nico Schuermans's must-try dish

Belgian restaurant Chambar is known for its extensive beer list and tasty mussels but its chef says the lamb tagine is his must-try.

Vancouver restaurant Chambar is known for beer and mussels but chef says lamb tagine is must-try

Chef Nico Schuermans says his mussel Congolaise is as popular as the lamb tagine but if you had to try one of the two, he suggests the latter. (Scott Little/Chambar Restaurant)

Vancouver's Chambar restaurant is known for its Belgian beers and mussels but chef and owner Nico Schuermans is passionate about something else on his menu — the lamb tagine.

"It's been on the menu from day one," he said about the popular dish. "It's been sold out 90 per cent of the time."

He says the Tajine D'aziz à L'agneau is a Schuermans original but as its name divulges, the Belgian and French trained chef took inspiration from elsewhere.

Chambar's lamb tagine is braised for six hours and served with plenty of jus and cous cous. (Kevin Clark/Chambar)

Years ago, when he moved to Sydney from London after cooking at the Savoy, he landed in the kitchen of a Moroccan restaurant.

There, he said chef Aziz Bakalla introduced him to the rainbow of spices that are used throughout his menu today, many of which are layered into Schuermans lamb tagine.

"The first flavour, the turmeric is pretty strong — the cinnamon as well. Then, the honey and then the ginger," he said describing the dish.

Made with turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, honey, onions, garlic and water, Schuermans insists his lamb tagine is a recipe most home cooks can handle.

Nico Schuermans was formally trained in French and Belgian cuisine but likes to bring Moroccan influences to his cooking. (Chambar Restaurant)

It takes six hours but the chef says slow cooking it at 300 degrees is key.

"When you just braise it for six hours and the shank is bone-in, you get the outside of the meat very flavourful but the inside still tastes like lamb ... you get more contrast."

If you'd prefer to leave it to Schuermans, he has suggestions to guarantee yourself a serving of the often sold-out tagine at his restaurant.

On Fridays and Saturdays, he says the restaurant only makes 50 servings so he recommends arriving earlier.

Otherwise, his lesser-known tip is to call the restaurant ahead of time and ask to have it put on hold.

About the Author

Lien Yeung

@LienY

Lien Yeung is a multimedia reporter and anchor with CBC News in Vancouver. She has also reported locally and nationally from Toronto and Halifax. You can reach her on Twitter @LienY or via email at lien.yeung@cbc.ca.