3 courses, 3 nations, 3 nights: Sankara Cuisine makes Chop Chop debut

Sankara Cuisine and Five and Dime bar have joined forces to present three nights of ethnic cuisine in a pop-up style restaurant for the Chop Chop food festival in uptown Saint John.

Traditional Chinese, Syrian and West African dishes are on offer at food festival in uptown Saint John

The team that supported Sankara Cuisine's first African food-tasting event earlier this year at the Five and Dime in Saint John. (Courtesy Sankara Cuisine)

Authentic Chinese, Syrian and West African foods will be on the menu this week at an ethnic pop-up restaurant that's opening for Chop Chop Restaurant Week in uptown Saint John.

It's being billed as three courses and three nations over a span of three nights.

Sankara Cuisine will host the event in partnership with Five and Dime, a record bar that normally focuses on music and craft beer.

"We like to change it up and go to unconventional places like a bar that doesn't have food during Chop Chop," Lily Lynch, Sankara co-founder, said Monday in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

"We wanted to get out in the public during our off-season some more and … create more traffic to that space."

A sample plate of traditional sweet and sour pork, rice and dumplings, created by one of the vendors from Sankara Cuisine. (Courtesy Sankara Cuisine)

The pop-up restaurant will feature "three diverse nights," said Lynch.

On Wednesday, 30 guests will enjoy a three-course authentic Chinese meal by Xi' Cooking, which will feature dumplings, mapo tofu and kung pao chicken.

On Friday, Basha Foods will prepare an authentic Syrian meal of shish barak meat dumplings, and chicken and lamb mandi rice dishes.

And on Saturday, Sankara's featured chef will serve up a three course authentic West African meal of peanut stew and akara bean patties.

Tito Atsani, another founder of Sankara, said going into a space like Five and Dime creates some unique challenges.

For one thing, it doesn't have a kitchen.

One of the biggest challenges of going into a space like Five and Dime is the lack of a kitchen on-site, said the co-founders of Sankara Cuisine. (Courtesy Sankara Cuisine)

"We've got to bring everything in … we've been trying to buy plates, and instead of an oven we're coming in to serve the food," Atsani said.

They also can't be flexible about attendance. Admission is with prepaid tickets only, Lynch said.

"Because we aren't a restaurant, we don't have a bulk of food waiting for customers to come to us," she said. "We're going to have one sitting of 30 guests each,"

Authentic experience

Along with the food, the events will also feature traditional music and beverages. 

Atsani said they want to serve up more diversity to Saint Johners.

"We want to give people the option to experience all the cultures' foods," he said.

"So if someone is coming to our pop-up restaurant, we want them to go out with the Chinese cultural experience, Syrian cultural experience and West African cultural experience."

Lynch said the pop-up will follow Sankara's principles of offering an authentic experience to diners.

"As if you're going to go to your neighbour's house and eat inside their homes and enjoy the foods they would be nurturing their families with," she said.

"The food is so authentic, the experience is unique, and that's what we're hinging on. The difference is the authentic international foods versus other international foods that try to be more appealing to a western palate."

Uptown Saint John's Chop Chop fall restaurant week runs from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5. About 30 businesses are taking part in the food festival.

With files from Information Morning Saint John