Isa Hussien, one of the new owners of The Oaks, the newest addition to dining on Oak Bay Avenue, has been in the restaurant business since he was four years old. “That was me, standing on a chair and rolling roti for my family’s restaurant,” said Hussien. “I loved the business then, and I love it more now.”
The Oaks, located at 2250 Oak Bay Ave., is described by Hussien as a family establishment, serving West Coast fare. “We want everyone leaving the place to be, not just satisfied with a sort of, ‘that was OK’ kind of attitude, we want them thrilled and wanting to come back for the next experience.”
To accomplish that goal Hussien has teamed up with restaurateur and chef Mick Hopkins.
Hopkins’ background involves high-end camp food, served to executives and professionals in remote camps. “He brought fine dining to places where that was unknown. He has imagination and skills that give us a solid base,” Hussien said.
The Oaks has also hired well-known local chef Darcy Smith to guide the kitchen. “Nothing goes on the menu just for the sake of being there. Things like chicken fingers or burgers. We have burgers, but take a look at our flame thrower burger with a fresh patty with fresh chopped salsa on a Portofino bun. It’s amazing,” said Hussien.
Hussien hurried to point out that the dinner menu is equally succulent, featuring fresh, flavourful, and imaginative dishes at a reasonable price.
“This isn’t a place where we want you to come once every few months and get gouged on the price,” he said. “This is all about building a business where you can get fantastic food at a fair and affordable price so you can come back a few times a week.”
The Oaks is occupying the space that has housed two other eating establishments since 2009, when the Blethering Place closed its doors and was replaced by the Oak Bay Bistro. Still, Hussien is confident that his concept at the Oaks will succeed in the same location.
“The Blethering Place had its charm and the Bistro came in with a very high-end environment. What we’re doing, after taking a lot of time talking to the neighbourhood, is to capture what was best about both of those restaurants and improve upon it. We’ll be coming up the middle of those two concepts.”
The restaurant is still in a soft opening phase during which it is working out the challenges of a new establishment. They’ll be opening on the weekend, with what Hussien is confident will the best of customer service.
“We’ve put together a team of people here who all have a lot of experience in the hospitality industry,” said Hussien. “They all understand the concept of great service and they’ll all be working to make every dining experience here a positive one. One that will make people want to tell their friends to try us out.”