“Organic dining is huge now,” says Victor Huang, 29. “In California, organic restaurants are everywhere, Vancouver is catching up now, but in Nanaimo it’s just starting.”
Huang is the general manager of Extraordinary Organics, an Asian-fusion restaurant with a priority for organic ingredients. Huang’s mother serves as the executive chef and owner of the restaurant. She previously owned several similar restaurants in Vancouver before retiring, bought the building on 77 Skinner St. upon seeing it while on a tour of Nanaimo, after noticing the city’s lack of organic eateries. While other establishments in Nanaimo serve organic dishes, like the Thirsty Camel Café, Rawmbas, and Power House, Huang says Extraordinary Organics is the first “dinner-focussed” restaurant in the city. All ingredients used in the kitchen, with the exception of salad roll wraps, are Canada Organic.
“We first got into organic food through my stepfather,” says Huang, “who was a big proponent of it before it was a ‘hip thing’… My mother wants to share the concept with other people, so she came out of retirement to open Extraordinary Organics.”
Extraordinary Organics currently orders its ingredients from Sysco Food Services, but Huang is determined to switch focus to local produce.
“Right now organic is our top priority,” says Huang, “but we’re still trying to outsource and talk to local farmers. The people who support us are locals, so I feel that we should be supporting locals too—it’s a give and take relationship.”
The building on Skinner St. has gone through several owners in the past decade, and formerly housed Manzavino’s Pizzeria, Soulvaki Place, Drift, and most recently The Cliff. The rest of downtown Nanaimo is not exempt from closures either, Driftwood Bistro, formerly located on Victoria Crescent, closed its doors in Feb., and Modern Café, located on Commercial St., briefly shut down last summer.
“In my few months here, I’ve found that the [dining] industry in Nanaimo is really tough,” says Huang. “Restaurants seem to come and go all the time. I’m really hoping we can beat the stigma.”