(Photo by Travis Devonport)

A deep passion for Pakistani and Indian cuisine and a lifetime spent making food with love is the foundation behind Biryani Palace, a newly opened Pakistani and Indian restaurant, now calling Victoria home. 

As a storm swept over Greater Victoria last week, shutting down many services throughout the region, Saqib Cheema, Mona Saqib, Pradeep Nagam, and Jahir Sheikh didn’t allow that to get in their way. 

On Monday, December 19th, as many Victorians battened down the hatches for a heap of snow, 30 cm deep, the small team serving big meals opened their doors and fired up the grills. 

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By the end of the week, the newly founded restaurant was met with praise from customers impressed with the quality of food they were served from the local restaurant. 

This is reaffirmation the partners are taking in stride as they chase their culinary dream. 

“Food is our passion, we want to serve all the communities. That’s our dream,” Saqib tells Victoria Buzz. 

Known for cooking authentic dum biryani. Saqib and Pradeep decided to fill a culinary void in Victoria by opening a restaurant that serves quality Pakistani and Indian meals.

In the process of bringing Biryani Palace to life. Saqib, Pradeep and Mona hired Jahir as the head cook and partial owner of the newly minted restaurant.

As first time restaurant owners, Saqib and Mona originally considered opening a franchise restaurant. 

After a great deal of thought, everyone agreed their vision for a Pakistani restaurant needed to offer creative freedom. An essential quality a franchise business couldn’t offer. 

“Whatever they say, we have to do it. In the restaurant business, we can change our menu. We can serve whatever we want to people,” says Mona. 

For those looking to try something new on their next culinary excursion, Mona suggests newcomers taste their signature chicken, goat or veggie dum biryanis.

For the Victoria residents of 17 years, Biryani Palace represents a place for friends, family and new guests to connect by sharing memories over a plate full of delicious Pakistani food. 

The introduction of Biryani Palace is a passion project Saqib, Pradeep, and Jahir have spent several years working on. 

With a global pandemic throwing a wrench in their plans. This month, the trio decided there was no better time than the present to take the risk. “One day we all were sitting and we just suddenly thought, let’s just open it,” says Mona.

As the cost of food continues to rise, Mona says their vision of building Biryani Palace as a community hub representing Pakistani food culture in Victoria, far exceeds the day to day stress of running the business.

Biryani Palace now fills the former home of the popular Victoria restaurant, Pluto’s Diner, and before that, Sam Remo.  

After 34 years of serving food, beer and smiles, on October 29th, Pluto’s Diner closed its doors for good. 

Related: Pluto’s will permanently close its doors in Victoria after 34 years in business

As the team settles into their location on 2709 Quadra street, they look forward to the new faces they will serve throughout the years to come.

“Five students from UVic are sitting here and they are so excited. There are so many students coming down and they are like, we are so excited to finally have authentic Biryani here,” Mona tells Victoria Buzz.

Now in the soft launch phase of its opening, Biryani Palace currently offers takeout and limited dine-in options for those keen on dining in person. A grand opening is expected in the new year.

Biryani Palace

  • Where: Biryani Palace, 2709 Quadra Street
  • When: Monday to Sunday, 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

With files from Curtis Blandy.

May be an image of text that says 'DAL MAKHNI BIRYANI PALACE DAL TARKA $13.99 $12.99 MASALA CHOOSE YOUR MALAI KOFTA $14.99 PROTEIN CHICKEN Served With: Rice/ Naan LAMB MIX VEGETABLE $15.99 $17.99 FISH $18.99 BEEF $16.99 BHINDI MASALA $14.99 PRAWNS 16.99 $14.99 PANEER Sv:R/Na NAVRATAN KORMA $17.99 $15.99 CHOOSE YOUR CURRY ALLO GOBI /Naan CAS CURRY CCUT VINDALO HANDI Û OMATAR $14.99 SPINA TKKAMASALA MANRR POMEGRANATE $14.99 TIKKA MASALA KASHM PANEER MAKHNI $15.99 CURRY PALAK PANEER $15.99 PANEER HANDI $15.99 $15.99 PANEER MATTER PANEER $15.99 PANEER LABABDAR $15.99 $16.99'

May be an image of text that says 'CHEF RECOMMENDED BIRYANI PALACE BUTTER CHICKEN h:R/Na $18.99 CHICKENDBR CHICKEN DUM BIRYANI $16.99 CHICKEN DUM BIRYANI GOAT DUM BIRYANI $16.99 SAMOSA(2PCS) VEG PAKORA VEGGIE DUM BIRYANI $19.99 $5.99 CHICKEN HALEEM $6.99 $15.99 GOBI GARLC(G/F) GOBI MANCHURI GOAT HALEEM $9.99 $11.99 (G/F) PAYA PANEER PAKORA (G/F) $11.99 4.99 SAMOSA $8.99 MURGH MUSALAM 14.99 ALOO TIKK CHAAT (G/F) $44.99 PAPPR CHAAT. $7.99 $6.99 PAPPRI CHAAT. FISH PAKORA $7.50 CALAMARI PAKORA $9.99 " ဖ $9.99 $17.99 (DRUMS CHICKEN65 CILANTRO CHICKEN $12.99 $15.99'

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