By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
It’s been three years since we last travelled down to the western part of Fiji, so the Easter long weekend was a great opportunity for my little tribe to explore Nadi.
After a small detour (thank you Google Maps for getting us our hotel) and some time exploring town we were famished. Vasaqa Production, owned by Derrek Miller, came highly recommended. My husband, children and I always make a point of travelling together, so a family trip required a hearty meal, so off we went.
Like any Pacific Islander, I love my food. It has to be affordable, tasty, and large in proportions! After scoping Vasaqa Productions’ facebook page, I’m already salivating and tapping my feet excitedly in the car, desperate to get to Namaka Market. (Update: Vasaqa Productions is now based at Wailoaloa Beach)
The restaurant, which sits at the front of the market, exudes an artsy, vibrant, creative, and upbeat style. As we wait for our food to arrive—we decided on crispy chicken sandwiches and kumquat juices— I noticed the fun atmosphere between the workers, the banter back and forth, the super smiles they wear while making the food, and the mesmerising way their hands quickly move as they make our meals.
My eyes grew when I saw the plates of food heading in our direction. So far, presentation of the food: check, proportion: check, and now to the most important bit: taste!
I took my first big bite and closed my eyes as the taste flooded my mouth. I was in flavour heaven. I could taste sweet BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, the chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, it just melted in my mouth. As I was enjoying my food, I noticed my husband, who had said he wasn’t hungry, was devouring his meal. “My stomach just can’t get enough of it,” he confessed.
“This is delicious mummy,” exclaimed my five-year-old daughter, who was enjoying her kumquat (with a hint of strawberry) juice. My son, who thinks he’s too cool to reply with words, just gave a big thumbs up.
As we cleaned our plates, I realised they were served on tin plates, the kind I’d last seen when we were growing up, and I made a mental note to ask Benjamin Hussain, who is Vasaqa Productions Operations Manager, about this choice.
The Muslim-Rotuman chef is not only talented in the kitchen, but also at bartending and considers himself an all-rounder. He said while the business has been running for five to six years, this outlet is two and a half years old. ‘We used to cater to movie productions like Survivor, but when COVID happened, we split in two. One half went back to Suva and the western crew, we decided to open shop.’
“We brought in the concepts of street food that we only see online and made it accessible to anyone and everyone. The food that you can only view online, we want to bring that home” he continued.
‘We take street food and give it our own Vasaqa Production (VP) twist.’
Vasaqa Productions offers specials every day, written on a door that is also a blackboard- yet another special touch.
“We strive to be different from everything that you currently see because these are the small things people will remember you for,” Hussein said.
Fox, who serves up special concoctions at the Juice Bar, also created the artistic masterpiece at the front of the kitchen.
Vasaqa is also known for its spit roast, which takes its ‘spit roast master’ 5-6 hours to prepare, and is one of their fastest sellers. Peak hour at Vasaqa Productions is lunch hour; and you can give them a call beforehand to place your order.
Vasaqa buys it bread from a local baker, and they try to source all their ingredients from other small businesses.
And those old school plates? “The tin plates and the piala cups were ones we kept to remind us of where we came from, our restaurant in the market, and the only place you will find these is in the markets,’ Ben said.
These humble sentiments are what keeps them grounded, despite their growing popularity in Fiji.
Benjamin says, ‘For a small place, we like to keep our people happy, because when we keep our people happy, the smile on their faces transfers to the love in the food, so with every bite of your chow, you feel the love.’
As a Suva girl who loves her food and had a little taste of heaven, let me tell you I could really use that bite of my chow more regularly, and hope that they will expand to Suva soon. In the meantime, you can occasionally catch them at markets in the capital.
Vasaqa Productions on Facebook