We had dinner at Vij's last night.
The last time I was in Vancouver, we were not organized enough (read too hungry) to wait the required time, so we ate at Rangoli, the little Bistro/market right beside the main dining room. When we arrived last night at around 6:30 p.m. the place was packed. If you've never been to Vij's, one of its quirks is that it doesn't take reservations. You just head straight to the back of the restaurant and put your name down on a list. Our table would be available in about an hour and a half. This is the drill, unless you arrive 45 minutes prior to opening (5:30p.m) and wait in line for the first sitting, you wait. We decide to go and check out a few shops in the neighborhood to make good use of our time, and plan to return in 45 minutes "just in case" something opens up early and we miss our name call. Upon our return, we are delighted to find that we'll be seated in about 20 minutes and order a bottle of wine to accompany the potato pooris, and cassava fries brought around to snack on by the amazing mosaic bar. The wines are $36. per bottle with a choice of 5 reds and 5 whites. Very civilized.
Gordon and I decided to try an appetizer to share. "BC Spot prawns in coconut masala on grilled kale". Since kale is one of the best leafy vegetables for eyes and I never buy or prepare it, I decide this is a good venture. It was an excellent choice and hard to describe the melange of "kicky" spices.
Rachael has the "Eggplant and papaya curry with black chickpeas and roasted almonds". It's also an amazing blend, and as a vegetarian she really appreciates the combinations.
For our "Mains", Gordon selects the "Cabbage, potato and bell peppers in coconut, blueberry and cilantro masala with homemade crispy noodles".
I choose Vij's signature "Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles in Fenugreek Cream Curry on spinach potatoes".[photo credit: horcubee]
While much of the menu changes seasonally, Rach tells me this dish is always on the menu, probably by popular demand. The lamb "popsicles" are essentially a rack of lamb that has been sliced into individual chops so you can pick them up by the bone and eat it a la popsicle. The lamb is exquisitely tender and the sauce is so phenomenal that everyone wants to ladle it for a taste.
The entire setting is warm and cozy with fabulous aromas, glinting lanterns, sultry lighting and a quiet buzz. Just the way to be transported away from the chilly slanting rain outside. The wait-staff we decide, are either former ballerinas, or yoga experts, they serve with serenity and the carriage of trained musicality.
The story behind the all-female Punjabi staff is that cooking is the provenance of women in India. None of the kitchen staff are trained chefs, they are just good "cooks". Rachael gifted me the "Elegant and Inspired Vij's Indian Cuisine" cookbook, winner of the Canadian Culinary Book Awards, Cuisine Canada, University of Guelph, and Cordon d'Or - Gold Ribbon Accolade of the 21st Century - Culinary Academy Awards Winner 2007.Considering that the prestigious reviews from the New York Times rates Vij's as "Easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world", we are very lucky that it is within walking distance in the neighborhood, and even luckier to have shared such a fabulous culinary experience together.
Vij's 1480 West 11th. Ave., Vancouver 604-736-6664
If you can't get to Vij's in Vancouver, you can always come to my place for dinner sometime soon!