Normal 0 0 1 751 4282 35 8 5258 11.1287 0 0 0
Yumminess Factor: 4/5
Locavore approved? Yes (menu features added regular to reflect seasonal ingredients in addition to quarterly menu change)
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have been living in Vancouver for over two years and have just had my first experience at Vikram Vij’s iconic Indian restaurant. I am happy to say that my “Vijless” era came to an end this past Thursday when we went to Vij with 6 friends for my husband’s birthday.
As most are aware, you cannot make reservations at Vij and you must go prepared to wait. And wait and wait. For 8 of us to be seated, we waited over 2 hours after showing up at 7:15. This may sound ridiculous to some, but if you know what you are getting into, and what waits on the other side, it really isn’t bad, especially since they have a few tricks up their sleeves to make you feel better about waiting. First, they pass around free appies (our favorite was the fried chip with mint chutney, topped with mung beans). Secondly, it is an opportunity to meet star chef Vij, who does his rounds and chats with his hungry guests. After a glass of wine, I gathered up the nerve to ask him for a picture which, to a foodie like me, was pretty excitingJ We also found the wait staff to be very friendly and kept us updated at frequent intervals about the status of our table.
After some good conversation and a few drinks (or, in the men’s case, multiple drinks), we were finally seated at our table. The room is quite cozy for such a busy restaurant but they do not pack the tables together so that you feel crowded in. In the back are a few extra seats for those who wish to wait inside (a necessity for rainy nights). The back also houses the two single washrooms (male and female), which struck me as a peculiar choice for such a busy restaurant especially for us females drinking wine and chai tea (BTW, the tea is amazing, a must-try!).
I give service at Vij a big thumbs up. All of the servers, both inside and outside, where very friendly and helpful in menu selection. They were frequently coming to check in to see if anyone needed drinks and regularly replenished our rice or naan (both come unlimited with every meal). I especially liked the fact that Vij came over several times to check on us and even refill our water glasses, making it feel as though we were guests in his home.
Now onto the food. You can either choose to order individual dishes or choose multiple dishes and have them served family style. Our table did something in between, with most couples (except my husband and I), choosing to share two appies and two mains with their significant other.
First, the appies:
I started with the mango and sautéed greens served with dates stuffed with a mild cheese called khoa (not found on the online menu). There were also 4 little fried crackers on the side that acted as great dippers. The server confirmed that the greens were local and organic. The mango and date combo made for quite a sweet dish but this was balanced somewhat by the khoa. In my mind, the serving size could have been smaller as the sweetness became a bit overwhelming by the end, and therefore I would recommend sharing this dish rather than ordering it to yourself.
My husband and a few others at the table chose to have the beef and lamb samosas. These were my husband’s favorite part of the meal and he is still raving about them three days later. There are two very large samosas on the plate, making makes the dish very conducive to sharing (although I think my husband was more than happy to have them to himself!). Sorry, no pics of this one, he ate them too fast:)
Another of my friends had the jackfruit in a cumin and cardamom curry, which was a lovely balance of sweet and spice.
Onto the mains:
I chose one of their 3 vegetarian entrees, the mashed eggplant and butternut squash with black chickpeas. It was served with 4 triangles of chapati on the side for dipping, but I preferred to eat it with rice (just a personal preference). The dish was very nicely spiced and the chickpeas were left quite firm to contrast the soft vegetables. Although I enjoyed it, it was texturally very similar to my appetizer and I regretted not having ordered the shitake mushroom stirfry or a fish dish. My mistake, I will know for next time!
My husband chose the infamous lamb popsicles in a fenugreek curry with potatoes. He, and the others at the table who ordered this dish, really enjoyed the lamb and were especially blown away by the generous portion of curry sauce underneath, so much so that we had them pack up the leftover sauce (I plan to use it on pasta dish this week!).
Other mains at our table included the pork tenderloin with barley and the braised short ribs. Both portions were very generous and, again, came with perfectly spiced sauces.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on dessert as we all came back to our place for birthday cake (FYI- Whole Foods Cambie make great cakes that can be prepared at a moment’s notice for a decent price!).
I am very glad that I finally had the opportunity to dine with Vij, where you truly feel like an extension of Vij’s family. I really admire Vij for still putting so much time into his restaurant and making his guests feel special. Although they offer the option of having your own dishes, I would recommend sticking with the family-style theme and sharing dishes, especially on your first visit. There is so many wonderful dishes, why not treat your palate to as many as possible?
After being shown such hospitality, I will certainly not be waiting another two years for my next visit!