Well, I finally got around to eating at Vij's, one of the constantly-talked about restaurants in Vancouver. Vij's is an Indian "fusion" restaurant and famous among foodies. It offers delicious fresh food in a comfy and classy environment.
We decided to go eat dinner at Vij's after shopping in the surrounding neighbourhood of South Granville. It was 5pm and we walked up to the front door, but it was locked. Huh? Are they closed? It turns out that Vij's opens only for dinner at 5:30pm.
We decided to have an appetizer next door at Vij's Raghouli cafe. The cafe has table service, but you can also pick up prepackaged Indian food in the coolers to bring home to cook for yourself. Good to know in the future!
Sitting outside on the patio, we noticed an increasing crowd of people lingering outside of Vij's next door. At first it was only 5 people, but it soon grew to 30. They were all waiting for Vij's to open. I started to get anxious, so we finished up our drinks and walked to the end of the line by Vij's front door (even though technically we had arrived there before all of them!) ;)
Once Vij's opened, an abundance of waitresses seated everyone down. The decor was subtle, earthy and modern. Paper lanterns with cut-out elephant shapes lit the walls. Tables were placed close together in a cozy environment.
I found it really unique that there were about a dozen waitresses, helping every table. One waitress wandered to each table with a tray, offering mugs of chai tea. Another waitress walked from person to person, offering Indian snacks presented in a basket; popadoms, among other things.
Favorite Dish: One waitress took our wine order, while another made sure we had a pitcher of cold water on our table. Another waitress took our food order while another took away the dirty dishes. Yet another waitress presented us with our meal. They circled around the tables like clerks at a clothing store, waiting for an opportunity to help. There was never one waitress designated to us, which I don't think I've ever experienced.
Another interesting observation is that while the waitresses weren't Indian, Vij's has an all-female Punjabi kitchen staff. I think the only male employee here was Vikram Vij himself! I never saw him, but he's known (when here's there) to socialize among the customers, visiting each table, making sure they're enjoying themselves.
While some restaurants overwhelm you with selection, Vij's has a handful of appetizers and entrees, however, the beauty of this is that Vij's encourages sharing. You don't have to order one dish for yourself, you can taste a decent selection of them.
Vij's philosophy is that they differ from what you'd expect in an Indian restaurant. First, they don't use tandoor ovens. Second, while they use Indian spices and cooking techniques, they use local seafood, meats and produce.
If you're expecting a traditional Indian restaurant, you're coming to the wrong place. You'll be disappointed. These aren't native Indian dishes of spicy curry lamb vindaloo.
If you're wanting a restaurant that's very "Vancouver west coast" with a subtle Indian edge, you've come to the right place.
We started off with the lemon, cayenne pepper marinated & grilled sablefish in tomato-yogurt broth ($9.50)
We then shared the dungeness crab, shrimp & halibut in coconut saffron curry with cashews ($24) and the grilled pork tenderloin, filled with khoa & potatoes, in porcini mushroom cream curry with spiced whole almonds ($24). We shared a bottle of white Spanish wine to drink.
Vikram Vij, owner of Vij's and Rangoli, is well known as one of the best chefs in the city. His food offerings are consistently fantastic! Vij's is a hip, dinner restaurant, whereas Rangoli is more for quick meals, lunches, and take-out. The food isn't cheap but it is sure tasty!
If you're going to Vij's then best to arrive just before 5pm or else you may have a long wait, especially on weekends.
This is traditional Fijian food which is similar to Indian food but with a more South Pacific flavor to it. On a Friday or Saturday night it is sure to be busy (not a very big place) but they will sit you at one of a few tables in the back and serve you (for free) hot masala chai tea and appetizers like pappadums (spicy potato fritters) until you are seated. This is one of their policies that if you are not given food while waiting for a table, your meal is free.
The appetizers are around $8 and the entrees can get up around twice that. It is a good idea though to go with 3 or 4 or more people and get several dishes to pass around. Rice and flat cakes come with the meal. The food is curry based (Vij calls it a currey gallery) and I enjoyed the food even though I don't enjoy regular curry- try it!
Favorite Dish: I am a vegetarian so I enjoyed a mushroom dish (very interesting spices) and just added that to rice. My friends took to ordering musk ox and prawns and thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is upscale Indian. Vij makes things with traditional ingredients but often with a twist. Everything is delicious. Don't forget to try the chai tea. Beautifully decorated and the Vij is a one of the most charming hosts in the city
Favorite Dish: Everything
The food is quite unique -- kind of a Indian-South Pacific fusion. Warm, friendly, intimate atmosphere -- it feels like you're being entertained in the owners own house. It's a small place, and relatively hard to find, so you know it's a place only local dining connoisseurs know about. You'll probably have to stand in line, but it will be among the most pleasant queuing experience you'll ever had -- they serve chai tea and nibblies.
Favorite Dish: Everything I have tried has been excellent. Menu available on-line.
Worst Indian food I ever had. Resturant served "Beef tenderloin in kalonji curry" in 5 minutes. Where in the hell beef stake is cooked in 5 minutes that every resturant in Vancouver take atleast 15 minutes. Vegetables were heated in a microwave not grilled.
Located South of Downtown, across the Granville Bridge on 11st Street, VIJ"s has a dim modern sort of an atmosphere. What adds to it's intrigue is that no reservations are taken and it's on a first come first serve basis. I spoke with Chef Vij himself who told me that it's technically not an Indian restaurant though his wife and him (the two owners and chefs) are from Mumbai which is in Northern India. Both dishes I ate had chickpeas and there was an excellent flavoring. The first dish was a Kale/Chickpea dish that was too heavy for me. The entree, a halibut/mussels dish was spectacular and original. There were either cardomoms or cinamon added with tiger shrimp and a curry sauce that was out of this world. Tasty without being overbearing.
The crowd at the restaurant seemed rather over trendy to me for some reason. And the atmosphere is rather pretentious. But the food was not bad. The servings for the two dishes were too much to have room for dessert.
Favorite Dish: The Halibut/Mussel entree which goes for around $CDN24.
It was cold and rainly and only 6:00 on Friday night, so we hoped to get in quickly---HA!!!
We had to wait 45 minutes for our table. (they don't take reservations)
From the moment we walked in, to the moment we left, we felt taken care of. The room, service, staff and even Vij himself (Vikram) were there to make sure that our experience was seamless and smooth, so not to take away from the amazing food.
We spent our time waiting in the bar, and shared a table with another couple. The staff came by with little treats to nibble on so time went by rather quickly.
Each server seemed to have only one duty; either re-filling our drinks, serving the food, taking an order, removing plates...it was all so easy and relaxing. Vikram came by to check up on us and chat us up for a bit. He moved around to most of the tables, saying "hi" and holding court.
Favorite Dish: This is "modern" Indian. Or Indian Fusion, as they like to call it. That means, no tandoori and other things you expect at the local curry house.
But you wouldn't miss any of it.
We did have 2 curry entrees. Beef (!?) short ribs in a spicy-sweet red curry, and Seabass in a sour, pungent greenish yellow curry.
The food was great, and the overall experience was amazing.
Get there early and wait outside if the weather's nice. They serve the homemade masala chai while you wait.
So finally I managed to try reputedly the best indian restaurant in town. I'm no big fan of fusion indian cuisine but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Vij's adds a twist to some stand indian dishes as well as coming up with their own innovative dishes using indian spices and W Canadian produce.
The result is quite breath taking in terms of the quality of the food presented. While I had tasted indian food just as good as the dishes served up at Vij's I haven't done so in Vancouver. The meats were cooked so perfectly which I find so rare at indian restaurants who tend to over cook everything. The sauces while not traditionally hot and spicey were heart warming and more complex in their taste. The vegi dishes were perfect, just how they should be. I liked the way they hadn't added bells and whistles to simple dishes that didn't need them but then went all out on their own innovative creations. Everything was of an impecable quality and I found myself stuffed by the end of the meal.
Vij's is great, its not authentic but then it doesn't pretend to be. What you will find is the best quality food taking the best east and west has to offer. Its quite pricey for indian food but worth the occasional splurge. Queues start to form fairly early on so be prepared to wait as they don't take reservations.