1480 W 11th Ave
When it comes to the city of Vancouver, what type of cuisine stands out as the best the city has to offer? My answer to that question has always been "Seafood" or "Japanese" due to it's close proximity to the coastline. Never in a million years would I imagine myself changing my answer to "Indian", but after a visit to Vij's (@Vijs_restaurant) for some modern Indian cuisine, I am a believer.
The story starts when I was watching Season 2 of Top Chef Canada. A group of chefs battle it off to win over a panel of chef judges and the title of Canada's Top Chef. On the last episode, the celebrity chef happened to be Vikram Vij, owner of Canada's best restaurant serving up Indian cuisine. My brows raise as I paused the episode to do a quick google search to rest my skepticism; Vij's was indeed ranked #1 restaurant in 2012 by Vacay.ca (@vacaycanada)!
The Mastermind himself: Vikram Vij
(photo creds: Toronto Life)
Before I knew it, I was off on a plane headed to Vancouver for a family vacation. And guess where this little piggy decided to have dinner one night?
Hours of Operation, rain or shine.
Seeing as the restaurant opens at 5:30 pm and didn't take reservations, we went early at 4 pm to get in line. We managed to be second to the front of the line, and not too long after many others joined us.
Lots of people waiting
The restaurant promptly opens at 5:30 pm. About half the people in line were seated, and the rest still happily waiting outside in the warm weather, some with cocktails in hand from Vij's bar.
All seated and ready for food
I love these colourful elephant lamps!
The chefs ready to prepare us a feast
Before we even had a chance to look at the menu, a team of servers with huge trays of snacks circle around each tables, as well as outside to those waiting patiently in line. Spicy sweet Chai tea, Pakoras, and Mongo Fries. The fries were DELICIOUS. Was a nice treat to get the appetite going!
The menu choices are handwritten on the back of a card backed sheet of paper, with ample options to choose from. I really digged the way they priced their items, $29 3/4 definitely sounds way cooler than $29.75!
Eggplant with rapini in thick garlic and yogurt curry ($13.50)
As a starter we ordered an eggplant dish that came with a tray of naan. I've had a similar eggplant dip dishes else where before, but this one in comparison was chunkier and had had different layers of spices and herbs that went really well with the eggplant. Scoop a spoonful of that to go with the pillowy soft naan, and you can't go wrong with this starter!
Beef Shortribs braised in yogurt, tomato, and cumin curry ($29.75)
Shortribs aren't exactly the type of meat I would expect to see in Indian cuisine, but this one at Vij's tasted so good, I didn't even go further to give it's authenticity another thought. The sauce is a tomato based sauce with lots of spices, and don't worry, it doesn't taste at all like pasta sauce. The meat is so tender it was falling off the bone.
Rice to soak up all that delicious rib sauce! :)
Wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on tumeric and spinach potatoes ($29.75)
Just when I didn't think the dinner could get any better, the Lamb Popsicles come. And OH MY GOSH I don't know where to begin describing how amazing this tasted. The rack of lamb is cut into the shape of little popsicles, and grilled to perfection. A great smokey flavour, but not to a point of overpowering the creamy spices in the Fenugreek curry. It's not a secret that I can't hold my spice, but the one in this sauce is flavourful and doesn't linger on the tongue. It's really no surprise that this is Vij's signature dish!
When the bill came, we were asked if we wanted more Chai Tea to end on a pleasantly sweet note. A nice gesture but I really couldn't eat much more. And to be honest, the meal itself was an extremely pleasant note! Not one complaint. An excellent menu of dishes, attentive service, and a classy restaurant setting not typical of most Indian restaurants. Vij's is highly recommended, even for the 1.5 hour wait! =]