Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vij's in Vancouver

Vij's is an unusual and amazing restaurant.  The food is not typical of what you'd find in other Indian Restaurants.  To begin with the entire staff is composed of women.  The kitchen is compact, open, and very well organized and run.  They have close working relationships with many local farmers, brewers, wine makers and artisans.  They also have a cafe that serves lunch, take out, frozen packaged food, spices, and teas next door, Rangoli.  Vij's opens at 5:30, if you come later you'll wait about an hour.

Since Vij's doesn't take reservations our friend Dave was kind enough to arrive 1/2 hour before hand so we only had to wait 30 minutes by the time we arrived.  My friend and I decided to walk from our hotel, the Mariott on West Hastings over the bridge to the restaurant.  It was a brisk 35 minute walk that took us past Japa Dawg the delicious sausage hot dog with a Japanese twist, (I was tempted to try one....) and through the different neighborhoods so close to one another. The walk also helped after the Taco/Banh Mi feast upon our arrival in Vancouver a couple of hours earlier.

Waiting with our friends I ordered a Scottish Ale by Storm a local brewer, I love beer (it tends to fills me up too much and then I can't eat- but it makes for taking home leftovers). The ale was delicious, small bubbles no bitterness just perfect for me.  The place was filled with people waiting in the lounge for a table and we were a party of 6 with one person who was going to be an hour late. When our table was ready our waitress was happy to seat us and let us keep the seat warm (they did check once or twice to make sure our sixth was coming).

We must have started with 6 appetizers (I started to lose count of the plates coming out) and then ordered a second on the samosas (3 dimensional pyrimid shaped fried dumplings filled with beef, lamb, paneer cheese and freshly roasted spices~ photo above) and the paneer (Indian cheese that gets soft when cooked)with brussel sprouts and papaya because there wasn't enough to go around, photo on left  Not to mention they were the best samosas I've ever eaten and there's nothing like fresh house made paneer cheese.  The flavor of the combined spices in the samosa was so fragrant, I don't think I ever smelled or tasted flavors so freshly blended together. Several times one of the lovely waitresses came around offering fresh cassava frittes (the South American starchy tuberous root sinilar in texture to a potato aka yucca, ground into a flour this root gives us tapioca).

I would have been very happy with a plate of those delicious cassava morsels and an order or two of samosas.  But then I would have missed out on the chickpea curry with grilled kale; the paneer, brussel sprouts, papaya with mango powder &; sour cream curry,mutton kabobs with bengali style curry, spot prawns & halibut with black chickpeas, the combination of ingredients and flavors was absolutely out of this world, photo on right; short rib; a pork dish;  lamb popsicles (a fancy name for lamb with the bone sticking out like a handle, photo below) with an amazing sauce of fenugreek whose fragrance lingered on my tongue, not to mention the Chai Tea.

Luckily the 5/6 of us were taking a bit and passing the plate.  It was like having an amazing tasting menu of small bites. I had only one complaint that no one else seemed to notice and I'm hesitant to say (I thought the Jackfruit with black cardamom and cumin masala was too salty (I couldn't get the flavor of the black cardamom or the cumin masala) considering the flavors of everything else were so vibrant and fresh I think this was just a fluke.  In the end I could only taste someone elses chai tea because I could no longer fit anything else in my stomach. Luckily another couple drove us back to our hotel.

I have to thank the people who joined us for this meal, without them I never would have been able to sample 1/3 of the menu and enjoyed this innovative restaurant.  If you're in Vancouver and as close as Seattle because the border to Vancouver is only 2 hours away starting at noon on a Sunday and worth every second getting there, this restaurant should be at the top of your list!

1480 West 11th Ave
Vancouver, BC Canada

5:30pm ~No Reservations
credit cards accepted

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