As I may have mentioned in some previous posts, this past Sunday I had a food blogger date with none other than Karen from Toronto Girl West and her lovely fiancé. We first met up during those crazy two weeks in February when the world descended upon Vancouver – also known as the Olympics. Anyways, back to the present. I had booked the day off from work ages ago, because you know they would have scheduled me if I hadn’t. We made plans for the day, but had to scrap part of them when someone had an appointment to go to. But I’ll forgive her, because it could mean someone will be moving closer to me, so we can have more food blogger dates more often!
Fortunately, we still had plans for the second part of our day. Obviously, it involved food. Specifically – Indian food. Even more specifically – Indian food that the New York Times has declared “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world”, and that Giada De Laurentiis visited on her Weekend Getaway in Vancouver.
We went to Vij’s.
(Random side note – my mom thought I said I was going “for vegan” and not “to Vij’s” when I told her where I was going. It led to much confusion when I came home and told her what I ate, which was not vegan whatsoever. It was pretty funny.)
Now, from the outside of the building, it doesn’t look like much, but when the place has a line up 30 – 40 people long a good 20 – 30 minutes before it even opens on a Sunday night, there must be something good happening there. Fortunately Karen and her fiancé got there early while I tried to find parking, and got a good spot in line. We were able to make it in for the first seating at 5:30.
We were sat right next to the front door, which was good for the fact that we had a window for some natural light while the sun was still up, but bad because hello, front door traffic. Still not the end of the world.
Promptly upon being seated we were brought complementary chai and water while we perused the menu offerings and made note of the spare decor. You’ll have to wait for Karen’s post for decor shots, because I failed to check the battery life on my camera, and it was on the verge of dying. I didn’t want to miss out on the food!
Chai wasn’t the only thing we received while we ordered our drinks and contemplated dinner. Servers came around with platters of various little nibbles – pakoras, cassava fries, a deep fried potato something or other, and a crispy (deep fried) vehicle with toppings I can’t remember. All I can tell you is that I enjoyed them all – particularly the cassava fries.
Note to self – buy cassava and make fries.
So where was I? Right…drinks! I couldn’t pass up the Indian Mojito – vodka, lychee, mango with mint and star anise.
I would say the mango and lychee flavours take a back seat to the mint and star anise, but it was a very refreshing combination. Had I not been driving (and working on a student budget) I probably would have ordered another 😉 Not that I was in danger of going thirsty.
Another interesting thing to note – all of the kitchen staff, and the wait staff (that we could see) are female. A rarity in the culinary world. It made for a very calm kitchen – they never looked like they were hurried, despite the full dining room and lounge. In fact the whole restaurant had a calm, relaxed vibe that I really enjoyed. So west coast – no need to get dressed up, even in a higher end restaurant.
We first decided to share an appetizer, passing on the Punjabi Heart Attack (much to my dismay 😉 ), and instead ordering the garam masala sautéed portobello mushrooms in porcini cream curry.
Someone tried to dig in before we took pictures. And no, it wasn’t Karen’s fiancé.
Speaking of her fiancé, he was nice enough to hold up the (first of many) plate of naan for my photography purposes.
With a little mango mint chutney and a fiery chili.
This was delicious. Creamy, well spiced, meaty pieces of mushroom, lots of naan to sop up all that sauce. I almost wished this was my dinner.
But that was still to come…
I pretty much knew what I was having for dinner even before I had set foot in the restaurant (thank you online menu and Vancouver Magazine Eating & Drinking Guide). Put a dish with prawns and halibut on your menu, and I’m all over that.
BC spot prawns and halibut with black chickpeas in coconut lemon curry. Yes please!
(Side note – the sun had set, and the lighting started to get funky. My apologies).
Served up with basmati rice and more naan. I’m pretty sure you can never have enough naan.
Although I did detect some cilantro in my dish (I forgot to ask about that), it was few and far between, so I was able to enjoy the rest of the flavours, which were wonderful. Big chunks of flaky white halibut, sweet spot prawns, black chickpeas, and roasted beets in a rich, flavourful curry. Not too spicy, so you could really enjoy each of the elements of the dish. And I was surprised that I enjoyed the beets as well. Could I be a beet convert?
Both Karen and her fiance ordered the wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes, which I did sample, and was very impressed with the sauce. Definitely on my “to order” list should I find myself back there.
The portions were substantial, more than enough for me for dinner. Sadly, we had no room for dessert. Such is almost always the case when I go out. It makes me sad.
Not being one to waste food, I had the remainder of my dish packed up, which made for a nice work dinner the next day.
Now, I’m no Indian food expert, as I haven’t been to many a restaurant, but I was impressed. The value was good, the atmosphere was great, and I was impressed with the service. Although Karen and her fiancé agreed that there is a little place up near their abode that may have as good of food (for a cheaper price), I still think it was worth going to Vij’s. It’s one of those things you have to do, much like the Grouse Grind, if you want to call yourself a true Vancouverite. It definitely makes me want to pick up a copy of one of Vikram Vij’s cookbooks, especially if those mushrooms are featured in there.
And of course, it was awesome to meet up with Karen again. Here’s hoping we can do so more often – I have a heap more restaurants to explore and need a dining partner!