Restaurant Review – Vij’s

Last night, in honour of my 29th year, we finally FINALLY went to Vij’s. I can’t say “I don’t know why we waited so long” because I know precisely why I’d never been there – the actual matter of “waiting so long.”

Vij’s doesn’t take reservations. They open promptly at 5:30pm and it’s first come-first served. They do make the wait very pleasant, serving chai and Indian equivalents of amuse bouche (bouches? how does the plural work?) while people are waiting – but I am not the type who waits for things. I am impatient and usually busy and squish as much into my calendar as possible. Waiting an indeterminate amount of time to get into a restaurant to eat is not my bag.

And frankly, if that’s who you are, you do not deserve to dine at Vij’s. I certainly didn’t. Until I put away my manic, control-freak nature, went with the flow, and let the experience unfold.

We did show up at about 5:10, and were the 2nd people to be waiting outside the door. We wanted to show up extra early, since we had a large group. By the time the restaurant opened, there were enough people waiting to fill the dining room, and then some. Other than that, don’t worry too much about showing up a bit later. It looked like they’re pretty adept at turning tables, so if you’re not starving or on a deadline, chill out in the lounge and enjoy some chai.

The extra-awesome part about dining at Vij’s with a large group was sharing the food. I’m a big fan of Family Style dining, and can’t think of a better way to enjoy Indian food anywhere – let alone a place where everything on the menu looks so good, it’s hard to decide what to order!

We ultimately left the dining decision in the hands of the staff, asking them to bring six appetizers and six entrees for our table of nine. It was more than enough food for all of us!

Starters were:

Garam Masala sauteed portobello mushrooms in porcini cream curry (2 orders)
Mutton Kebobs with Bengali-style curry
Jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin masala (2 orders)
Curried Organic Chicken Liver Pate

Mains were:

Saag paneer with Lentil Curry and Chapati
Rajasthani-style goat curry with lightly-spiced bell peppers and cabbage
Wine-marinated Lamb Popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric spinach potatoes (2 orders)
Beef Shortribs in cinnamon and red wine curry with warm greens (2 orders)

And this came with plates of naan and bowls of rice to soak up all the amazing sauces.

Vij’s focus is on fresh, local food served Indian-style, and the freshness makes all the difference in the world. From roasting their own spices and making their own paneer & breads every day, to picking fresh and seasonal meats and produce, every dish at Vij’s highlights the quality of the ingredients.

I was also surprised, considering the classification of “fine dining” at the prices. After dinner, drinks (one for most people, two for some), tax and tip, nine of us managed to dine for a little under $50 each. It’s easy to spend that at yet another disappointing ‘fast casual’ chain, so this was phenomenal value. When Vij’s says they are running a restaurant that is truly for everyone, they really aren’t kidding!

The food is unexpectedly life-changing, and the lineup is worth changing your life & expectations for.

I will return. Often.

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5 thoughts on “Restaurant Review – Vij’s

  1. Chris

    Thanks for having us out Jen. Vij’s is an awesome restaurant. While I did enjoy the family-style serving, I could easily eat any one of those mains all by itself, they were that good.

  2. Greg

    Vij’s and Lumiere are up next on my Vancouver to-dine list.

    Reservations have been made for Au Pied de Cochon in three weeks. 🙂

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  4. Darren

    I’m totally with you on refusing to wait to eat. I don’t think it’s control freaky at all. It might be elsewhere in the world, but in North America accepting reservations is a cultural norm.

    I wrote about this last year (http://bit.ly/i3gGP), and received a couple of explanations. This is, uh, third-hand from Vij himself:

    “He said, please tell your guests that we welcome them as if they are guests of our home. At home, you certainly would not bring your guests to the dining room table as soon as they step in the door – you would take them to the living room, have a little chat with some drinks and nibblies and then gradually guide them over to the dining room for dinner.”

    I also wouldn’t pay my host in somebody’s home, nor would my host have a large staff. So that metaphor kind of breaks down.

    I also heard from somebody at Wild Rice, which also does not take reservations:

    “We do not like to promise our customers things that we can’t follow through on. We are a small (88 seats) independant restaurant. If you called and made a reservation for 7pm on a Friday night, we would have to hold that table for you from at least 5:30pm on to make sure that when you arrived, there would be a table ready for you.That means that for 1 1/2 hours, that table sits empty.Being a small business, we do not have that luxury.”

    That’s a far more reasonable rationale, though I’d guess that most small restaurants in Vancouver manage to take reservations. In any case, I just vote with my wallet, and stick to the vast majority of places that do accept reservations.

    I also don’t care for restaurants that require a credit card for a reservation. Rather tacky. Mind you, this is usually just the super-fancy ones, which aren’t my bag. So, it’s rarely an issue.
    .-= Darren´s last blog ..What’s Left Inside of Books =-.

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