Vij’s in Vancouver is Worth the Wait

[From “Vancouver chef reinvents Indian food”, published in the Toronto Star on September 3, 2009]

VANCOUVER, British Columbia–On a damp and grey Saturday, diners line up outside Vij’s an hour before the doors open at 5:30 p.m.

There’s room for nearly 200 diners in the 2,000-square-foot eatery in Vancouver’s South Granville district, which New York Times food critic Mark Bittman has described as “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.”

Those who arrive too late for the first sitting either spill over to Rangoli, a more casual sister restaurant next door with lower prices and smaller portions, or crowd into an alcove at the back of Vij’s to wait 90 minutes or more for a table. There, strangers mingle and wait staff pass around hors d’oeuvres that won’t show up on the bill, treats like cassava fries and puri.

Amid the dizziness is Vikram Vij, the affable and animated proprietor who orchestrates this nightly show. Dressed in a sherwani (a long coat), Vij hustles to tables to chortle with some diners, serve others and coach a few through the process of eating Indian food.

“You have to eat it with your hands,” he says, gripping the air as if it were a piece of stuffed roti.

To encourage such uncommon etiquette, he came up with a unique name for one of his most popular dishes. Lamb popsicles are thin sticks of bone each with about six ounces of meat attached to one end. They are marinated in wine and served in a fenugreek curry that’s accompanied by turmeric spinach potatoes and the smell of comfort. The bones stick out of the plate, tempting you to reach in and grab.

Read the full article in the Toronto Star’s Travel section.

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