Posts tagged ‘vij’s’

June 16, 2014

A night at Vikram Vij’s new restaurant, My Shanti

vikram-vij-my-shanti-exterior-surrey-bc

Vikram Vij is eager to welcome diners to his restaurant in the suburbs. (Herman Chor photo)

[This article was originally published on Vacay.ca on June 8, 2014.]

SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA — It’s 7 pm on the first Wednesday in June and the lineup at Vij’sis two hours long. Those at the back of the queue may not know it but they could hop in a car and drive 45 minutes to find food prepared by the same cooks as the famous Vancouver Indian restaurant. Not only that, these days they’ll also find Vikram Vij at My Shanti.

The celebrity chef’s newest enterprise opened on June 2 and for the time being it needs its owner’s attention. “It’s like a baby,” he says of the 130-seat restaurant with an exterior so eye-catching you’ll think it belongs in Times Square, not a suburban strip mall.

For 20 years, Vij has spent most of his evenings working the room at Vij’s, making it a destination restaurant unlike any other in Canada. With My Shanti, he sees an opportunity to elevate the food choices in the suburbs. He also indulges in showcasing more of his recipe book, filling the menu at My Shanti with regional dishes from India.

Anyone who has been to Vij’s knows the cuisine is a blend of European technique and Indian flavours. My Shanti is more traditionally Indian. “These are the dishes I’ve wanted to share with people for a while. They are from different regions of India, from places I’ve visited many times over the years,” says Vij, who juggles his time between the restaurants, his packaged food product line and numerous TV appearances, including as an upcoming member of CBC’s “Dragons’ Den.”

Vikram Vij’s Culinary Tour of India

Though the cuisine at My Shanti isn’t the same as Vij’s or Rangoli — the small eatery next door to Vij’s on Granville Street that’s also often packed with diners — some of the experience is unmistakeable. The spices that are so sublimely blended together you don’t realize there are dozens of them in each bite, the texture of perfectly prepared basmati rice, the heat that hits the back of your throat after you’ve enjoyed the other flavours first. Those are all hallmarks of Vij’s food and it’s what you’ll discover in the Indian dishes at My Shanti.

“This really is just like Calcutta fish,” Mariellen Ward, my dining companion, said with both joy and surprise when she bit into the steamed tilapia ($19.50), served with mustard gravy reminiscent of dishes from the capital city of the state of West Bengal. “This is really is like being back in India.”

Ward is an excellent person to gauge the authenticity of My Shanti’s recipes. Her website, BreatheDreamGo.com, has been recognized as a leading authority on travel to India and she has visited the country several times in the past decade. She assured that the menu accomplished Vij’s aim of giving diners a culinary tour of his homeland. Dishes evoke the diverse tastes of the Asian nation. The names on the menu tell diners the origin of the appetizers and entrees.

As good as the food is, the decor is a match — starting with that shimmering exterior. It is made of 4,000 sequins, affixed by hand to tiny hooks attached to a brick wall. The wind ripples through the sequins, causing a lovely wave of silver to streak above your head.

Mysorian vegetable thoran ($15) is a curry mixed with delicious grated coconut; Hydrabadi chicken biryani ($22) is served with Vij’s “3 Mistresses” — spicy sauces that include tamarind and chili concoctions; and Goan Oyster Pakoras ($11.25) are tasty morsels breaded in chick-pea flour and served with a tangy green chili creme fraiche. There are also Bollywood references and colloquial Hindi phrases used on the food and cocktail menu (try the rum-based Dawa Daru, $11). The standout, though, is a flavourful appetizer inspired by South America. The Peruvian/Indian ceviche of fish and shrimp features the seafood dropped into a gol gappa (a thin, crisp, hollow, bite-size bread bowl) and served atop a non-alcoholic shot of tamarind juice. Pop the seafood-stuffed gol gappa into your mouth and throw back the tamarind shot. Unique and incredibly tasty.

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April 18, 2011

Noma tops World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards again — plus read my picks

Bellevue Brasserie in St. Petersburg, Russia

Caviar and champagne at Bellevue Brasserie in St. Petersburg, Russia. The restaurant was one of my picks for the World's 50 Best.

[As published in the Toronto Star on April 18, 2011.]

Skim through the list of the world’s best restaurants and you won’t find one from Canada. No Langdon Hall, Rouge, West, North 44 or any favourites in Montreal or Vancouver Island. That’s not only discouraging for the chefs and restaurant owners here, it’s a shock to the man who’s been championing Canada’s culinary scene.

Steve Dolinsky, an acclaimed food reporter from Chicago, is the chairperson for the Mid-United States/Canada region of Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best judging academy. This year, Dolinsky made sure there were more Canadian-based judges than ever, which he thought would lead to more of this country’s restaurants making the grade. But the two establishments that scored positions on Restaurant Magazine’s World’s Best list last year — Rouge (60) in Calgary and Cambridge’s venerable Langdon Hall (77) — dropped out of the rankings for 2010. No Canadian restaurant has made the top 50 since 2003, when Michael Stadtländer’s Eiginsenn Farm from Singhampton placed 28th, a year after coming in the top 10.

“There’s no Canadian restaurant in the top 100 and that stuns me,” says Dolinsky, who was in London, England, where this year’s rankings were revealed at Guildhall on Monday. “With more judges from Canada than ever and with those judges being from all over the country, the only thing that I can think of is the votes were spread out. One restaurant may have gotten a vote here, another may have gotten two there, so things may not have been as concentrated as they were before. I’m really surprised there wasn’t more consensus.”

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September 4, 2010

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.

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