Vij's offers a menu of Indian inspired fusion cuisine.
On its surface, you could dismiss Vij's, baring you possessed some form of extrasensory culinary clairvoyance. I had criticized restaurants in the past that matched the straightforward décor approached by Vij's, but here, it's intentional and not the result of a limited budget. Vij's stands a proud achievement in a city of over half a million people that the most respected, most critically praised restaurant is so modest and unpretentious that it refuses to take reservations. Compared to the other dinners I would have on this Vancouver outing, Vij's not only came up the cheapest, but the friendliest as well. Of course, the day had to balance that experience with a depressing lead in.
I had arrived that same day, and after dropping my bag on the bed of the hotel, I hustled out and took to the road, guided my by TomTom voiced by Billy Connolly ("Turn around, if possible…it's important to turn your whole car around; don't just turn around inside the car."). Prior critics had recommended arriving around 5:00, thirty minutes ahead of the dinner service, if one had any hope of getting in on the first seating. My watch read 5:00, unaware that it would take 15 minutes to find a parking spot in this cursed town. I eventually stumbled into an empty stall mated to a Canada Trust that threatened to tow any car before 6:00 unless it was owned by a customer. Anxiety began to build. I couldn't remember if the doors opened at 5:00 or 5:30, and I began to worry that I'd be standing in line for hours, my empty stomach trying to convince my brain to eat the toddler in front of me while his parents tapped away on their iPhones.
Vij's is paired with another restaurant, Rangoli, owned by the same chef and promising modest prices with smaller portions. Rangoli also features a store where interested buyers can purchase prepackaged food and cookbooks related to the franchise surrounding the head chef and owner, Vikram Vij.
My substandard $15 dollar watch silently flipped to 5:30 and the doors opened, revealing the pleasant head chef and host, the celebrity himself. What modesty to welcome each customer personally? I managed a table at the first seating and took a moment to enjoy the décor, or rather lack thereof…well, what I could see in a restaurant as dark as an adult video store…I've heard. I did make out a painted but otherwise unfinished roof with exposed pipes and air ducts, bargain light shades only in fashion before 1979, and a cluster of female chefs clad head-to-toe in black like gastronomic ninjas frantically preparing the first set of orders.
The first waiter placed an unidentified brass jug on my table and I spent the first few minutes of the meal staring at it, unsure what could be concealed in its dimly-lit depths. As I pondered this culinary Lemarchand's box, passing waiters kept offering me free food. To start was pana puri, followed by glass of masala chai, a cassava root fry, and a vegetable pakora. My assigned waiter followed and poured water from the brass decanter still mocking me at the center.
Just water, huh? Kind of disappointed now.
Disappointment is being sarcastic. Some critics have pointed at the owner's boisterous attitude as being pompous, that the restaurant's refusal to accept reservations is inexcusable. My scholarly counter to such a criticism is to tell those people to bug off. Show up at 5:00 and swallow your damned pride; or better still, just avoid Vij's and drop twice as much money on a pretentious slab of cow you self-important philistine. I'm sorry that Vij treats each patron equally, regardless of the house they live in or the car they drive. There's no bouncer, no mandatory tie. Vikram Vij wears a scarf over an un-tucked kurta and doesn't ask for anything from his patrons. Expensive? Vij's was the cheapest place I patronized for dinner during my vacation, and maybe it might be expensive if what you're used to is the Indian equivalent of a culinary bukkake (yeah, I went there), where you're offered thirty variations of curries and kormas and can eat nonstop until you bankrupt Macau. Waiting twenty minutes is a small price to pay for the best Indian-inspired food you likely ever to find.
Don't expect butter chicken or masala chops; Vij's is about something entirely new, original recipes inspired by classic Indian traditions. The menu is a meek collection of dishes, scattered on the single page in seemingly no sensible order. I opted for the popular wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes. The dish was delivered with a side of rice and chapattis. Given the snacks preceding the meal, I hardly required an appetizer, although I would've liked to have ordered those somosas. Although I'm not one to enjoy tearing meat off bones, I found myself bravely diving in. There was no gristle or tough sections, the bones stuck up inviting from the large bowl and I alternated between them and the cream sauce, spooned up with rice or bread. The curry was without a doubt the best I had ever had.
The stress of my car's fate took hold and a rushed through the bill, racing to the stall to find my car still waiting patiently without a ticket. I wandered back to Vij's and dropped down cash for one of his cookbooks. The clerk asked if I wanted Vij to sign it. Yeah, she actually asked. While the chef signed my sister's name across the leaf, he recounted how easy the fenugreek sauce is to make at home, and that the secret to the lamb's tenderness is to marinade it in the wine for a full day. Oh, simple as that?
If I lived in Vancouver, or anywhere near it, I would make it my mission to order each and every dish on Vij's modest menu. I would run a blog dedicated to just this one restaurant. It truly is that good, even ignoring the demands imposed by its novelty. It isn't pretty, could stand with a few extra lights, and I did feel rather tight against other patrons, but Vij's placement on the upper echelon of the culinary elite is well earned.
OVERALL: 9 out of 10
By the way, I think describing a buffet as a culinary bukkake may be my most disgusting metaphor yet.
Ok, I'm born here and I've never heard of Vij's before. Am I nuts? Last month when I was in LA airport, a tourist (whose Amercian) was telling me how great Vij's is in Vancouver. He said we'll thank him once we tried it. So...last week we went to try it out. Hm...I think he hyped it a little bit too much for us. I must admit, the service was incredible. Once we sat down, we got our water and menu and then a lady approached us w/ some complimentary fries. Few minutes after that, we were offered fried potatoes. A moment later, we were offered some chai tea which I've never tried before. It was actually pretty good! Other reviewers were right; we were constantly getting our water refilled. I thought that was pretty cool. As for our orders, we ordered 2 spoons of dungess crab to start. I couldn't explain the taste but it was good and had some Indian spice(s) in it. As for entres, we ordered beef tenderloin & chicken breast. The chicken was flavorful, you could tell it was marinated for a long period of time. As for the beef, I only had a bite and I wasn't impressed. My bf thought it was good but we wouldn't go back to Vij's again. The bill + tips came up to $65. I'll stick w/ butter & tandoori chicken next time. Ok ok, I know Vij's is totally different from traditional Indian Restaurants BUT the flavor did not meet my taste, that's all.
Food: Had the mussels to start and our party of 4 then shared the beef tenderloin, lamb popsicle and the grilled chicken. Every dish was very good but the lamb popsicles were by far my favorite. All dishes come with rice and naan which was nice when the dishes themselves are quite saucy. Watch out for the peppers they serve in the beginning! Didn't have room for dessert but will definitely return to try their khir.
Service: Water refills were plentiful and our plates were changed after the appy. I found them quite attentive but not overbearing. The only irk I had with the service was the fact that they don't take reservations and we were told it was a 45 minute wait but it was more than an hour. There was also a single server in particular that was quite surly but we only encountered her a few times so it wasn't too bad.
Ambiance: I just love the dark interiors but was quite surprised it was so small. It's also quite odd how the waiting area is at the back of the restaurant. The little fish pond outside is really unique and quite beautiful looking at night.
Will definitely return but will try to avoid peak dining hours.
Never got around to trying Vij until this past Sat.. We were in line @4:50 thinking it opened its doors at 5/5:30. Well, it was the latter, but we weren't the first ones there... By the time it came closer to opening, the line grew to the point where a few parties had an approx. 1.5hr wait.
Vikram Vij, the host, was amazingly w/o airs. I had expected by now, his popularity would have spoiled the man like those who run lesser/newer spots, but that wasn't the case at all! That alone just about made it a new favourite, but of course, it's w/ the help of the lamb popsicles that helped grab the spot! I almost never have lamb b/c I absolutely HATE the gameyness of it, but wow, there was just a bare hint while remaining juicy--literally, finger-licking good! Wanted to suck up all the yellow curry sauce it was served in. The grilled duck dish was less impressive. The meat itself was tender & made well, however, the flavours were lacking. The curry for the duck seemed quite watered down to the point of being non-descript. The house naan is good for sopping up all the sauces of your apps/mains. The rice that came for us to share was preferable over the rice that was soaked under my duck since I never care for oversauced rice/bread. The 2 of us couldn't finish that bowl of fragranted rice as we had to make room for dessert!
I quite enjoyed the jackfruit appetizer. That went really well w/ the bread. I didn't much care for the mutton skewers--too gamey but wanted to taste it just 'cause it's there.
Loved the subtle clean flavour of the rice pudding w/ the fresh almonds adding a nice contrast in texture to it. The mango "ice cream" was more of a sorbet--lots of mango-goodness.
The room is definitely less crowded than it used to be when I walked in one late night to purchase a gift certificate about 2 yrs ago. The tables seem better spaced & prepped for parties of 4/5 rather than mostly just for 2's.
It's the daunting lineup that kept me from trying for so long!
Hearing all the hype about this place, we had to give it a try. Went on a weeknight as a party of six, were lucky to get in and get a table. There was a lineup before it opened and I felt bad for those who didn't make it in because they were in for a long wait. First impressions - cramped seating, dark lighting, and very, very loud. The free appies and chai are a nice touch, since it takes a while for the food to arrive. I could hardly see the person I was talking to the lighting was so dim, and we had to yell to be heard.
We ordered dishes to share since two of our party have not had Indian food before and we wanted them to taste different things. We had the mutton kabobs and portobello mushrooms to start. Both were tasty. For mains we had lamb popsicles, beef shortribs, trout & lobster, saag paneer. It was all very tasty, although the paneer was a little disappointingly bland. The problem was between the six of us, we each literally only got one bite of each dish. I realize that these entrees may not necessarily be made for family style dining, but it would be nice if they had been just a little more substantial. The service was decent, our water was filled regularly and we did not feel rushed by the staff despite the line up of patrons waiting to get in.
The word 'pretentious' did pop up in describing this place. The food is tasty, but the long waits and uncomfortable atmosphere really did nothing to make me want to return.
First of all, I couldn't fault the service. The staff were really friendly and genuinely wanted you to enjoy your experience. We also enjoyed the snacks whilst we waited for our table. We didn't actually have to wait as long as expected but it was a Tuesday evening. Sadly, we were disappointed with the food. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't amazing - especially for the price. We both had the lamb Popsicles and although well cooked, I just found the sauce far too rich and sickly after a while. By the end of it we both said we would have preferred some popadoms and a madras from our local takeaway!
So a couple of friends convinced me to try Vij’s again…I’d been once before and was kind of ambivalent about the place. I preferred next door at Rangoli in terms of décor, it is just a gorgeous space. But Vij’s is beautiful too of course, and you get those great little snacks while you’re waiting. But…I just can’t get that excited about the food. Both times I’ve been there, everyone at the table was raving about their meals and just loved it (especially the lamb popsicles – unfortunately, I don’t like lamb). I thought the food was good…it’s obviously excellent quality, fresh ingredients, there’s nothing to complain about. I guess it comes down to palate, if I’m going to spend $30 for an entrée, I want to be raving about the meal too.
I don’t prefer the food at Rangoli, but I like the space more over there, and it’s less expensive. I also like the experience, and for some reason, I like the servers there better too. I want to love Vij's because it is so beautiful, but I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to personal taste in food and I don't want to pay upwards of $50/person just because it's a pretty space.
I came here with my friends a couple of weeks ago. I've been here before a while back and everything was excellent. The only reason I haven't been back sooner is because they don't take resos and I don't really like waiting. This time my friends waited in line and being a nice summer day they didn't mind too much. Vij was there as always greeting people and offering appys (more like an amuse bouche) to the people waiting for their tables. We shared some samosas to start which were really good. We also had the halibut and spot prawns and the goat curry, everything was amazing. Service was very professional as well. One of my favorite restaurants for sure!
We got there just before 5:30pm, and just as expected, there was already quite a line-up outside. Once the restaurant opened, we were lucky to get one of the last tables available. Service was very quick. Right away we had menu and water, plus complimentary chai (yummy!) and some other small tidbits. The lamb popsicles were just as good as I had heard- sopped up every last bit of the curry and the lamb was so tender. The duck was okay...it didn't have that duck flavour I hoped for- sort of tasted more like chicken. Both dishes had exactly the right amount of spice- hot, but not overpowering. Vikram was there greeting everyone - he wasn't quite as warm as I imagined, but pleasant. Service was great- very quick to bring more rice & naan, fill glasses, etc. Would definitely come again.
The food is absolutely terrible and overpriced. It's cheap ingredients with pretty presentation. Kind of lame, isn't it? They keep calling this fusion indian food because these morons don't know how to cook indian food. When you say it's fusion, it basically means anything goes and no effort.
The restaurant spent a lot of time and money on PR. So you probably heard it and have seen the press somewhere. But PR is just another form of advertising, you really don't want to believe the hype. If you want to bring your out of town friends here to impress them, they probably laugh at you more than appreciate your effort. In the States, you would get very decent and more authentic indian food with at least 1/3 price lower, plus some Indian restaurants are well decorated as well over there. It's not a big deal this restaurant has great ambiance, it's not like you have never seen anything pretty or like this before. It's cute alright but doesn't wow you.
The restaurant is taking advantage of the fact that this town has no night life so people would just go to fake fine dining restaurant to feel that they did something that night. It's really not that exciting, it's still a restaurant not a fun party. Food is terrible with cheap ingredients so you can't really call it fine dining experience. it's fake fine dining.
Went to dine here with a friend tonight. I think the surest sign of quality is the quantity of people wanting to share in the experience of a restaurant. I got here at 5:00 and there were already people queing to get into the restaurant at 5:30. My only beef with Vij's is they don't take reservations. Then again, if my restaurant was so popular, that it was always full, maybe I wouldn't take reservations either.
Vij's has a great vibe. It's flowing over with humanity. Tonight CITY TV was filming inside the restaurant... not that this is important but it shows there's life here... something worth documenting. It all adds to the great ambiance.
The service is exceptional. Wait staff offering free chai, papodums, spicy fries... all this added a little extra to the experience. My friend and I asked for two beers and within a minute they magically appeared in front of us... no interminable waits.
The food... quite exceptional. Instead of the usual farmed vietnamese prawns, BC spotted prawns were served as an appetizer in a coconut curry sauce... nice touch to provide something locally. We also had the lamb popsicles in a creamy cardamom sauce. They were quite nice. The duck dish in a fruit reduction was also quite good. All the dishes were a careful combination of spiciness, flavour and texture - all in balance without one overpowering the other... a true gift in any type of fusion cuisine.
I now understand why this restaurant enjoys such a sterling reputation. It's something everyone (who can afford it) should experience once, at least.
I recently had the pleasure of dining at Vij's for a friends bday. First of all I had no expectations entering this restaurant and was blow away by the end of my dining experience here. First of all, the food was just the most amazing part of the night. Ordered many dishes and they were all packed with rich, delectable flavours without being overpowering. Ordered some red wine to go with the meal and it was divine! Second, service was incredible! Water glasses were never empty and wine glasses were often refilled. Service here is top notch...The ambiance was nice, dim and cozy I especially liked the laterns throughout the room. Overall a delightful experience! Loved it!
We got to Vij's about twice a year, and it's always fabulous. We love the room the atmosphere, and all the food. I loved the prawn appetizer, amazingly sweet and spicy-I love prawns, but most Indian restaurants dont do a very good job of it, but Vij's knows how to cook prawns. We also had the lamb with porcini curry, so nice, cooked perfectly and delicious. The lamb was nice, sweet and, for lack of a better word, just the right amount of gaminess.
We always have a wonderful time ay Vij's, I'm not the biggest fan of the no reservations deal, but I guess being such a small room, it's what he needs to do to make it profitable for him.
I dont like waiting, and thats my only complaint. I love Indian food, and if it wasnt such a wait, I'd probably go more often. But again, he's always got a wait, so I guess he's not that concerned that he's lost visits from me.
I haved dined at Vij's for many years and it is always great. You go to Vij's for only one thing; the Food. The food is incredible. The service is the best I have experienced. The staff seem to anticipate everything. If you do not like waiting or must have a reservation then this is not for you. My only complaint is that one of my favorite dishes (Sablefish in a mango reduction) is no longer on the menu. Hopefully it will return.
Over the past few years I have eaten at Viji's many times, and have enjoyed every meal experienced there. Vij is a gracious host, and (like Bishop's, where he has worked before) visits each table to greet customers with a warm welcome.
No reservations are taken, but you are guaranteed a table if you go early. If you do have to wait, the backroom is pretty fun. As you're waiting, they have a constant stream of small bites to tide you over until a table becomes available.
The food is fantastic, with sauces made from scratch, and fresh BC ingredients. This isn't authentic Indian food, but more like the fresh/seasonal bounty of BC with Indian inspirations.
To the previous poster that complained about the restaurant being inflexible: Kosher, no dairy, no meat, no grains -- perhaps it would have been much easier to stay at home a homecooked meal.
Items like curries are made from scratch, but not on the day of (welcome to flavour country after flavours have had time to mingle). It is unreasonable to ask for all those changes. Not only because it's not an easy thing to do, but items may taste a bit strange with the various requested substitutions (not the way the chef intended). You may have fared better at other restaurants (West comes to mind), they could have planned a custom tasting menu for you.
Vij's is an institution. This is one of the best places to find indian-fusion in North America, hands down. My advice -- get over the no reservations, make the trek (if there is a trek involved), and do yourself one of the best favours of your life. You can show up early, before 5:30 and for the most part you will get a table guarenteed. I've been there early, been there late, either way you get tasty treats from the kitchen (even when seated) and their ginger-lemon drink has bankrupted me on more than one occasion. And now onto the food. Forget everything you know about Indian food and you will be floored. This is not traditional, though aspects or dishes can be, so if that is what you want, this isn't the place to be. Memorable dishes include most any of the lamb, sturgeon (etheral, though rare to see), and surpringly enough some of the best are the vegetarian dishes -- all the paneer stuff is great too. This is the type of place you can show up at 5:30 and grab yourself a plate and get home by 6:15. This is also the type of place where you sit down and live an extremely lucky existence for two plus hours, and when you leave, start counting the days till you'll be back again. I'm thinking mid-February -- what about you?
I came to Vij's after being recommended by a friend at work. The food was very bland and didn't really offer much in the taste department. Some of the dishes were very unique however. Service was decent as well, but nothing special. The restaurants decor was quite pleasant and had a nice feel to it. I certainly wont pay as much as I did for another meal here. My friend at work will definetly be hearing from me.
after reading reviews by a couple of people i felt the need to divulge some pertinent infromation to pepole confused about the "fusion" of this fabulous restaurant! vij is trained is classic french cuisine. add his indian culture and palette influences and you have vij's. do not dine here if you are expecting spicy indian dishes that all kind of resemble each other. this is fusion at it's best! i love it!
As a European that has travelled much of the world, it is hard to understand what the fuss is about with the waiting. It is normally a joy to wait in a pleasant lounge with free appetizers for a meal that is delicious, innovative and beautifully presented. Meals should be an experience and, particularly if you are with great company, should take hours, and not the fast in-and-out experience North Americans seem to value.
Vij's food is fabulour and Vikram Vij is a charming man who loves what he does, making the experience that much more outstanding due to the love that clearly goes into the food.
IF one needs to eat in a rush, or for lunch, Rangoli is a superb substitute.
There are few restaurants that offer what Vij's does.
I think this place is good.
The staff are attentive and charming.
But the food is not as good as I think it should be considering all that I have heard about it.
I will choose a traditional Indian restaurant over Vig's.
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