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I Have Found the Holy Grail of Indian Cuisine!

July 3, 2007

So I’m in Vancouver, BC, and I hold The List.  All sources: wino on the corner, B and B host, guidebook, and ex-pat friend from high school, have recommended one restaurant as the top choice when dining in their fair metropolis.  So on the very first night, we scoured the neighborhood of West Granville (or maybe Kitsilano), until we finally found it, Vij’s

 The guidebook mentions a constant long line under the purple neon sign, but we found no such line on a Monday evening at 9:00pm.  We did, however encounter a 45 minute wait.  But it was the most enjoyable wait I have ever experienced.  At Vij’s the whole time you are waiting for a table, you are served delicious, exotic and freshly cooked snacks.  We sampled small round breads flavored with anise, mini-pakoras, pregnant with steaming potato and inexplicable spices.  We ordered local B.C. wine and gawked at the beautiful and entirely cosmopolitan crowd.   By the time we reached our table, our appetites had abated enough to a point where we could read the menu with calm distinction.

 Let me be clear:  The New York Times has deemed Vij’s “Easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.” 

This is no lie.  This was the best Indian food either of us had ever tasted in our lives.  Apparently, Vij can always be found hovering somewhere in the restaurant, but all I saw were five or six gorgeous, youngish Indian women cooking in the kitchen.  Each dish is spiced completely separately and with spices that are fresh, decadent, copious, exotic, and generally unfathomable. 

We began with an appetizer of jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin masala.  Jackfruit is similar to an artichoke heart, but more substantial and much more succulent.  The sauce was deep, dark, rich, and perfect to sop up with delicate, buttery naan.  I have never tasted better naan. 

For dinner we each sampled a lamb dish.  My companion ordered wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on spinach potatoes.  Again, fresh, warm spices I had never encountered before, laden softly among the voluptious and really fun lamb “popsicles.” 

I ordered lamb tenderloin with coconut curried vegetables.  Mine was mild, rich and fabulous, but my companion won the meal contest.  Oh, I forgot to mention the drinks.  I think what I drank was called mangalore.  It’s a pink, sweet wine (or port maybe) spiced with cardamom.  It’s neither overly sweet nor overly spicy.  It’s simply perfect, like every other thing about this place.  If you are ever in Vancouver, you need to go to Vij’s.  Okay, so we spent about $130, tip included.  But food has never been more worth it.  If you are not in Vancouver, you must go to the website.  Do it, and you will be happy and jealous and hungry. 

 Vij’s:  Easily 5 hearts out of 5 for ambiance, deliciousness, exoticness, prettiness, and countless other reasons.

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