Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review: Vij's on a Friday night

I was the lucky recipient of a surprise dinner at Vij's last night (many thanks to the lovely N and J, and to S for companionship). Everything you've heard is true: it's packed, the wait is fun (no reservations), the service is excellent, the food is amazing, and Vij is a brilliant host.

We started off the evening at Bin 942, the second Bin. This Vancouver stalwart is going strong, with an excellent selection of wines and tasty tapas. We tried a few different wines; the Chateau St. Michelle Riesling ($7/glass) was a hit, and Tinhorn Pinot Gris ($8 and slightly orange from leaving the skins on) was also tasty. It gladdens my dining heart when the cheaper glasses are recommended. The $10 malbec was also good, and I'm glad to have finally found one I enjoy. Popcorn with truffle oil was a little too salted but helped stave off hunger while we waited. The service was excellent (though N might argue that I just had a crush on the bartender).

At Vij's we settled into the waiting area and were quickly offered some tasters. We ordered some drinks, which the staff attach to your table (so much better than having to settle with a bartender after waiting at the bar for a table). Vij came over to check on how we were doing, and to see how our time elsewhere went. Apparently he had met our friends while they put their name down, recommended a place for drinks, and was checking to see if they'd followed his recommendations. Attentive: check.

The ladies ordered for the table as anticipation grew. Vij asked if we were chilly (courteous: check) and how busy Bin was (professional: check). We were going to order a sweeter German white to go with the spicy food, but I spied Joie Farm's A Noble Blend, touted as one of the best BC whites. I asked Vij if it would go well, and he effusively agreed (okay, now I'm just gushing). The wine was truly excellent, and the mark-up was under 100%.

The food arrived in batches, first some naan, then a seafood dish with spot prawns (frozen from May, I'm sure, but still good), the creamiest saag paneer I've ever tasted, and the amazing lamb popsicles in a lovely sauce that was both creamy and tangy (which N just told me she would drink cups of if made available). After discussing how the lamb recipe is in Vij's cookbook and is perfectly rendered, the waitress told us how happy she was to discover that the recipe is in Vij's cookbook and is perfectly rendered.
The aforementioned lamb popsicles, wine-marinated, in a fenugreek
cream curry on turmeric spinach potatoes. A true delight.

After dinner chai was complimentary, the service was excellent, and the setting was perfect. The busy room never felt claustrophobic, food arrived quickly but staggered perfectly. Vij was a wonderful host, and we ate the best Indian food in the city. I'm already looking forward to a return visit.

1480 West 11th at Granville
dinner served from 5:30 - no reservations

Bin 942
1521 West Broadway at Granville
5 - 2 daily


Anonymous said...

I have Vij's cookbook which I have not made any recipes out of as of yet. But after reading your review my mouth is watering and I want to cook something from the book, actually I just want to go to the restaurant and eat that wonderful food. Niki

Brenton said...

I'm thinking of getting the book, but I worry about the complexity. Do the recipes look tough?

Anonymous said...

I have looked through the book at several recipes and none so far look too complex. You should have no problem cooking up something delicious from the book. The Marinated Lamb popsicles recipe on pg 83 looks surprising simple. Niki

Brenton said...

Well, then, I guess I have a new cookbook to buy. We just got Whitewater Cooks at Home, which has some brilliant recipes. I've never been much of a recipe guy, but I'm excited to try new things.

Anonymous said...

The torta is amazing. My friend has the book and I want it too. I love cookbooks sometimes more for ideas than recipes. I just picked up a great Thai cookbook, well two actually :) Niki

Brenton said...

Niki, you're pregnant, you'll do anything for food. Wait... are there two Nikis? Judge for yourself, fearless readers:

"I have Vij's cookbook which I have not made any recipes out of as of yet." - Niki

"My friend has the book and I want it too." - Niki

Are there two Nikis, or is Niki merely addled with pregnancy? Or is Niki not the Niki I know but another Niki (or other Nikis) altogether? Strange indeed.

Anonymous said...

The second Niki was talking about the Whitewater Cooks at home cookbook. But, yes you are right I will do anything for food right now :) And it is just me, the Niki you know.