At a restaurant that does NOT accept reservations, how long would you be willing to wait for a table? That was the question that weighed heavily upon us all, Smooth Obturator, Triple T, Dumpling Man, and myself as we put our names down on the waitlist at Vij’s in Vancouver. We came at 8:30pm on a Saturday night and were told the wait would be 2.5 hours. #%$^$%&&#*!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?! is exactly the same thought we all had. Now we knew the wait would be long, like 1-1.5 hours per Yelp reviews, but 2.5?!? The hostess said we could put our names down and come back at 10:30pm to check back in. Now you’re probably wondering who would commit to such ridiculousness?? Well when you’re a member of the H.o.P., eating only the best and the most popular foods sort of becomes part of your life’s mission. We decided that if were going to travel to the land of canucks, loonies, and mountys, we damn well better eat at the city’s best dining establishments. Not only would this include Japa Dog and dim sum, but also Vij’s, Vancouver’s most popular (Indian) restaurant. I mean, Hello? it was featured on the Vancouver episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so you gotta eat there right?!
Fortunately we weren’t all thaaat hungry, which was surprising since we spent the day carving the slopes of Blackcomb and Whistler. Still though, we thought we should go somewhere to munch on something, so we didn’t end up at each others’ throats out of maddening hunger (or maybe that’s just how I am when I’m starved?). Feeling completely incapacitated and helpless without functioning iPhones (I had just received a text saying I had already accrued $25 in data roaming charges), the best we could come up with was a nearby boba shop. So for 2.5 hours we wandered our way there, chewed on boba balls, and played games on our iPhones while the time passed. We came back to Vij’s at 10:30pm to be told that it would still be another 30 minutes. Vikram Vij himself was there making sure his waiting customers well well fed on free appetizers being passed around. It’s always nice to see a restaurant’s owner present and interacting with guests. Unfortunately, his mesmerizing blue eyes were not enough to dissolve our growing dissatisfaction as 30 minutes turned into an hour wait. Finally, as the restaurant crowd thinned out, we were seated at ELEVEN THIRTY P.M. Yes folks, we waited 3 hours to eat what we joked was just going to be a bunch of indiscernable, spicy, albeit tasty, mush served with a side of pita bread. I kid, I kid! I’m not that ignorant, I know it’s called nan. Hahaha!
We all know that feeling of “passing your point of hunger,” when food really becomes irrelevent. This is how we felt when we finally were able to taste the cooking of Vij, or more like the “aunties” in the kitchen who were actually churning out the food. Because I was pretty tired when I finally ate, my memory is kinda foggy so forgive me for the terse descriptors.
Roasted Mashed Eggplant butternut squash, black chickpeas
Delicious mush. Well spiced and seasoned (as was the consistent achievement through all the dishes that evening).
Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles fenugreek cream curry in tumeric and spinach potatoes
People were really RAVING about this one on Yelp. The lamb was nicely frenched and free of gristley fat. It was perfectly cooked and bathed in a light yet flavorful curry. I agree, a must try.
Garam Masala Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms poricini cream curry
Some more delicious mush that was interspersed with very crunchy whole almonds. I would have appreciated it if the almonds were halved or crushed because it was sorta distracting to be eating mush mush mush and then BAM, CRUNCH! Flavors were good though.
BC Spot Prawns coconut, fenugreek masala, wheat berry pilaf
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten shrimp at an Indian restaurant. The were well cooked, well seasoned, and delicious.
Beef Short Ribs braised in yogurt, tomato, cumin curry
The food had all come at once, so I was scurrying to take pictures, since the 3 hour wait really got us itching to try the food to see if it was really worth the wait. So, this one came out blurry. It’s ok, it was just more mush + beef. The short ribs were very tender and flavorful.
What was not pictured, was the serving of nan and rice that accompanied our dinner. The nan was wholly disappointing, mostly because it really lacked any flavor and was on the flat, limp, dense side. I love when nan comes right to table straight from the oven all puffed up and soft. So that was really the only major ding for the night, aside from the HORRENDOUS WAIT.
I am by far, no connoussieur of Indian food, but to me it feels like Vij is doing something different here. The food is Indian in flavor and concept, but probably tastes like nothing you’ve had before. You won’t find tikka masala, tandori chicken, or sag a loo here, which I think is the whole point. The fare is very special, and most importantly well prepared. Apparently, Vij’s justifies their “no reservations” policy as a way of keeping down the costs. Seriously?! The place ain’t cheap! Am I glad I waited 3 hours to taste the food? Yes, because now I can say I’ve experienced it and agree that the food is good. Would I do it again? Probably not. Maybe if the wait was only an hour you could sway me to come back, but since Vancouver isn’t a frequent destination for me, I probably would be inclined to try something new.