Before we leave Vancouver, which, alas, is soon, we’re making it a point to try restaurants that have been on our radar. Vij’s, now in Cambie Village, is one of them. Vij’s has a great reputation around town (as well as in Toronto, from what we overheard from fellow diners). The man behind the restaurant is a friend of Anthony Bourdain and has appeared on “No Reservations”.
We had dinner at Vij’s on Saturday, and, as their website does warn, there was a line when we walked up to the restaurant a little after 5 p.m. Reservations aren’t allowed, so it’s typical for a line to form before the 5:30 p.m. opening time.
Thankfully, the line was short when we showed up, with only a few people waiting in front of us. We waited about 20 min. before the doors opened, and a server came out while we were waiting to offer everyone fries in a coating of paprika and salt. I don’t remember what the server said the fries were made of, but I’m guessing by the texture and taste that they were cassava or taro fries.
The dining room reminded me of being on a cruise ship. Now, I’ve never actually been on a cruise ship, but the open dining room, the arrangement of the tables and the pattern on the carpet had the look and feel of a cruise ship space. Lanterns with a cutout pattern made for romantic lighting.
Once we were seated, a server came by and offered pakoras to everyone in the dining room. Everyone was also served chai. I give the restaurant high points for hospitality because of these gestures.
We ordered the appetizer special of the evening: ricotta-stuffed naan. Two of the pieces were overly charred, but all in all, I thought the combo of the ricotta and what tasted like chickpea paste was delicious. It was a good combo with our other appetizer, Vij’s Monarch Butterfly, which is raw sugar and ghee braised squash with wood ear mushrooms in a coconut milk sauce that we used as a dip for the stuffed naan.
For the entrees, we had the lamb popsicles and the duck breast. Both were good, but given the restaurant’s reputation, we were expecting more inventive takes, like what we saw with certain dishes at Hawksworth. Our entrees were served in curry sauces, red for the duck breast and a citrus-y cream for the lamb.
The mains come with long-grain rice and naan sides. The server will give you more sides with no extra charge, so you’ll definitely be full.
The verdict: A very good, classy, filling meal with points for hospitality, although the menu wasn’t as inventive as we expected.