Friday, January 7, 2011

Vij's - Review

Vij's - Dude Grade: C
1480 W 11th Ave
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Phone: (604) 736-6664

The wife and I were looking for some of the best Vancouver had to offer, so we hit up the usual websites - Chowhound, Tripadvisor, and Yelp. All raved about this place called Vij's as one of the best restaurants in Vancouver and going straight to the point it was decent, but 1000% not worth the wait or price. Anytime I see the word fusion or modern, it's usually a hit the breaks moment but I was suckered in by all the positive web press. My standard for higher class Indian food is Tamarind in NYC - they basically have the same curries you see at your local Indian joint, but the flavor, quality of ingredient, and cooking technique is 100x better. At Vij, they basically take more westernized ingredients and adds mild curry flavorings on em. Decent, but not great.

Our Menu

Free Apps **
As you wait for your food, they come out with free stuff - whoot! Chai tea was incredible - perfectly milky with a great spice flavor going on. The real winner for me was the pakora which was phenomenal. All in all about 4 free bites - a great thing for the diners to keep them occupied and also buys the kitchen more time.

Jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin masala

We were waiting in line to get in and this couple in front of us said this is THE must get dish - don't question it. Why not trust the locals right? This was like a WTF moment - meaning WTF were they talking about. Such a mild/not there Indian flavor - almost a bland tomato sauce. The jackfruit was interesting in texture only - a mixture of bamboo shoot and almost mozzarella? However, there is absolutely no flavor to this thing.

Portobello Mushroom in porcini cream curry
The mushroom was perfectly cooked and had such an earthy flavor imparted from the grill - I think just a gas grill only. The curry was another issue for me again as it was a little bland and the curry was way too liquid for me - literally the consistency of a very thin chicken soup, something I never want in my curries.

Wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on tumeric and spinach potatoes *
The first great dish of the night. The lamb was tender and had great lamb flavor and the curry was heavenly. A little mild on the indian spices, but it was still very good - creamy with a little acid to make the whole thing pop. Great stuff.

Beef Shortribs braised in yogurt, fenugreek, and cumin curry

I've had beef shortribs a ton of times and I know it should be much more tender than this. It was relatively tender, but shortribs should always melt and these did not. Also, this dish needed some acid to make the thing pop as it was very heavy and extremely one note. A decent dish, but far from a great dish.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (7.9/10) – Food generally tasted good, but nothing was spectacular. A bigger issue is some of the dishes didn't seem seasoned properly. The only great item was the lamb in my opinion. Plating was not done well either for what's considered a top notch restaurant. A sad indication is my wife and I both noted the free apps they pass out were the best things there - that pakora was ridiculously delicious! One thing to note is that it's an all female crew that's of the most important things in cooking is to taste-taste-taste and I'm pretty sure they can not since they're vegetarian.
  • Service (9.5/10) – A well oiled machine. Every single person working there has a purpose and they're insanely accommodating and friendly. Vij himself is there to open the doors and greet you when you first walk in. Our particular server was spot on with the wine recommendation and very helpful with the menu recommendations. Food comes out at a solid pace. Really great job by the service team.
  • Atmosphere (7.0/10) – This is problem #1 for me - they don't take reservations, so you have to get in line 30 minutes before they open since they are insanely popular. We got there at 5pm (in the cold) and there was a line already 20 deep and they open at 5:30. By 5:30, there were maybe 70 people in line and this place maybe seats 60 or so. It was an interesting feel as everyone on line was so giddy, I thought we were there to see a concert. That whole atmosphere maybe brought the expectations too high as people in line were raving about the place. Inside it's pretty damn dark with walls colored red-brown. Another minus is that there were no Indian customers there - makes sense as it's relatively pricey and very mildly flavored. The feel is very casual and a mix of couples and larges groups.
  • Price (6.5) - $27 per entree which is not overly expensive, but if I'm paying around $120+ for the two of us I expect the food to be pretty good - don't need homeruns, but all dishes should be solid. The food was mostly good, but not worth the price in my opinion. Also, paying to wait that long in line is quite absurd in my opinion.
Closing Comments
I was so looking forward to this place, but I should have known - Bourdain recommended it on his No Reservations show, so that's an indication it's probably good at best. Granted if there was no wait, and the price was cheaper it would definitely be recommended. However, the wait and the slight misses on the food doesn't make sense for the price. Kinda bummed since I heard Vancouver was such a great food town (Asian food is phenomenal here), but I will definitely come back and find a non-Asian restaurant that rawks.

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