Vij’s

Vij's Lamb PopsiclesRestaurant: Vij’sUpdated post
Cuisine: Indian/Fine Dining
Last visited: February 19, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 1480 W 11th Ave
Bus: SB Granville St FS w 11 Av
Price Range: $30-50+ ($25-28 mains)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!

Food: 5 – Updated post
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Value: 3
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Fine dining Indian
  • Chef Owner Vikram Vij
  • Award winning
  • “Best Indian Restaurant”
  • Authentic Indian food
  • Seasonal ingredients/menus
  • Some modern/fusion dishes
  • Good for sharing
  • Local/tourist favourite
  • Long lines/2 hour waits
  • Cocktail list/wine bar
  • Complimentary appies in waiting room
  • No reservations (first come, first serve)
  • Daily from 5:30pm
  • My post on Rangoli (Vij’s sister restaurant)
  • Vij’s Restaurant – Post 2/Visit 2

**Recommendations: Mutton Kebabs, Garam Masala Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms, Beef Shortribs, Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles

It’s critically acclaimed as one of the finest and best Indian restaurants in the world. That’s a bold statement and I would hesitate to say anything like that unless I’ve tried every single Indian restaurant in the world. On the other hand, narrowing it down in the context of Vancouver, I would say that it is one of the best there is and if you’re looking for a fine dining Indian restaurant then look no further.

There are a few predictable reactions when you hear the name “Vij’s” and I’m referring to the restaurant, not the owner. First is probably “how long did you wait?”, or at least some reference to waiting, followed by “it’s the best place for Indian food” or “it’s overrated and overpriced”. I can see why people think all of the above and here’s why.

The line up at Vij’s is one of the most notorious in Vancouver and it has maintained this line up for years, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait at least 2+ hours before being seated. It opens at 5:30pm, but people start lining up at 5pm or earlier. As a local I hate line ups, but as a tourist I am willing to wait. It’s a different mind set, but if I’m prepared and the wait is made enjoyable (which means I’m with good people and there are things to munch on), and the food is said incredible, then I am more inclined to be patient. If for some magical reason your wait is 45 minutes of less, then Vij’s is definitely worth it, and if you don’t think so I will gladly take your spot.

Complimentary Chaat (Savoury Snacks): papri chaat (fried dough with lentils, chickpeas and chutney), pakoras and other appies are passed around during your wait.

Complimentary Cassava Root tossed in Indian Spices

I have to give credit that Vij’s does make the wait more enjoyable as customers are given complimentary Indian appetizers in the lounge at the back. On the other hand, a 2 hour wait is a really long time no matter how you look at it, and you end up ordering drinks and perhaps spending more than you intended. If you’re not the type that likes dinner to be a 4 hour occasion then most likely you’ll be pretty grumpy by the time you sit down, and you may have already filled up on the pre-appetizers.

I’m just telling you the system so you won’t be surprised or disappointed. You have to see the line up as part of the “experience” or you may think it’s overrated and overpriced. I think it’s worth it if you include all the generous appetizers, quality of food, ambiance and service, but whether it’s worth the 2 hour wait is the real question.

Vij’s offers authentic Indian cuisine made with traditional techniques, local, and at times organic ingredients. The menu doesn’t read traditional Indian at all and the clientele is predominantly non-Indian too, so the first things that come to mind are “non-authentic”even thought that’s not really the case. It’s Indian food presented in a modern light with a couple fusion dishes here and there, but for the most part, it’s true to authentic Indian flavours.

It is fine dining Indian cuisine and they use high quality ingredients so the prices are a bit expected. The spices, cheese, yogurt and ghee are home made on a daily basis so there’s a lot of time and energy going into the food. This goes for some other Indian restaurants in Metro Vancouver as well, but the use of local and organic ingredients is more rare to see at Indian establishments.

If you’re looking for good Indian food at an affordable price then you can certainly find it elsewhere, but the quality of ingredients might not be as high. On the other hand you may also want to consider visiting Rangoli, which is Vij’s more casual and affordable sister restaurant next door.

I’m actually quite satisfied with our Indian cuisine in Metro Vancouver, specifically in Surrey, but the problem I have is that most of the time it all tastes the same and it shouldn’t. In addition, it is also bothersome to see it either swimming in cream, overcooked or watered down, which is unrepresentable of home cooked Indian food.

At Vij’s it actually doesn’t all taste the same and it is closer to home cooked Indian flavours. The method of preparation is traditional, but the style is more gourmet than what most Indian people would be making at home everyday, so in a way it’s not exactly “authentic”, but at times even better. The flavours aren’t sacrificed but almost re-introduced with a couple modern twists, or just better ingredients. The presentation caters to a Western clientele and Vij’s does Indian food justice while giving it a broader appeal.

On the table:

The water is complimentary and served in copper water jugs just as they would present it in India. If the water is left long enough it gets magnetized by the copper and it’s supposed to have health benefits like regulating digestion.

**Mutton Kebabs 5/6 (Excellent)

  • With Bengali style curry $13.50
  • Mutton is just an older sheep and it has a gamier, stronger and more robust flavour than lamb.
  • I’m not a fan of super gamey flavours, but this was fine for me and I’m growing more accustomed to it.
  • The game flavour was apparent in the aftertaste, but there were so many spices and flavours that the gaminess was a bit masked and not overpowering.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the kebab meat was mixed with some lamb because it’s hard to get them this tender with mutton alone.
  • The kebabs were authentic Indian in flavour and style.
  • They were perfectly grilled with nice charred marks and the inside was tender and super moist with a heat that wasn’t hot, but spicy.
  • I could taste the fresh spices and whole chili flakes and even when they cooled down completely, they were still juicy (not oily) which is likely due to the higher fat content. Mutton has more fat and is a richer type of meat.
  • The tandoori like spices were well balanced with cumin, coriander, ginger and cayenne pepper and it was served with a curry sauce which I didn’t even need.
  • The curry sauce tasted like a spicy butter chicken sauce with a tomato base, but with little to no cream.
  • The kebabs almost tasted sweet when eaten with the curry sauce, but it was still very good.
  • Personally I would have preferred it with a raita or mint chutney to contrast the heat though.
  • It was served with a rather neutral side of lentil, chickpea, shallot and mung bean salad.

**Garam Masala Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms in Porcini Cream Curry – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • $13.50 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • Portobello mushrooms are not traditional Indian ingredients, but regardless the dish was excellent.
  • It’s ideal for mushroom lovers and the curry sauce was on the sweeter side rather than being spicy, but it was authentic in style and well spiced.
  • It was a creamy, velvety and rich appetizer with what seemed like pommes puree underneath the mushrooms.
  • The mushrooms were meaty, plump, juicy and sweet and the sauce was like a curried mushroom cream sauce that I could have drank as soup.
  • As enjoyable as the dish was, I did find it on the pricey side.

Saag-Paneer with Punjabi Daal and Chapati2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • $24 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • This was another vegetarian dish, but I found it overpriced without delivering to the “Vij’s” standard.
  • I wouldn’t say vegetarian is the strength based on this dish, but it was still good although not something you couldn’t find elsewhere for cheaper and better.
  • Punjabi Daal (Left) – 2/6 (Okay)
    • Daal (lentils) is one of my favourite Indian dishes and it’s a very homestyle dish.
    • This one was actually quite bland and it was almost more like a lentil soup.
    • I prefer mine richer and creamier, but without using cream which is how it’s made at home.
    • The texture was just a bit thin for me and it almost made the flavour taste thinner.
    • The spices were mild and it wasn’t spicy, but it was also lacking salt.
  • Saag-Paneer (Right) – 3/6 (Good)
    • Saag panner (spinach and cheese) is another one of my favourite vegetarian Indian dishes and it’s another homestyle dish.
    • The spices were mild again and it wasn’t spicy, but unlike the daal it was actually salted so it wasn’t bland. For an Indian palate, it would likely be bland though.
    • I actually really enjoyed this and the spinach was thick, creamy and full of spinach flavour, without having cream, which is how it’s authentically made.
    • The Paneer cheese is made in house and there could have been more pieces for the price.
    • Paneer pretty much tastes like a hybrid of cottage cheese and tofu.
    • The paneer almost melted into the spinach so the spinach had good flavour, but still no spice.

Roasted, Mashed Eggplant and Butternut Squash with Black Chickpeas4/6 (Very good)

  • $25 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • This was another vegetarian main and it had good flavour, but I couldn’t really taste the eggplant and butternut squash.
  • The butternut squash was a modern twist, but the dish had authentic Indian flavours and qualities.
  • It almost came across as a lentil version of a vegetarian chili meets a cooked chunky salsa with lentils, onions, chickpeas and tomatoes.
  • It was quite hearty and starchy, but I tasted more lentils and tomatoes than eggplant and butternut squash. It wasn’t as sweet or creamy as I expected.
  • There was a smokiness from the eggplant but it was basically pureed into the sauce with the butternut squash because there were no actual pieces of either.
  • There was lots of mustard seed and a spicy kick that lingered, but it didn’t necessarily match the description and I was expecting something different.

Rajasthani Style Spicy Goat Meat with Mildly Spiced Vegetables4/6 (Very good)

  • $28 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • This was basically a goat stew. It came across as a tomato based stew with cabbage, onions, green peppers and green chili peppers with a few red cayenne peppers.
  • Traditionally there should be no tomato used, but I feel like there was some tomato paste in it because it tasted like tomato and it had some acidity. I don’t think there were actual tomatoes in it though.
  • The red colour is supposed to come from cayenne peppers, but this probably used half of the amount it would usually require because it was spicy, but not hot.
  • It was medium spicy and the sauce was thin like a broth and intense with smoky flavours of cumin and I think some whole all spice.
  • There were lots of whole green chili peppers, but they brought a smoky and bitter flavour rather than a hot one and I could eat them whole no problem. I like spicy, but can’t really do “Indian people spicy”, which I find more hot than spicy.
  • There was a good amount of goat which is slightly firmer and drier due to its lower fat content. It wasn’t necessarily dry, but on the drier side.
  • It was very good, but it almost didn’t taste very Indian and more Eastern European. It was partially due to the choice of vegetables which is also a modern addition to the dish.
  • I would have loved this to be served with some dahi (home made yogurt), which traditionally it would be.

**Beef Shortribs Braised in Yogurt, Tomato and Cumin Curry 5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • $28.50 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • If Julia Child was Indian, she would have made this dish. I loved this!
  • First off, beef is not typical at an Indian restaurant, but it doesn’t matter to me because it tasted amazing! Seriously a must try.
  • I already have a very soft spot for braised beef short ribs and I order it pretty much every time it’s on the menu. This is also a popular favourite.
  • It was like an Indian style beef bourguignon and was even better with rice to soak up the delicious sauce.
  • The sauce tasted like a smoky tomato based curry sauce with maybe some red wine, and the beef was topped with a tomato and fried onion chutney.
  • The onions were caramelized so it added a sweetness to balance out the acidity in the sauce and tomatoes.
  • The beef shortribs were literally melting and falling apart and they were incredibly fatty, but the fat was creamy and not chewy or gelatinous.
  • The pieces were so tender and juicy and not just from soaking in the rich sauce.
  • The yogurt really tenderized the meat and broke it down so that I barely had to chew.
  • The sauce wasn’t creamy, but full of meaty flavour and Indian spices.
  • It was spicy, rich and hearty and this alone was worth a 45 minute wait.
  • The grilled kale was crispy and delicious and it added a pop of colour to the rather one colour toned dish.
  • The kale absorbed the sauces so well like a juicy sponge and I could have licked the plate.

**Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles in Fenugreek Cream Curry 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • On Tumeric and Spinach Potatoes $28.50 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • This is the signature Vij’s dish and if they took it off the menu there could easily be a protest.
  • Even with all the hype surrounding it, it still delivers. I’d wait 45 minutes for this one too.
  • This is an incredibly rich dish and it’s best shared because it’s heavy.
  • The sauce is equally as good as the lamb and that’s what makes the dish fantastic.
  • It was definitely a modern take and the cream curry sauce had a sweeter side and it almost tasted like a South East Asian curry.
  • The lamb was tender, moist and not too gamey and it was grilled to a medium-well. I prefer medium rare, but it was still juicy and tender so it was overlooked.
  • The lamb didn’t have a spice crust and they actually didn’t carry as much flavour as I expected, but the flavour really came from the sauce.
  • The fenugreek cream curry sauce was rich, thick and sweet, but there was also a bright tang to it which was from the homemade yogurt base.
  • Fenugreek has a nutty sweetness that tastes like burnt sugar or maple so that’s where the sweetness comes from.
  • The sauce had an intense umami (savoury flavour that you can’t quite describe) and it just makes you salivate.
  • The sauce tasted like it was made with lamb juice drippings or bacon drippings.
  • I liked the sauce being thickened with yogurt rather than all cream (even though there was still cream).
  • There was a bed of spinach and buttery tender potatoes swimming underneath.
  • The dish still had Indian flavours, but it was innovative and new and I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it.

BC Spot Prawns in Coconut & Fenugreek Masala – n/a

  • With wheat berry pilaf $28.50 (With unlimited naan and rice)
  • This was given by mistake, but I got the photo before it was taken away.
  • It looked pretty good, but I prefer BC Spot Prawns in a different style and preferably with the shells and head.

Complimentary Naan

  • The naan isn’t made in a traditional tandoor oven, but it was still good.
  • It was quite standard, soft and buttered with ghee and it comes unlimited with all the entrees.

Mint Chutney

  • This is also complimentary and I could have eaten it alone. I actually did eat it alone.
  • It was refreshing, minty, and sweet, but everything had enough flavour that I didn’t even end up using it.
  • It would be great with the Lamb Popsicles.

Complimentary Basmati Rice

  • The rice is also unlimited and it was well made without being dry or wet.
  • They spiced it with cumin seeds for aromatics too, but no apparent cinnamon or bay leaf.

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20 Comments

  • James Hvezda says:

    I think this is a pretty fair review – which is refreshing since they seem to get only rave reviews. When I went our table of 4 were in consensus that the food here was generally bland, overly salty, and quite overpriced. I also thought it was a bit dowdy & dark inside… Having said that, the lamb popsicles look & sound delicious and the place is packed all the time, so they’ve definitely found a winning formula.

    James

  • Linda says:

    OMG, i luv luv LUV vij’s!! i’ve only been there once and i’ve been trying to get my bf is go with me but that line is crazy! you literally have to be waiting at 5:15pm outside in order to get a table.. rangoli is a good alternative for sure but it aint no vij’s!

    did you try their homemade ginger ale? it’s really good and they serve the syrup and soda water separately for you to combine to your liking.. i’d recommend you get it next time 🙂

    i’ve had most of the items you had and the best thing i ate was the portabello mushroom dish! i really need to try those lamb popsicles since they were featured not only on rachel ray but also giada’s travel show… and now since it’s a FMF must try, i definitely need to order it when i head there next time 🙂

  • Doug says:

    Lol I completely understand James Comment about the awesome (Fake?) reviews because Linda is a good example of it!

    I’ve been to Vijs last month for lunch and it was pretty tasty and decent pricing. However, very uncomfortable chairs and table arrangement. I felt like I was in a coffee house or cafeteria. I will probably go to Vijs when they finally open there second location on Cambie Street, if they ever open?

  • Mijune says:

    @James Hvezda – Thank you James! I really appreciate your comment and I think every diner has their own experience so I respect your opinion as well. They definitely cater to a market and there’s not much competition for what they’re doing… chef Vij is also quite the name to live up to so all in all they definitely have a winning formula. I did enjoy the food though, so I can see it all coming together.

    @Linda- yes yes! Read my intro! I wrote all about the wait 😉 I’ve tried the Ginger Ale way back when, but I didn’t order it this time around! Next time 🙂 Linda you’re so cute! Yes go try those lamb popsicles!! Get your friend to go if the b/f won’t!… but for YOU he should! 🙂

    @Doug – Hi Doug, hmm I don’t really think it’s fair to call Linda’s review “fake”…. everyone has their own dining experiences and tastes. Regardless this blog is about the food and experience rather than the people commenting so I hope we can all keep comments respectful.

    I’m happy that you thought the food was tasty and had a decent experience. I really look forward to the second opening as well, but it seems like forever! I really hope it’s this year at least! I think people have almost stopped asking because it’s the never ending project!

  • Vincent N says:

    Darn it they took the Prawns away from you?
    Being a cheeky Chinese bastard I would have spat in it, and said, “Are you sure you want to take away now?” But that’s cheap Chinese side of me speaking.

  • Mijune says:

    @Vincent N – lol oh no!! Not if you didn’t order them right!? There’s frugal and non-frugal ppl all across the board though! 🙂

  • KimHo says:

    I think the reason why Indian restaurants taste the same to us is that, well, they have to attract customers and they have homogenized their offerings (specifically, northern regions of India. As a side, Indian cuisine can be as varied as Chinese cuisine and its different regions). For example, I have a friend who only likes butter chicken and only if it is creamy and sweet. However, once in a while there are unique offerings of their own. For example, I have been to a South African Indian restaurant which, in a departure of most Indian restaurants in Vancouver, does not use cream in their dishes. Likewise, you have Southern Indian restaurants which emphasize in dosas.

    As for Vij’s, I have never been enthusiastic in even trying, not even Rangoli’s. I could but, for some reason, there is a lack of enthusiasm and willingness. Probably it is one of those places where I am OK to go but will need a bit of pushing from other people who wants to tag along.

    Hey Doug, so, the only “valid” review/comments for your restaurant are those where you invite people over and specifically target them? And, oh, yeah, everybody else who disagree, “you will talk to your lawyers… and send notice”. Classy.

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – Interesting insight. Good parallel with the Chinese food thing too… I have a lot of friends that think it tastes the same too, although I would say it differs region to region as well… just like you mentioned about indian cuisine.

    Regarding the last comment, if I could please ask comments to be respectful because I would hate to start disapproving comments. The point of this blog is to relate/reflect back to the food, restaurant and experience so I do appreciate the first portion of your comment.

  • Dilara says:

    Indian food is indeed varied and the ‘Indian food’ that most Vancouverites are used to eating is from Northern India (ie: Punjab region) which uses a lot of cream and milk in recipes. That couldn’t be further from your typical Indian meal! In fact, Punjab only represents about 10% of the Indian population; there is just a very high concentration of Punjabi people in Vancouver so most of the restaurants cater to that market. While I didn’t eat curry every single day while growing up, I’d say about 75% of our meals were Indian and we never used any cream in any of our dishes. You could eat curry every single day for a year and make 365 different dishes. It’s so much more versatile than just butter chicken!

    I personally feel that Vij’s is slightly overrated. That being said, I do like some of their dishes. I think that Vikram Vij has a solid understanding of various spices and how they work together to create magic. And I love the fact that he uses locally sourced, high quality ingredients. In some cases he uses non-traditional ingredients but cooks them in a traditional way and it works. His lamb popsicles alone will keep me going back for more. I totally agree with Mijune – Vij’s does Indian food justice while giving it a broader appeal.

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – I was hoping you would comment lol. Thank you!! The way you feel is exactly what I tried to say in my intro, but you did it much more concisely lol… thank you for that!!! I mentioned the absence of cream in home cooked Indian food too!! I had a bunch of Indian friends and a decent amount of home cooked food and they would never add cream. Adding cream was the “restaurant version”…. home tends to be healthier anyways. I could eat HOME COOKED Indian food every day, but not restaurant style. LOVE that you love the lamb… delicious.

  • Linda says:

    honestly Doug, there was no need for you to call me fake… if this was a review of your restaurant and i had said the same thing, you wouldn’t have said anything. i had really good food at Vij’s and my comment reflects that.. not everyone may have had the experience I had but i never once condemned someone because of it. you said yourself that the food was tasty so why is that so different from what i said? did i say anything about the atmosphere?

    thank you KimHo for what you said though, i have always appreciated your honesty and bluntness in your writing

  • Dilara says:

    Mijune – totally agree! Taste of Punjab date soon? 😉

    @KimHo – what’s the name of the South African Indian restaurant you went to? Just curious as I’d like to try it. Thanks 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – I would love too! And that Jamaican place!!! So many!! Just finding the time is crazy! Tweet me!

  • KimHo says:

    Dilara, the restaurant is called Narayanni’s. Interestingly, it is not located in Vancouver or Surrey but in, out of all places, Edmonton! Now that I mention that, I do recall visiting an Indian restaurant in Panama (which name escapes me now) that didn’t serve cream based dishes either. Despite that both places were buffets, I found it interesting that the lack of this component made it easier to digest (despite we ate a LOT, we didn’t feel gloated afterwards).

  • Doug says:

    Sorry about the comment Linda and Mijune. Its hard being sarcastic and making a funny point in a short paragraph. I know my restaurant sucks and the food isn’t the best. Hopefully I can make it better once I finish culinary school.

    Kimho I love you and I love Chowtimes! Followmefoodie! and other food bloggers! Let have a meal together one day!

  • Grace Hui says:

    Can’t agree more! The lamb popsicles are amazing! Their new food truck is worth trying as well 🙂 I found out that a few of their items from Rangola are served at the new food truck and cheaper too! By the way, love your videos about poutine!

  • Mijune says:

    @Grace Hui – Aw thanks Grace!!! LOL!! I did those poutine videos so long ago when I first started Follow Me Foodie!! I’m so shy about them now LOL. It’s like looking back at high school photos!! Thank you though! Yes I still have to try the food truck! Thanks for the updates, information and commenting!

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