Rob and I had our first post-baby date night in Vancouver exactly one week ago. It was absolutely a wonderful night – wandering around Granville Island, Dinner at Vij’s (Indian Fusion) http://www.vijs.ca/ and a sunset walk through Stanley Park. For the first hour or so I admit my mind was 99% focused on Max. I texted my sister 21 times, and was reassured 22 times that he was just fine. After a wander through Granville, and my first sip of a Mangalore (the most delicious cocktail I have ever had – combination of muscata, proseco, cayenne, cardomom (and darn that I can’t remember the other ingredients), I was completely under the spell of this amazing restaurant.
Anyone who knows us knows how much we love food to the detriment of trying to lose post baby weight. We seldom eat out, as we find that restaurants are consistently over-priced and severely lacking in quality. Paying 20$ for pre-cooked blister packed chicken makes me cringe both when the server delivers it and doubly when the bill arrives.
Before I rave about the deliciousness that is Vij’s i’ll tell you about the juxtaposition that inspired this rant. Twice in the last two days I grabbed a quick meal (at the airport last night, and today with an empty fridge before grocery shopping). Both times, I was absolutely ravenous. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, in fact simple edible was going to do the trick. The shocking thing was that both meals were barely that. I grabbed a slice of pizza at the airport. The crust was hard is a rock, the meat and cheese jellified as though it had sat out for a week. I had to chew a piece of crust for 5 minutes just to get it into a state where I could swallow it. Today, I ordered a chicken cesar pita. The guy asked me what I wanted on it. I said, well it is a chicken cesar pita, lets start with romaine, chicken, bacon,
and dressing. The final result was 3 pieces of brown romaine lettuce in a pita so stale that I swallowed what I could, whined loudly and went after Rob’s Pad Thai.
I understand that businesses are trying to save money and cut corners, but why do we as consumers accept such abhorrent quality? Even mid-range places…a recent trip to Kelseys and a Brew Pub in Jasper where we paid a solid amount for our food resulted in an extremely disappointing and overpriced meals.
So back to Vij’s. This place set the bar in every aspect. As we were shown to our seat, I hustled to the bathroom. By the time I returned a cup of steaming chai was waiting for me (no charge). As a line up grew outside where several benches were set in a garden, the servers continuously circled, delivering hot cups of chai and small samples of appetizers.
As we mulled over the menu sipping our chai, servers came by every few minutes with a small sample/appetizer. It took the edge off and provided a glimpse of the delicious dinner that we were still trying to decide on (everything looked amazing).
I ordered a cocktail, which I rarely do, usually opting for wine, and it was absolutely exotic and delicious. Cayenne, Cardomom, Processco and Muscata – who has heard of such a combination? Rob, a Guiness die-hard seemed pleasantly pleased with his fitting Storm Brewing “India Pale Ale”.
The service was perfect. The servers worked as a team, and we had the pright amount of attention, not too much, not too little. They were extremely knowledgable and didn’t hesitate to make recommendations. They didn’t provide the all too consistent commentary of “everything is good” aka “this place is so bad that I don’t even eat here, so there is no way I can make a recommendation”.
Rice and naan were included with the dishes. Who orders an Indian curry without rice or naan? Why do these always appear as “extras” on the menu?
Everything on the menu looked amazing, and everything we tried tasted like heaven. They say that the taste of an excellent wine will rest on your tongue a minute after you sip it. The same, I think, is to be said for good food. While I started with the Sauteed Mangoes and Greens topped with dates stuffed with khoa and walnuts, Rob opted for the classic samosas.
For our main Rob went for his second night of lamb, unable to pass over something that sounded as delicious as “lamb popsicles”. I went for braised shortribs braised in yoghurt, cumin and tomato curry.
Although we weren’t sure if we would fit through the door, we finished our meal with Gulab Jamun – a tradtitional Indian Sweet that was delicious and the perfect finish to a meal.
So why are places like Vij’s such a rarity? In its purest form, Vij’s seems focused on quality food and service. Shouldn’t this be what the restaurant industry is built upon? Why do we accept any less and pay for it as consumers? (one guess is that we often go out for convenience – who cares what it tastes like if we’re not doing the cooking and dishes).