Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surprisingly let down by Rangoli

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Vij's and the more casual eatery next door, Rangoli, have always been places on my list, but the daunting lineups bugged me.
Just this past Friday night, I had a dinner booked with Nasha Indian Restaurant (through OpenTable) but discovered the restaurant was actually CLOSED that evening -- despite the OpenTable booking. So my dining companion and I walked down Granville and decided to give Vij's a try even though it was pushing 7pm. The wait was an estimated 2 hours. We nipped over to Rangoli and accepted a ~30 minute wait instead. It was also awfully nice of them to bring out cassava (?) fries dusted with some salty/spicy powder and roti for nibbling while you're waiting.

The menu at Rangoli is much smaller but adequate. The portions look small, but you'd be pleasantly surprised how filling they are -- just like in every Indian restaurant. Naan bread here is on the thicker side -- almost a quarter inch thick -- and can be more filling than you think. (You can substitute your rice for it as well, although rice has the advantage of absorbing curries better).

We went with Caramelized Onion and Ginger Lamb Curry ($14.50); Lamb, Beef, and Lentil Kebabs ($8.75); and the intriguing Meeti Roti (custard on chapati filled with demerara sugar & cashews; $5.50) for dessert. For drinks, the served-hot Ginger Lemon Drink ($4.50) turned out to be a nice palate cleanser and I recommend it for sipping throughout your meal. (Incidentally, lemon and ginger makes a gold remedy).

The Lamb Curry, served with a small salad, naan, and normally rice (which we substituted for naan, and ended up with a total of four wedges of naan on the plate) was rather disappointing to me. On the up side, the lamb was fairly tender. But the curry seemed thin, and neither the onion nor the ginger (which appeared in a matchstick like julienne cut) were strongly in evidence flavour-wise.

The kebabs look more like four small sausages the size of breakfast sausages rather than blobs of meat on a skewer. They also did not automatically come with the usual clear-your-tongue-of-heat emergency portion of raita. The server does warn you that it's on the spicy-hot side and that it's available, though. Take her seriously when she offers it.
There's no "mild - medium - hot" option here. I'm used to spicy-hot food, so it wasn't too much heat for me, but I can see how it can be a bit much. Also, it was hot enough to be bitter, and I always dock points for that because the bitterness seems to take over, often masking all other flavours. The grilling was excellent, however, and the dish smells wonderful.
It comes with a sweet date-tamarind chutney, and I recommend slathering that tasty sauce generously over the kebabs.

Dessert was more intriguing than excellent for me. The watery custard was basically a sweet dipping sauce for the flatbread that had some caramelized sugar on it. Slightly sweet on its own, better with the custard. The custard, however, could easily have been substituted with something simpler, like sweet condensed milk, and it wouldn't have been much different. What I would have liked to have seen was more mint. There was some shredded mint leaf on top that gave a pleasant freshness to it, but definitely not enough, or maybe just not distributed well enough because I made it out only on one wedge of the roti, and then only after my dining companion asked me what it was.

Overall less-than-wowed after having had expectations set up by countless recommendations. Maybe an actual sit-down at Vij's might yield better results, although I had been under the impression that the food was prepped at Vij's anyway.

By around 7.30pm the lineups were gone and there were a few empty tables here and there. If you're hoping to skip the lineups at Rangoli, try going after 7pm.

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