Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finally made it to Vij's

Vij’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato So I finally made it to Vij's. Long ago I had wanted to go when they were still at Granville, but because of an estimated 2-hour wait I ended up at next door Rangoli instead. Underwhelmed by Rangoli, Vij's fell off my radar for years until, recently, my friend started talking up the sablefish there.

First, before you even go, know that Vij's is not an "authentic" Indian restaurant. If you go in with that in mind or if you're going to start comparing them, you will almost assuredly be disappointed.
It has a lot of Indian restaurant similarities, though.

A decent lineup will establish itself by 5pm on a Sunday (we went on a Sunday), but even so, everyone is likely to get a seat right when the restaurant opens. At around 7pm, there were even open tables, so walk-ins become easier after.
Room decor is nice! Table spacing is also not super-tight.

You are offered a cup of chai and the occasional bite of complimentary appetizer while waiting once you are seated. Don't count on a significant portion of anything here; I got to try three different appy bites before our three mains arrived. A complimentary cup of chai is also offered after your meal.

Chai (free)
  • The spicing here is strongly reminiscent of ouzo. So it's definitely a different style of chai.
2016-May-22 Vij's - complimentary chai

Naan (free with your meal)
  • Came hot and appeared to therefore always be fresh. Butter and garlic aromas plus sprinkled with herbs, so it's not just "plain" naan.
  • In many Indian restaurants you'd be charged extra for these "extras" on top of boring plain naan, on top of probably charging you $2 for a basket of two plain naan cut up into wedges.
Since rice and naan is free here, remember this as you peruse Vij's prices before you compare them to other Indian restaurants which may charge you $2 per bowl of rice or medium naan. It can add up!
It also means that a single plate of main could possibly be enough for two persons if you insist on getting at all the soup/sauce -- which rice is much better at. If you're willing to leave it and not totally clean your plate, then it's no problem and you can decline naan and/or rice.

2016-May-22 Vij's - piece of naan

When I can I try to put a piece of naan on my plate first, so that I can isolate the different curry flavours by eating up the naan and rice and putting a fresh naan "plate" on top of my plate.

2016-May-22 Vij's - rice and naan

Vij's Monarch Butterfly ($13.50) raw sugar and ghee braised squash with woodear mushrooms in coconut saffron curry
  • Very interesting to try, with many flavours and textures.
  • If you insist, you could probably make a dinner of it by asking for extra naan or even rice. There's a lot of watery sauce that isn't watery-tasting, so it's worth trying to get at it.
  • If you are just having this as an appetizer, watch out you don't eat so much naan and rice that you can't finish the rest of your orders.
2016-May-22 Vij's - Monarch Butterfly

Our eating team ordered three mains: Lamb Popsicles, Pork Tenderloin, and Sablefish. The basic composition here appears to be grilled item + sauce. The presentation is such that the grilled items are not so coated in sauce as to be inseparable. The watery-ness of the sauce means that you really have to cut your protein in small pieces and dip thoroughly if you insist on getting a good amount of sauce with each bite (or you can ask for a tablespoon as the only spoon is the serving spoon).

For me, the separation of grilled item and sauce worked out to just that -- a separation, instead of a more integrated, if homogeneous, flavour that you generally find in Indian curries where the meat is stewing right in the curry.
My personal bias is that grilled meat is grilled meat (so, steak is steak, for example). The grilling is nicely done here but did not justify the price. So the sauce and the combination had to work for me to really like a particular dish. Again, this is my particular and peculiar bias. Your experience of the mains at Vij's will probably be a lot less picky.

2016-May-22 Vij's

Wine marinated lamb popsicles ($29.75) in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes
  • There's wine involved? Where?
  • Lamb nicely grilled and looked like medium rare on the inside.
  • Curry was ok but I found the sourness detracted from it.
  • Trying hard not to score this too low because expectations had been set by all those previous reviews I've read that raved about it. For me, this was just OK, expecially considering it's basically $30.
2016-May-22 Vij's - lamb popsicles

Grilled sablefish ($29.75) in yogurt-tomato broth on navy bean
  • Really tender, buttery sablefish. Yum.
  • Broth tasted like boring tomato soup. That totally ruined it for me.
  • Portion of sablefish looked really skimpy for what is basically a $30 dish, especially when the broth did nothing to enhance my enjoyment of it.
Pork tenderloin ($29) in tangy cayenne and ginger curry
  • There's ginger? Maybe my taste buds got confused after the lamb popsicles curry but the curry here was pretty boring.
  • Pork nicely grilled and with good flavour from some charring.
Bonus points for non-pushy, friendly service as well as nice old-school service touches like full cutlery replacement after our appetizer, and wiping down the table after clearing the plates. Overall, close enough for full marks, though definitely not for food alone. It's not extremely tasty or satisfying, but the service and extras (chai, free rice and naan) really add extra value. If you don't care for carbs, ambiance, or service then this is a 3/5 sort of place with points lost for cost.

2016-May-22 Vij's - table setting and kassava root appy

2016-May-22 Vij's - chaat appy bite

2016-May-22 Vij's

2016-May-22 Vij's - non-alcoholic drinks

2016-May-22 Vij's

2016-May-22 Vij's - display near washrooms

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