On a seven-week tour to promote my latest book, The Paris Cookbook, I ate my way across North America, dining at famous places that were new to me. But I don't know when I last fell so instantly in love with a restaurant as I did with Vij's in Vancouver.
Vij is the brainchild of Bombay-born Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru. Working with an all-female cadre of cooks, they have created a highly personal and modern cuisine that, with technical virtuosity, fuses flavors from all across India. The spicing is never heavy-handed; instead it takes the form of a welcome punctuation mark to a wide variety of dishes. What's more, Vikram loves wine and knows how to pair his innovative food with great bottles from California as well as British Columbia.
The menu at Vij changes every three months, but you can be assured of finding a few favored dishes. One is a starter of ricotta-filled pastries flavored with garlic and fenugreek and served in Bengali curry--creamy, spicy puffs that are perfect with a J. Lohr Zinfandel/Shiraz blend. Main courses include young jackfruit in a curry of cayenne pepper and black cardamom; grilled chicken with cashews, served with homemade ghee and lemon dressing; and wine-marinated lamb "popsicles" presented in a fenugreek cream curry with spinach and potatoes.
Despite its popularity, the restaurant takes no reservations: Go early or be prepared to wait (1480 W. 11th Ave.; 604-736-6664).