Hometown: Amritsar, India
Occupation: Executive Chef and Co-owner, Vij’s Restaurant, Rangoli, Railway Express, My Shanti
Years worked as a chef: 30
Years in Vancouver: 26
Accolades: Best Indian restaurant, Gold and Silver (for Vij’s and Rangoli respectively), 2012-2014 (Vancouver Magazine)
What do you love best about Vancouver’s food scene?
In B.C., we have amazing and talented chefs that are doing a great job of bringing awareness to what we have available in our backyard. We have high-quality local produce and established programs to grow and buy local, as well as protect and sustain our oceans.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
So many great ones … it depends where I am and what I feel like doing.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Vancouver.
Brunch at Café Medina; the tagine is so delicious. Lunch at Rangoli, lamb curry with rice and naan. Nap for an hour. Walk to dinner at Hawksworth … copious amounts of local vino and great friends; the Hawksworth beef burger is the best.
How would you describe the Indian food scene in Vancouver?
I know that people here are very savvy when it comes to Indian food and flavors, and many, many people have had authentic Indian food. That means we all have to be genuine when we experiment with the dishes we serve. It’s always been my goal to offer an education of Indian cuisine and its many regions.
What are your personal favorite dishes at your restaurants?
That is like asking which of your children do you like the best! All my dishes are special to me. The dishes represent my passion for Indian food. That being said, lamb popsicles are our most popular and signature dish at Vij’s Restaurant. They are French cut lamb chops, served with a fenugreek cream sauce with turmeric new potatoes. When we were naming the dish for the menu, we joked that if we called them ‘popsicles,’ then people would know to pick up the lamb chops like a popsicle and eat them, and the name just stuck!
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating most?
There is not a single cuisine that I do not love. I enjoy eating Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, French, Italian … try everything at least once.
What are some of your other favorite restaurants in Vancouver?
Legendary Noodle House for handmade Chinese noodle soups. The Pear Tree Restaurant for deliciously cooked and executed dishes.
What food places do you find yourself returning to time and time again?
Punjabi Market for Indian spices and fabrics.
Local Farmers Markets on Sundays for great produce and the relationships that develop over produce stalls and fruit baskets.
Local dairy producers and breweries for beer and cheese pairings.
What dish is your guilty pleasure, and where do you get it in Vancouver?
A bag of Vij’s DELHI-CIOUS chips and they’re on sale at many supermarkets. They have crunch, texture and a bit of a spicy kick at the end.
Finally, what should every visitor see before leaving Vancouver?
The ocean meeting the mountains and the beauty of this great place … it’s something I will never get bored of.
Chef Vij’s Shortlist:
Vij’s, 1480 W. 11th Avenue (Fairview); modern Indian, dinner only daily.
Rangoli, 1488 W. 11th Avenue (Fairview); Indian, lunch and dinner daily.
Vij’s Railway Express, locations and hours vary; Indian.
My Shanti, 15869 Croydon Drive, Surrey, B.C.; Indian, dinner only daily.
Café Medina, 780 Richards Street (Downtown); Mediterranean, breakfast and lunch Monday–Friday, brunch Saturday–Sunday.
Hawksworth Restaurant, 801 West Georgia Street (Downtown); Canadian, breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Monday–Friday, brunch Saturday–Sunday.
Legendary Noodle House, 1074 Denman Street (West End); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily.
The Pear Tree Restaurant, 4120 East Hastings Street, Burnaby, B.C.; seasonal local, dinner only Tuesday–Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Punjabi Market, 6-block-long stretch on Main Street, starting at East 49th Avenue (Sunset).
Local Farmers Markets, locations and hours vary.
About the Chef: Call him Vancouver’s celebrity chef. As a restaurateur, sommelier, cookbook author, Top Chef Canada judge, and newest Dragon on Dragons’ Den, Chef Vikram Vij is undoubtedly one of Vancouver’s brightest culinary stars. His first restaurant, Vij’s, celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. Everyone in the city knows about its no reservations policy, but it doesn’t stop them from queuing up well before the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. each day to indulge in its famous lamb popsicles and other savory modern Indian dishes. When it comes to their cooking style, Chef Vij and his wife and co-owner, Chef Meeru Dhalwala, find inspiration from their cultural backgrounds, love and knowledge of Indian spices, and the food and wine of British Columbia.
Their dining empire has since grown to include Vij’s sister restaurant, Rangoli; a food truck, Railway Express; and their newest venture, My Shanti, a restaurant in nearby Surrey.