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Category: Indian Page 1 of 3

Spice 72 Indian Restaurant & Lounge

I have started going back to the gym, opting for a location closer to work. A gym in Surrey, heading down once a week. This has given my gym buddy and myself the opportunity to explore more of that city. I questioned a few of my coworkers, looking for a good spot for Indian food. Spice 72 came highly recommended, with subsequent responses agreeing to the referral.

It wasn’t close to the gym, but having the glowing review warranted giving them a chance. My expectations came as high as my hunger, when we walked in famished after a 2 hour weight focused workout.

The decor and restaurant/lounge set up reminded me of an Earls or Cactus Club, a nice spot to post up and claim a cocktail. Already this wasn’t the hole in the wall, mom and pop comfort cooking kitchen, as I was initially expecting. But we made the 20 minute trip down and was hinging on hangry.

I was recommended a handful of vegetarian appetizers from my coworkers, so chose the most interesting of the 5, and followed it up with two meatier entrees.

Golgappe was described as round, hollow puri filled with a mixture of flavored water and potatoes on the menu. Little puffs served with two vials. It was delivered with no instruction or explanation so we put two and two together. Pouring liquid awkwardly into the open hold of the round puff. Later I was told that I should have dipped each ball into urn or spoon out the water instead. You are also given so much liquid so we didn’t know how much to fill and with which one for which flavour. Later, when the server came to check in, we learned that the green was a mint based water; and the orange one: a tamarind. The result was an interesting one bite, juicy canapé, better with the tamarind than the mint, interesting with the two mixed together. This definitely served as a unique starter, refreshing to help rev up the appetite and balance out the heavier meal to follow.

I was craving for, so indulged in the basic Butter Chicken. A smaller serving of boneless chicken tikka cooked with a rich tomato cream sauce. The flavour was there, plenty of sauce to sop up with the naan and roti we ordered to accompany it with. It was just a shame that the chicken breast within was dry. Shame that I could tell this was made before hand and reheated to order. I originally ordered a second serving to go, only to negate it after trying and being disappointed by this.

When it came to the bread, I prefer the fluffier and chewier naan over the thinner and slightly crispy roti. The Garlic Naan is garnished with fresh garlic and herbs, and Tandoori Roti is leavened wheat bread baked in the tandoor oven. I was also happy to have ordered a serving of basmati rice that came with peas. Such carbohydrate based sides are ideal for fully enjoying all the sauces above and in the curry below.

The Goat/Lamb Curry was suggested by our server. The goat came a lot more tender than the chicken above. It appeared to be slower cooked and came served almost pulled, which definitely helped the texture. It was prepared in fragrant onion and authentic spices. This was a warmer curry with heated spices, but not spicy. It had a similar flavour profile to the butter chicken, but without the sweetness.

When asked by our server, we also indulged in some drinks. I questioned the authenticity of the “Indian Coffee”, trying to ask our server if the coffee beans used were any different than ones you get here in Canada. She was unable to confirm, so we ordered it anyways, only to try and learn it was just a medium roast coffee with milk and sugar.

Similarly the Masala Chai disappointed. It tasted similar to the coffee above, even served in the same tea pot and cup to match. Plus the colour was similar; as well as the taste as I barely got any chai spices.

Overall I was disappointed by my experience. I came in hungry and excited over the referral; however the restaurant didn’t deliver to the caliber I saw in the decor and marketing presence. The travel was out of the way for food I could have gotten similarly or even better, from a handful of restaurants that we passed by along the way. Not the worst, but I am still on the search for the best Indian restaurant in Surrey, but now focused on hole in the wall establishments.

Spice 72 Indian Restaurant & Lounge
12025 72 Ave, Surrey, BC V3W 2M1
(604) 503-1172
spice72.com

Sula, the second location on Main Street

Being a fan of the original Sula, Indian restaurant on Commercial Drive, I was excited to try their second and newest location on Main Street, one week after they had opened. And boy was I not disappointed by decor alone.

The space is warm and opulent in a time that requires us to be cold and distant. Glowing lights suspended by gold; they matched the copper of the table settings and the brown and oranges of the bar. Shame that their opening coincides with these times, because I can definitely see them as a place to linger and enjoy lively company within. They certainly have the drink list to keep you sipping long into the night. Including a healthy Gin and Tonic listing, much to my guest’s delight.

The “Kerala” is a mix of Tanqueray Rangpur, Kaffir Lime, Green Cardamom, and Mediterranean Tonic. It is an effervescent cocktail, sparklingly light, and finished off with a tangy punch.

“Vayu’s Calm” includes Hendricks Gin, Spanish White Vermouth,
Green Chartreuse, Cardamom, Mint, and Lime. This reminded me more of margarita, especially with how lime focused it was. I was just missing the salt.

Round two of cocktails had us trying the “Cosmic Dance” with Big Boss Cashew Fenny, Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Apple, Honey, Chili, and Spices. This one was more my speed. A heavy sipper with a dull heat that is slow to burn the back for your throat. This is the kind of cocktail I want to drink if I am under the weather.

The “Delhi Junction” included Fenugreek-infused Bombay Sapphire, Fino
Sherry, Dry Vermouth, and Aromatic Bitters. This was their take on a martini, but more subdued. It was a new flavour combination for me, one I can only best describe as being herbaceous in a juicy way.

Whereas the cocktails at the Commercial Drive location are sweet and tropical, these are more refined and for the spirit connoisseur. This bar is one you would make a bee-line to, just for a stiff drink or three. Therefore, it would have been nice to start off with a small bowl of mixed nuts or crackers, to really celebrate the bar list and align them more with a place you would frequent for their cocktails.

Instead we nibbled on a couple of appetizer’s whose serving served more as an entree. As good as they were, I would have liked 1/3 of each presented as a starter, in order to save room for all the entrees you can’t help but be curious to try later.

The Indian Street food and Chaats are dine in only, due to the nature of the dishes and the need to enjoy them fresh and crispy. Chaat is a category of Indian street food that hits every component of taste. It is a combination of sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, umami, and spicy.

The “Papdi Chaat” is Indian canape wafers topped with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and chutneys. It ate like a bowl of cereal or platter of nachos. Although as good as it was in texture and taste, less would have been more. This was enough for 6, but ordered for 2.

The “Mumbai Vada” is a dairy-free battered potato dumpling seasoned with green chilli, tempered cumin, and mustard. I expected a fully encased bundle, but was served my dumpling pre-cut up. From presentation sake, I would have liked this in smaller bites, left as a whole. Flavour and texture wise, it was much like a somosa, but without the traditional accompanying chutneys.

When it comes to Indian cuisine, it doesn’t matter where I go, or how much I try, I always gravitate towards butter chicken. I would not be satisfied without giving Sula on Main’s version a try, and sauce wise it held up. Rich and creamy with the flavour of their Tandoor broiled chicken in tomato, cream and butter sauce coming through. My only critique was that the pieces of chicken were dry, despite them being left in large bulky chunks. I Would have liked bite sized portion of chicken, cooked tendered instead.

And unique to the Main Street location is Sula’s seafood offerings. It showcased the regional cuisine of Mangalore, a coastal town in the southern part of India. Between lobster and crab, we gravitated towards crab due to our server’s suggestion, however based on what we had, I would suggest the lobster instead.

 

The “Jenji Gassi” is local Dungeness crab cooked in a coconut curry, highlighting flavours from byadigi chillies, poppy seeds, and cumin. The crab was cumbersome to crack in such an opulent setting. I appreciated its whole, shell and all in our presented serving. However, found the work it took to crack and peel not worth the little amount of meat that came out of it; especially as it was bland. The sauce on the other hand was a treasure. I sopped it all up with the naan below and greedily drizzled it over the rice as well.

 

The Main Street location of Sula also boasts a Tandoori oven, so we were sure to partake in a couple of dishes that required a longer baking. The following two came with a 30 minute warning, so order early and expect to wait with cocktails in hand.

The “Tangdi Kebabs” were described as “Iran’s culinary gift to India”. They are chicken drumsticks char-grilled in the tandoor. The result, an excellent grill flavour from the blacken char, with the smokiness adding levels to the chicken’s seasoning. And here I thought I liked it a lot, until I tried the lamb below.

The “Adraki Lamb Chops” are roasted with crushed cashew bits and seasoned with garam masala, cumin, and a coriander spiced marinade. You got the crunch of the cashew offering a nice contrast to the perfectly prepared, tender and juicy lamb meat. If, no when I return, I will definitely be ordering this again.

And no Indian meal is complete without the rice and naan necessary to soak up all the delicious sauces with. I would be just as happy with just the butter chicken or crab sauce and naan.

The “Tandoori Naan” is a classic as an extra pillowy tandoori Indian flat bread. For something a little different Sula also has stuffed naan. We tried the one sandwiching spinach and Indian cheese, paneer. The addition added an extra level of indulgence to something already so great. I have never see such an innovation else where, so credit Sula its creation.  And I can recommend it just as easily as an appetizer to start with.

For rice, I was disappointed by the coconut rice. Its broken texture did not lend itself to the already soften dishes, and the coconut flavour did not add anything to anything. Instead, I recommend the basmati rice for its fragrant taste and texture. A better mild companion to all the great flavours above.

And don’t forget to save room for dessert. A semi-sweet end to help cleanse the palate is the mango coconut rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater. It eats like a dessert oatmeal with a freshness that leaves you with a cleaner mouth feeling.

Like between two children from the same parents, I hate to pick favourites here, but the new Sula on Main with it sophisticated setting and specialty menu have won me over as my favourite between the two.

SULA MAIN STREET
4172 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-874-5375
sulaindianrestaurant.com

Vij’s on Cambie

In this post I was finally checking out “Vij’s” new space, since they have relocated to Cambie from their original home on South Granville. Their cozy space was now expanded across 3 floors. A visual upgrade, the glamour starts with the exterior’s rose gold and brick facade.

A full lounge greets you at the entrance. A causal scene with an eye catching ceiling. Dots of red and splashes of blue. A similar stain glass impression surrounds the room with triangular panels. Past them, a glimpse into their kitchen.

A climb up a stone staircase leads you past two private dining areas and their covered patio. The latter offers more of a bar vibe, with a communal wrap around table to share with other patrons.

As a family celebrating an occasion, we choose to have our own table in the dining area. We aimed for the corner table by the window in order to be able to better see our meal and each other. But the room was intentionally set dark for mood. Set in a golden glow with lamps that seem to drop down from the ceiling. I appreciated all the seating variety here, but preferred the intimacy that the old location offered.

Our server approached with a run down of the restaurant, and her suggestion for us to order a few dishes and share them amongst our party of four. All appetizers are accompanied by a serving of garlic naan, and all entrees come with more naan and basmati rice.

As we went through the menu a dish of complimentary snacks came to the table to wet our appetites. The potato and lentil pakoras were a table favourite. Like little nuggets of mashed potatoes hidden under a doughy shell. I liked the flavour, but wasn’t a fan of its sandy texture. Although I found the ground up lentils less sandy than the mung beans below. It is worth mentioning that I don’t like legumes and lentils for that very reason, so am biased here.

I liked the hints of sweetness in the date chutney and the crunch of the whole wheat crisp. I could have done without the grainy mung bean salad. It tasted as healthy as it looked.

We decided to pass on appetizers and share 3 mains. My brother ordered his own, not wanting anything else. So without a taste, I won’t be able to review the “Organic braised beef in cinnamon and clove curry”. Although something can be said for how quickly he consumed it. Although it is at a smaller serving size, much like all their other dishes. And at $27-32 a plate, it did feel like you weren’t getting value. Everything tasted good enough, but not necessarily $30 a plate good.

“Chicken sautéed in turmeric and ginger in za’atar spiced lentil curry.” This was another small serving entree at $30. Four and a half smaller chunks of chicken, equivalent the amount of meat on a chicken leg. It ate more like a stew in need of rice and or the topping to a casserole. Tender chicken with more grainy lentils. A dish with a slow burn that we didn’t mind. After expressing our concern over the potential spiciness of the dish, our server offered raita, a yogurt based drink that helps cools things off if it gets too hot.

From some vegetables we ordered the “Assorted mushroom, squash and chickpeas in kalanji- fennel and sour cream cream”. It was spicer that the chicken above, with the tanginess of the sour cream coming through. There were very little mushroom to this, in fact I only tasted and identified enoki. The rest was cauliflower, green breads, and the occasional chickpea. This would have been better served as a side to some protein, instead of the main at $28.

We originally ordered the “lamb and spinach in cumin and lemon-tahini curry”, but edited it when our server not so subtly asked if we wanted that instead of the lamb lollipops. We took the hint and I commented on how sly that was. Good thing to as this was pretty much the only dish I liked and would order again. There was still spinach, cumin, and lemon-tahini curry; but instead of regular stewed lamb we upgraded to their lollipops. Both were tasty separately, but together, there wasn’t enough lamb to enjoy with all the curry. Luckily, here the rice and naan came in handy to further the dish. But for $32 for the curry and extra for the lamb upgrade, you are once again paying for not enough. Not enough charred lollipops, at barely 2 meager bites per bone.

As for the accompanying carbs. My mother wasn’t a fan of the naan, wanting something lighter, more like roti. Whereas I didn’t mind the fluffy, pizza dough nature of it. Both it and the rice offered a great vessel to sop up and soak up all the sauces with. They also helped to fill you up.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am sure you are paying for the use of quality ingredients, as well the brand that Vij has built, as well as for the costs of this wonderful restaurant and its friendly staff, but at $30 plus an entree, I can venture else where for more. Or find Indian cuisine I prefer more at different Indian restaurants, without the celebrity attached. I wouldn’t mind coming back, but I don’t want to have to pay for it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

VIJ’S
3106 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z 2W2
604-736-6664
vijs.ca/vijs-restaurant

Mumbai Local, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was getting to know a little more about “Mumbai Local” through the Vancouver Foodster “Chicken Wing Challenge”. This year I am one of 3 judges, and my duties brought me down to try their wing creation. They are 1 of 5 restaurant/ competing for the title of “best wings”. A competition based on originality, taste, and presentation. It is worth noting that they are the only restaurant who created a new dish specifically for the competition.

But first, finding them. “Mumbai Local” was hard to spot. We walked passed their all black facade a couple of times. Without a colourful awning or a stand out sandwich board you wouldn’t bother looking at their direction. But inside, it is a different story. Extending the length of the space is a beautifully done, eye catching mural in black, white, and yellow; depicting every day life in Mumbai. A woman with a bucket of fish on her head, a man loaded with multiple Indian kaftan lunch boxes on either shoulder. I would love to see a similar portrait splashed across their exterior. One, to attract attention; and two for a great selfie moment, to encourage fans to stop by for a photo, if not to eat. That being said, the mural is a nice surprise for those who do make it in.

To start I ordered their “Monsoon” cocktail with Olmeca tequila, Cointreau, guava, grapefruit juice, and chilli salt. I made sure ask if I would actually be able to taste the guava juice, and I was not disappointed here. The guava was pronounced, topped with a lingering spice from the chilli. This was a nice cocktail to compliment our meal ahead, unlike the drink below.

My guest ordered the “Turmeric milk”, a steamed milk yellow with turmeric and saffron, served in an adorable little jug. It was a nice way to end the meal, not accompany it.

We took the Chef’s suggestion and started with their “Chaat Sampler”, local street food popular on the streets of Mumbai. Four different one biters with a combination of salty, sweet, sour, or bitter paired with either a crunchy, crispy, or spongy texture. A beautifully put together platter and an adventure in dining.

The “Bhel puri” was served in the dish. Puffed rice, fried dal, crackers, onion, and a tamarind and chilli chutney. It was like bbq flavoured Rice Krispies cereal, and whipped potato, but made soggy with the sweet sauce. This was my least favourite of the four, given it felt like you were eating a spoonful of crumbs.

The “Shev puri” had flat crackers, potato, onion, and the dams tamarind and date chutney. Stacked like a mini tostada, it was easy to eat with one bite. And it is advised that you enjoy this one as soon as you get it to avoid sogginess.

The “Pani puri” is a hollow cracker filled with chickpea purée, enjoyed with a small jug of sweet tamarind water and a spicy mint and chilli water. With a steady hand you fill each globe with as much of each water as you like. This gives it a fun interactive element, a sensation similar to eating a soup dumpling. Refreshing as you bite down and the liquid flushes into your mouth.

The “Dahi puri” was a more filled and filling hollow cracker. This time stuffed with yogurt, chickpea, and their tamarind and date chutney. This one had all the flavours and all the textures of the top three rolled into one, literally. Best defined as an orb filled with cream, and spiced with a heat that lingers

Next we enjoyed their limited edition, Vancouver Foodster Challenge wings, inspired by chicken kabob. “Hariyali Chicken Wings” marinated in mint, cilantro, and yogurt; cooked over charcoal, and served with a cabbage slaw and mint chutney. A striking plate with the opposite, yet complimentary colours of forest green and burgundy. It looked like it came out a Dr. Seuss book, and would go well with green eggs and ham. The meat was velvety and the mint acted like a pesto with it herbaceous-ness. Plenty of mint flavour, citrusy masala notes, and the crispness of a char from the charcoal.

The “Vada pav” was carb overload for me. Fried potato patty in a toasted bun, this was too much starch. It did taste good, but it sat heavy and was dense. It needed a sweet and tangy note to brighten it up. In the end are them separately, patty out of bun. The potato patty was tasty enough to stand on its, own and the dough of the buttery bun absorbed plenty of sauce to give it its own character.

I really enjoyed their “Kombadi vade curry” and would come back for more. Chicken breast, caramelized onion and coconut; served with steam rice and vade, a traditional bread.

“Vade” is a dough made from lentil flour, seasoned in cinnamon and corridander. Rolled and stamped with banana leafs, then fried. It was chewy like a hard tortilla, not great on its own, but made for a nice base to dip into the curry with.

As another alternative bread, we also added a chapati to our order. this was a whole wheat roti, grainy and hard.

As of the actual curry, it was thick and creamy, and drank like a bisque. It reminded me of a spicy lentil soup and smelled like carrots. Delicious, but it was the chicken that stole the show. Brined for 24 hours, and sous vide for 1 hour, shocked in a pan and seared for a crispy skin. This was perfectly prepared and super tender chicken.

And for dessert we fully enjoyed the “Shrikhand”, a kitchen favourite. Although simple looking, it does take a day of preparation. They make their own yogurt in house and it needs to hang. The pineapple is compressed with cinnamon simple syrup. The cardamon and saffron are imported from directly from India. And it is finished with dehydrated beet power and a pistachio crumble. This was a light dessert that was fully satisfying. I liked being able to to mix and match all the elements and curate my bite. The cream portion had a similar consistency to ice cream, but much lighter. The tang of the acidic pineapple was nicely paired with the rich nuttiness of the cinnamon. I would like to have this one again too.

We chatted quickly with two tourists who raved about their meal as well. They searched for dinner options in the neighbourhood and found “Mumbai Local’s menu enticing. I agreed, but I might not have if the chef didn’t go through the menu with us, and explain the thought behind each dish we order. It would be nice if all their staff could sell their menu as well as this, and to help personalize each diner’s meal. Their menu is chic, but hard to order off of. A photographic one would be nice, and make it more approachable. However, it would take away from their boutique vibe and trendy look.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As Vancouver’s only restaurant featuring Mumbai cuisine, they are the authority and go to. Everything is made in house, like their masala, proudly from a family recipe. All their meat is local from “Three Rivers meat” and their seafood Oceanwise. Recipes recreated from family members, friends, and experiences. For example, the chef just came back for a trip to India, and with him he brought back kebabs, their new menu feature. Overall they were a great modern take on traditional Indian street food. Authentic flavours and modern styled plating, made for a unique dining experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MUMBAI LOCAL
1148 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N1
604-423-3281
mumbailocal.ca

Davie Dosa Company, revisit

I love dining with others, taking their preservative and incorporating it into my writing allows me to see a different side to things. To learn and reevaluate what I once thought and/or know, to be able to review it in a whole new light. This was the case with today’s dinner at “Davie Dosa”. To check out my original review on “Davie Dosa Company”, click the link below, then come back to continue reading my new and much more in depth thoughts.

Davie Dosa Company

 

My original intention of revisiting was to come in to try their limited edition sangria, a must as one of Vancouver Foodster’s sangria challenge judges. However, I won’t be reviewing the drink here as the contest is still running, instead I suggest visiting all six competing locations yourself, and dawning the title of judge, yourself. Try all competing concoctions and help vote for the people’s choice by placing your ballot in for your favourite based on originality, taste, and presentation. You can do so by clicking the link: https://1.shortstack.com/XhdsPW

Then come back to vieamaggi.com after the competition has concluded on the 7th of October to see who has won and how I voted.

 

Now seeing as today was a Monday, I thought it would be a great idea to go #meatlessmonday for the occasion. And one of the best places for an all vegetable meal is at any Indian restaurant. I find Indian food done right, with plenty of spices and fresh ingredients result in a meal so encompassing and so filling that you don’t even remember to miss meat. This was definitely the case today. My guest is a long time vegetarian and her favourite cuisine is Indian, this made her the ideal dining companion to bounce thoughts off of and to have her help navigate the direction of this post.

When first walking in, she immediately commented on how welcoming the restaurant was. The exterior is wide open to let in the sun and circulate the air, and an alter greets you at the threshold. The space is set up with no expectations. It isn’t pretentious nor is it trying to force feelings of ethnic exoticness on you. There are a few Indian artifacts scattered around, key pieces lovingly collected as our social host and owner of the restaurant, is taking his time in redecorating.

We grabbed a table by the opened front. It was framed with flowers and greens. An ideal vantage point for people watching and to be watched by those passing by. Bowls of fresh water sat at our feet, allowing dogs to say a thirsty “hi” as they passed on by. Despite the extra noise caused by the drive by traffic outside, we were able to chat and hear each other just fine. The music was a relaxing instrumental of East Indian melodies, set low enough, as to not have us fighting to speak over it.

I can’t speak to the Sangria here, but I can rave about their seasonal blueberry mojito. Our owner/host was once the bar manager for the Vancouver convention centre, over 14 years gave him plenty of practice in mixing his own unique cocktails. This mojito spoke to his experience. Like the sangria, another summertime classic, utilizing fresh blueberries hand picked by the owner and his family at one of those u-pick berry farms in BC. This was a solid drink, shame the chalkboard sign outside advertising it, really didn’t do it justice, it didn’t mention the real fruit berries, nor did it feature a photo or chalk sketch of the glass; because how great it looks is what draws you in. It made for a great sipper, it wasn’t too sweet, sweeten naturally with the fruit’s sugars.

As for food, we went through the menu, being able to reference photos and translate with the English description under each dish. My guest was pleasantly surprised to not see a list of the typical Indian dishes that you can find at any Indian restaurant, including westernized versions at popular chains. The following are a handful of dishes that peaked our interest as either something we have never heard of or tried, or something that just sounded delicious.

“Idly” is a steamed cake made from rice and lentils, it is typically an accompaniment to a traditional Indian breakfast. These white rounds are spongy in texture, with a flat flavour that is ready to absorb any of the side sauces it comes with and gets dipped into. I suggest mixing and matching with the collection of sauces and chutneys you gather across all your shared small plates. They all compliment one another, yet are strikingly different to keep things interesting.

The scoop of white was a sweeter coconut dip. It gave the cake above and the doughnut below a dessert feel. Although it was my least favourite of the sauces. I would have liked to see it featured in a flan-like pudding instead. And the tomato chutney gave you some heat and some tang. I really liked vegetable and lentil soup dip. It was flavourful and thick enough to use as a dip, but so warming and hearty that I preferred it as a soup. Green bean, carrot, potato, and onion. It gave you heat and a slight tingle at the back of your throat.

As I mentioned earlier the “Medhu vada” was a deep fried lentil doughnut that was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You could dunk a ring into anything, or cut it open and use it as a sandwich, it was a versatile base with a flavour of its own. I found I liked it best, dunked into the tamarind and mint dips of the cauliflower appetizer below.

The “65’s South Indian style marinated deep fried cauliflower” was my favourite dish of the night. They held up great, remaining crispy even when cool, and they served as the perfect vehicle for gooier dips. The tamarind flavours combined sweet and heat in one syrup-like dip. This I found worked well with the cake and more so with the doughnut above. The mint chutney gave you a refreshing break between heavier flavours, offering a palette refresher hidden behind a sharp vinegary-ness.

You honestly can’t visit “Davie Dosa”, without trying one of their 100% gluten free and nut free Dosas. Like everything else, they are made in house, but as you order it. A “dosa” is a savoury rice and lentil crepe, served curled and so crispy that it snaps with a crack when you go to tear yourself off a chunk. This too came with dips, but the filling (that you have chosen), scooped on to the centre of the dosa curl is the best accompaniment. Here we had the eggplant dosa and it came with the eggplant mixed together with potato cubes and onion.

To conclude our meal we had a trio of all their in house made desserts. This was the first time I heard of and tasted “Kesari”. It is made with semolina, a type of gluten that is sweetened with sugar and saffron. It was most memorable for its interesting texture. Within each bite you are able to make out every round of wheat. It is the same wheat used to make cous cous, and as a result has the same round pearl-like mouth feel as cous cous. For the texture alone, this is a sensation worth trying. Although I did find it a little sweet on its own, I would suggest pairing it with the kulfi below, giving your a cake and ice cream-like pairing. This would be fun done as an Indian sundae.

The “Homemade pistachio kulfi” is traditionally prepared as a popsicle. But here, it is served as whipped cream scooped into balls, making it easier to share. It wasn’t quite ice cream, instead it reminded us of frozen lassi. It had the texture of icy shards, surrounding a centre of crushed pistachio nuts. I liked the jags of ice, but could have done without the crushed nuts distracting from them, or simply just less of it, may be just a pinch sprinkled on top instead. Although without the additional nuts you get more of a condensed milk flavour from the dessert, and not pistachio as was the intention.

“Gulab jamun” is a very iconic Indian dessert. It tasted as I remembered it to be: a cakey timbit soaked in a sugary syrup. Served warm with a coating of shredded coconut for texture. One is plenty, as I found this far too sweet for me.

You come for the traditional Southern Indian cuisine, but definitely continue to return because of the hospitable owner. Only being in the community for a little over a year and he already has fans who frequent his establishment, and customers he knows by name. You can clearly see in his food and level of attentive service that he is excited to host you, and even more so to share his passion for his restaurant and the authentic and real dishes that comes out of his smaller kitchen. We sat for two and a half hours and were not asked to leave nor were we rushed out on our way. Just meaningful check ins where we discussed what we were eating and if there were any improvements to be made.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
With a handful of options and many variations on their menu, there is plenty to explore. New flavours and new uses for fruit and spices you don’t often see at other Indian restaurants sets them apart. This dinner had my guest declaring that this was the most satisfying meal she has has all summer, having also found a new favourite dessert in the pistachio kulfi. Overall a delicious meal and an easy place to have dinner at when on Davie, especially if your a vegetarian or are going “meatless Monday”! Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DAVIE DOSA
1235 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N3
604-669-5899
daviedosacompany.com

Silk Lounge

Today I was invited to “Silk”, a new lounge that is like nothing you have ever seen. Four and half years in the making, and all that time was well spent, considering the reaction of those in attendance tonight. A collection of hand picked elements came together to transport you into an exotic fairytale. Fresh blooms perfuming the air, buddha head statues adding mystic, crystalized embellishments for a bit of glam, and bevy of colourful textiles and purple highlights to bring it all together. Even the rivets keeping the booth seats together were purposefully patterned, together they spelled out “S-I-L-K” all around the room. This was the level of detail that we were able to appreciate. But don’t just take my word for it. Here the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true.

I definitely spent more time photographing the scene and myself within, as apposed to eating or drinking. And no doubt you would do the same if you visit. In fact, I want to come back during the day to literally capture the decor in a whole new light.

Here there is no “bad” seat. The dining areas is sectioned off-ed with string curtains and differing design elements to create visual interest. This ensures everyone is able to be engulfed in this wonderland of colours and patterns.

Even the washrooms were heavily decorated. The hall leading to it was lined with candles, fresh flowers bobbing in pools of water, and lights softened by coloured fabric. Within each individual washroom was a rainbow chandelier crafted from gems in every colour, the result: a multi-coloured rain casting over you as you did your business, in one of the cleanest restaurant washrooms that I have every visited. An important fact considering that they are a lounge with an expansive bar.

We grabbed one of the floor-level tables, towards the back of the restaurant. Removing our shoes, we would sit cross legged on flattened, embroidered cushions for the remainder of the night. From here we were served a collection of their appetizers, a handful of their entrees to share, ending on desserts.

“Silk” offers French style cooking prepared with spices and seasonings familiar in Indian cuisine. They pride themselves on preparing everything from scratch, in house. Like all the cheeses for their savouries and all the chocolate in their desserts. This is done from farm to table, with all their ingredients organically and locally sourced within BC, if/when the season permits. A point of pride and something necessary for creating good food when you are Gary (the owner), and have grown up working on farms for over 20 years. Utilizing this knowledge, Gary wanted to share the traditional Indian recipes he grew up with. Delicious portions prepared with hand ground spices. He found that there was nothing like this being offered in Vancouver, so took it upon himself to fill the gap; offering modern twists to his mother’s recipes.

Chatting more with him, I was able to tell that he is a very genuine and humble restauranteur, which are the very characteristics he has passed along to each member of his team working tonight. This is also seen in his decision to open a lounge with a more private setting. The goal was to host smaller seatings, in order to cater to each customer more intimately. To be able to look after them and to engage them fully.

And in order to do so and ensure everything is at its absolute freshest, evenings and early mornings are spent preparing for the dinner service. A commitment that they intend to keep, and have to, given that there is no refrigerator in their kitchen. The menu reflects this commitment to quality, with the cost of premium ingredients reflected in the pricing. Appetizers that eat more like tapas plates with 4-5 bites, range from $12-20; and entrees that have you wishing for a more run from $20-35.

They have been open since February of 2018, and on this day in April we were here to help celebrate their grand opening, starting with some drinks.

“The silhouette” was their welcome drink. A shaken cocktail made with chambord black raspberry liquor, Cointreau, vodka, fresh orange juice, and agave syrup; then topped with ginger ale and fresh orange juice, and served over fresh ice. This was so easy to drink: sweet and refreshing like a juice.

“Sangria”. A blend of brandy, snapps, wine, and fresh diced fruit. Available in red and white.

“In house Old Fashion.”. The “Silk” version is made with black barred tequila aged for 12 months, and distilled in the style of bourbon or scotch. This gives the cocktail cinnamon-y undertones, balanced by the inclusion of agave syrup. It is finished off with a flame zest-ed orange peel.

“Mojito”. A shaken drink mixed with white Caribbean rum, lime juice, and fresh organic mint.

“Kumbh kaali mirch”. These organic, locally sourced mushroom caps are vegan and gluten free. They are seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, and hand milled black peppers. Each round was juicy with spicy notes, but more of a dull heat that rises slowly.

The “Steak bites” were the table’s favourite. Served with a brandy demi-glace and a few slices of their organic grain baguette. The beef was tender, easy to chew through with its pinky centre. The bread was made in house, spongy and soft, it just needed some in house made butter to complete it.

The “Basil chicken tikka” is the one I liked the least. I found the free range chicken thigh marinated in a ginger, garlic, and basil rub; dry and flat. Where the other items didn’t need the sauce that it came with, here my piece of chicken took a generous dip.

I was much more impressed by the “Prawns diablo”. Lemon butter and wine marinaded prawns served with some organic chilli and more organic grain baguette. Not everyone tried the bread, not realizing it was made in house, therefore I wished the servers had highlighted this. As for the prawns, they had a little heat in them, if you needed more you could get a mouthful from the innocent looking chillies to its side.

The “Stuffed jalapeños and rancttera sauce” is another vegan friendly dish that is gluten free. Here, organic jalapeños are stuffed with cashews, walnuts, spinach, and grilled guajillo peppers, then topped off with a house made rancttera sauce. They weren’t as spicy as the prawns above. A slightly firm pepper, grilled crisp with a cheesy taste. This was a nut made cheese without the crumbly texture of crushed nuts. It is best eaten after a drag through the tangy sauce smear on the plate.

“Paneer tikka”. Handmade paneer (Indian cheese) slow cooked in a traditional clay tandoor oven. This too is vegan and gluten free. In the dark of the lounge it looked like grilled pineapple so I was surprised when it tasted like cottage cheese with the texture of ricotta. Good, but I felt like it need more, the dip helped but I wanted something richer to give this more muted dish some kick.

Overall the appetizers were easy to share, but I would have liked a base like rice or naan to go with them; something to make them more complete. Given their presentation I wouldn’t necessarily order them with drinks in this lounge setting. With their bold flavours they ate like a meal, and not like tapas.

We would see to my craving of rice and naan during our round of entrees. Little did we know, they actually offer three types of roti, each a different taste and texture based on the type of grain used to make it by hand. Had we known, we would have tried all three. If you are expecting doughy and fluffy naan, this isn’t. It tasted healthy with that tell-a-tale dry and firm whole grain characteristic.

The vegetarian and gluten free “Spinach paneer” utilized the same in house made cheese that we had above, but in this dish my original concerns of plain cheese is addressed. This is a traditional Indian cheese dish cooked with spinach. The creamy spinach paste engulfed the soften cubes, offering a texture more like a stew. Great with the side of rice. This was done more like traditional Indian style cuisine than a fusion with French cooking.

I find “Butter chicken” is always a good tell of Indian cuisine, as every Indian restaurant offers their own rendition of it. Here, this traditional Indian curry is made with organic cream, fresh tomato purée, and organic butter. This was the leanest butter chicken I have ever had, like all of their dishes thus far, nothing was overly rich. Great, considering this is a lounge and the thinking is that you will spend most of your time drinking. With these dishes, you were full without feel bloated

The “Rack of lamb” is the showstopper. A pistachio crusted rack of local grass fed lamb, in a pomegranate jus, served with a seasonal organic vegetable ratatouille and potato purée. The lamb was done right, tender with pink and bits of gristle. The pistachio crust offered a nice crunch, and the jus was the gravy you wanted to coat your creamy mashed potatoes in. The vegetable ratatouille rounded the serving off with some freshness. My only complaint is that I had to share.

For dessert the cheesecake is the one to get. This too is made from in house made cheese, available in three fruit flavours. Each slice is made with organic milks and housemade fruit jellies, served with fresh fruit and a brandy goat cheese caramel. Depending on the fruit it adds a different texture to the cake. Each came with some of their unique caramel sauce. The caramel wasn’t overly sweet, but more milky like a watered down dulce de leche (in a good way). You are able to mix in the caramel to add some sweetness to cake.

The kiwi flavoured had an extra texture with the kiwi seeds baked in. Think a poppy seed muffin, but as a denser cake. It is nothing like you have ever tasted, let alone cheesecake. Original, different, good.

The mango was the most refreshing flavour, its puree helped to make this the fluffiest cake, in texture.

But I like the texture of the strawberry one the most, it was most firm and most like a new york style cheese cake. As for the taste, it was like melted strawberry pocky with this yogurt-like sauce.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked that they offered a full menu of food, but given their location and the setting, I am more likely to recommend them as an after dinner spot. A great place to stop by after dinner or after work, to pick at some French style Indian tapas. Or better yet, stop by for a cocktail and one of their cakes to end your night on a high note. My only apprehension would be their location, a walk away from easy transit, in a neighbourhood most rather not walk through at night. Although still worthy of checking out thanks to a team of great staff and an Instagram worthy space that you won’t soon forget. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SILK
132 Powell Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G1
778-379-6900
silkdinnerlounge.com
Silk Dinner Lounge and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Davie Dosa Company

Truth be told, this wasn’t our original destination, but when at a cross roads between ramen and dosa this evening, we chose the latter with no regrets. “Davie Dosa” is still fairly new to the neighbourhood, at the time of this post, they have been in their new location for 5 months, taking over the locale previously held by an Italian restaurant. I have visited its predecessor previously, so can tell you the decor is pretty much the same. The same dim light and dark furniture, so much so that I didn’t even realize that it was an Indian restaurant that we walked into. Nothing about their decor spoke to their ethic influences or cuisine, not that it mattered, as their food is good and their service, better.

Given the slower night, and that we were but one of two patrons enjoying their authentic fare this evening, we were able to chat up the owner and gain some background on his new restaurant. “Davie Dose” is sister restaurant to “House of Dosa” and “Dosa Factory”, both with a long history of delivering delicious dosas, so already we knew what we were going to order. He opened this location wanting a work place closer to home and hours that allowed him to spend some needed time with his blossoming family. And when this dream came to fruition, the neighbour welcomed them with open arms. There is nothing else like them in the neighbourhood. They haven’t done much in the way of advertising, yet the support of the community walking in and enjoying their fare is great.

We started with their “65’s South Indian style marinated deep fried chicken”. This isn’t for those who can’t take spice. I found it overwhelmingly spicy myself, so much so that the heat took over any flavour of the chicken. Although the more tender pieces of chicken you popped into your mouth, the less spicy it felt. The creamy white sauce helped to dull things, but I was still left wanting some freshness. A nice pickled veg and some rice would have helped in this regard.

Dosa is a savoury rice and lentil crepe, served with your choice of filling. There are various fillings available, but we decided to enjoy it as is, plain with a side of the chef’s homemade sambar, coconut, and tomato chutneys. The crispy fried and bake dough was just as good as is: buttery and light. Although the dips were tasty and available to rejuvenate the dish mid way, and the dosa provided the ideal base to scoop them up with.

It must be said that our “Ghee roast” (pictured) is not its normal and intended size. I was cheeky in asking for the biggest dosa they could make and the owner and chef obliged me with this marvel (although I was later informed that they do and can make them even larger than this. I guess that’s reason enough for me to return). “Ghee” is a type of melted butter, it gave the crispy fried curl of dough a nice luscious flavour to be dipped with or used as a base for the spicy potato mixture that hid within it.

The “Beef Bryani” was a great fourth dish to round out our meal with, served with vegetable gravy and raita. It offered a tasty base to eat our chicken with. Although it was pretty spicy itself. Yet it was just so tasty with the perfect texture of crispy fried rice, that I braved the heat for spoonfuls of. I know it is not the right cuisine, but some tzaziki and herb potato would have been a great pairing with this spicy rice pilaf.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great place for some authentic Indian cuisine on Davie Street. No need to say any more, except, don’t deny your cravings here.

 

DAVIE DOSA
1235 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N3
604-669-5899
daviedosacompany.com
DOSA HUT, Downtown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spicy 6 Fine Indian Cuisine

Ironically we had everything in mild, despite the restaurant’s name being “Spicy 6”

On this night we were invited to dine at “Spicy 6” on Robson Street. I was aware that they existed, but I guess I never thought of looking up and climbing the stairs to enjoy their “authentic indian food with a modern twist”, until invited to do so. And this is a shame, considering that they are good, and as the only Indian restaurant in the area, a good stop when you have that craving after a long day of shopping.

Before we begin, as always when it comes to a dinner where I was invited as media, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

 

From the sidewalk you wouldn’t expect such a nicely dressed restaurant. The staircase up isn’t all that special either, but once inside the restaurant’s decor better lives up to expectations as the purveyors of “fine Indian cuisine”, that they claim to be on their website.

Their hand painted mural with its baby teal backdrop certainly sets a more joyous tone. Two elephants with their trunks extended, patterned in the same intricacies as the tree they flank. A tree twisting with red blooms, blue petals, and aquamarine leaves. It hides well the stainless steel hot food bar that contradicts their theme. It may be from the remnants of an all you can eat buffet the restaurant once offered. But now it is used to hold extra dish ware and serves as a storage space for the pre-prepared “papadums” you get complimentary at the start of your meal (more on that below). The finer dining theme is more prevalent with the lit candle lights at each table. These flames casts shadows of the fresh flower table setting, over the white table cloth and reusable cloth napkin, folded with precise pleats before each seat.

We were offered a table by their window, against the red painted cement wall. Our view, the Robson road and sidewalks with parked cars and pedestrians to stare at, should we wish. A unique view made more romantic with the lights strung on the trees, that remain from the winter season.

We began our meal with a couple of “Mango lassis. A sweet and refreshing beverage that I cleverly nursed throughout our meal. It made for the perfect palette refresher against everything that was so flavourful and rich below. It drank like a dessert, thick and creamy mango pudding that you can siphon through a straw. They also offer a sweet or salty lassi, for those who want the refreshing nature of the cooling drink, but not its sweetness or fruity flavour.

As I mentioned earlier, your meal starts with a complimentary basket of “Papadum”. They are crispy lentil crackers served with a tamarind and mint dipping sauce on the side. Not only did they make a great start to wet your appetite with, but they also offered a crunch in texture and a tangy change of taste; to your meal of stews, curries, and sauces below.

For an appetizer we had their “Indian masala fries”. This was a whole potato’s worth of fresh cut fries tossed in Indian masala spices. I loved it most for its size: fries longer and thicker than the length and width of my finger. They comes hot so be warned. They had a crispy breaded exterior and a soft baked potato-like centre. Given the amount you get, I would have liked a sauce with them. We settled on a cup of the same ranch that came drizzled over the side salad, but a nice chutney would have been great. We had some left over from the papadum, but a mango one with some sweetness would have been ideal.

Our visit coincided with “Vancouver Foodster’s Best Curry Challenge”. It is a competition running between March 8 to April 1, 2018. It is where a handful of restaurants create a unique curry dish that features the ability of their chefs, and diners are invited to try it from each participating restaurant, in hopes of find one curry dish to rule the all. Judges pick their favourites considering a multitude of criterias, and you as a diner get to weight in by visiting http://vancouverfoodster.com/curry-challenge/ to cast your vote. The following is “Spicy 6’s” offering for your consideration.

Their “Exotic saffron curry” is available in chicken, lamb, or a vegetarian option. I highly recommend the lamb, like we ordered. Not only is it a stunning presentation with the meat on bone delicately submerged in a chunky gravy, but the lamb was cooked perfectly. The meat was tender enough to pull from bone with ease, fully flavoured by the salty tomatoey curry it sat in. My guest was able to notice the nice bite at the end, from the saffron, whereas I struggled to identify the spice.

You have your choice of spice level, we went for mild with no regrets, However, they are known for their heat, so if desired, you can tell them to amp up the spicy to level “6” (excuse the pun). The $25 set comes with enough jasmine rice and housemade naan to soak up and sop up all the curry with. Despite the use of the luxury item saffron, it costs about the same as their other curry combos ranging from $16-$23 depending on the protein or lack of protein. And this does price does not yet include the $6 extra you pay to make it a combo with regular white rice, naan, a side salad, and lentils. (see below)

If you are looking to try the above, make sure you do so before April 1st, as this won’t be available after the “Best Curry Challenge” concludes.

We made the “Palak paneer” a full dinner with rice, naan, and daal. It isn’t the most appealing dish, but it is one of the only ways you will see me eating spinach. “Palak paneer” is farmer’s cheese cooked in garlic, cumin, and spinach. This is one of the best representations of this dish I have had, it made completely forget that it was minced and mashed spinach that I was eating. The dish was so well churned that the spinach resembled at thick and creamy curry, great at highlighting the cheese and its solid and squish texture by contrast. Although, in all honesty, as soon as I was reminded that this was spinach I was licking clean off my spoon, I did spot eating it; but with me it is just a mental thing.

We also upgraded the naan to their “Garlic and basil” version and it was delicious. I could have eaten the fluffy and crispy sheet of dough as its.

The “Tandoori prawns” were great fun, they came sizzling on a hot plate and therefore were able to keep warm long afterwards. Jumbo prawns marinated in grounded mustard, yogurt and spices, then cooked in a clay oven. It was like Indian barbecue with some unique seasoning. The shrimp was cooked well, they weren’t chewy and were easy to pop meat from tail. However, after the 3rd and 4th one I wanted a gravy or sauce to dip it into, a way to rejuvenate the flavour, without piggy backing off of flavours of the dishes before it. Here a nice sweet and sour chutney would have been great, some citrus to make the seafood pop.

Sadly we were too full to even entertain the idea of dessert, but luckily they offered the perfect after dinner “mint” to leave your meal on a sweet note. At a self serve station by the door, you can help yourself to a handful of fennel and sugar coated candy sprinkles. They looked like mini “good and plenty” candies, but tasted like a combination of liquorice and mint. The mix was fun to crunch through and it left your mouth feeling surprisingly clean, really great considering how rich of a meal we had before; and therefore there is the fear of the breath to follow.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Shame that their restaurant isn’t at ground level, because I feel being able to peak in will definitely attract more pass by traffic. And after a taste you definitely wouldn’t hesitate to return. Great food, reasonable prices, and staff that are friendly. Servers, managers, and owners that will engage all patrons like visitors in their own home. Friendly enough to offer light hearted conversation or engage in discussion on their food, history, and location should you steer it in that direction. In short, a great option for Indian cuisine in the heart of Robson Street. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SPICY 6
1116 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1B2
604-336-7999
Spicy 6 Fine Indian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sula Indian Restaurant

Today I was invited to try “Sula”, an authentic Indian restaurant, serving Indian cuisine prepared using traditional methods. They churn out staples like curries, tandoori breads, and rice; prepared with visual finesse. Here, I didn’t expect that I would discover a butter chicken recipe that I liked, that isn’t scooped out of a fast food heated tray.

But first: When it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Located on Commercial Drive, there is plenty of dining options competing for your attention and money. So “Sula” puts it foot forward with a colourful exterior. Its red brick wall is spray painted with fuchsia flowers, and its entry way grows with a rainbow tree painted against a black wall. As you pull open the door, a running water feature further sets the tone.

Inside the room opens up to an oasis. The sights, sounds, and scents take you out of the cold and into the warmth of a tropical sanctuary. Trickling water can be heard across the open space thanks to a bubbling pond at the centre of the main dining room; and a cascading stream, trickling over stones in the corner. Rich Indian inspired textiles and art, coupled with live plants make the space feel exotic and fresh.

Seating is available across booths and four tops in the dining area. A private corner set against three walls is available for larger groups. And for those looking for a rowdier night, the purple walled bar at the back caters to your appetites.

We immediately gravitated towards the window and the three tables that required a step up to get to. It gave us a handful of inches above the rest of the restaurant, where we were able to continue marvelling at the details put into the decor. The laser cut flower and leaf glued to the wooden menu, and folded cloth napkin with “bunny ears” for each place setting continued on this trend.

Within such a cool ambience, starting our meal with a cocktail only seemed right. And best of all, they are prepared using essences and spices which flavours compliment our food to come.

The “Mango mojito” is one of their signature cocktail. It is like a regular mojito with Bacardi rum, Malibu, lime and mint; but with the addition of a fresh mango purée, giving it a creamy finish. It was tropical with waves of coconut, the kind of drink you enjoin beach side in paradise.

Likewise was the “Goa sunrise”. Vodka, limonchello, cranberry, and lemon. It was a tropical lemonade with citrus and a sweet berry finish. This one was very easy to drink.

The “Tamarind margarita” is one for those who like a strong drink with a smokey finish. Mezcal, tamarind, Cinnamon-agave syrup, lime, and bitters. It was dark and full bodied with heat, like the flavours to come.

To start we had the “Papri chaat”. Described as an “Indian canapé”. Hard crackers-like wafers topped with with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and various chutneys. The way we are it and the way the toppings were piled on top of it, it reminded me of nachos. The same chip crunch and cool creamy dips, but with Indian spices and the sweetness from chutney.

All their hot stews and curries are served in these miniature heating apparatuses. A dish with lid, sitting on a three legged carrier, kept warm by a lit tea light under it. This continual heat source keeps your meal hot for longer, without overlooking it. A very helpful feature for foodies like me, who allow our cameras to eat first, often resulting in a cold meal to enjoy.

The “Saag paneer” was surprisingly good. I am not a fan of wilted vegetables so enjoyed their texture here as a purée, thickened with large chunks of cottage cheese, seasoned with freshly ground spices. The chunks of cheese had a stiff texture like squeaky cheese. I really enjoyed it as a god meat alternative. It was filling, especially with the order of Indian breads we had with it as a side.

When it comes to Indian food, I find myself returning when I get that craving for flat bread. The “Garlic naan” is soft and fluffy, best enjoyed within the small window where it is still warm. It is the best dipped into the thick curries and taken in like an edible scoop.

The “Tandoori roti” is not un-similar, but made with whole wheat flour. Therefore it is denser and the round of cooked dough a lot thinner and harder. But it still offers a good chew to have as a base to curry.

Like the “Prawn goan curry/prawn” that used coconut milk in its curry, therefore, making it a great dairy free alternative. It was one of the most silken and creamy curries I have ever had. It had lighter with sweeter notes thanks to the use of the tropical fruit, and some heat from the coriander seeds and yellow curry powder. I especially appreciated the fact that all the shrimp were peeled for our convenience. However, due to our wait to eat (us taking photos) they were tough and really didn’t add anything to the curry. I would have liked some more textures like bamboo instead, however that would lean too far towards the territory of Thai curry (which is something completely different).

The yellow curry was also great with coconut rice as a side. “Sula’s” rendition included herbs with the coconut milk infused basmati. It was helpful as a base, to balance out the more overwhelming flavours.

My guest suggested that we order the “butter chicken” as well. Not necessary a unique dish to “Sula”, but a good way to calibrate it against other Indian restaurants. And I am glad she did, here I have found my current favourite butter chicken recipes to date. Previously I sought this popular, highly Westernized dish out at my local food court; haven’t had any better, anywhere else. With the sauces available in jars at the grocery was a far second. So to now be able to find one that is leagues better than both and in a nice sit down setting is a treat. This was a fantastic offering of boneless chunks of chicken cooked in a tomato and butter cream sauce. A little sweet, but more spicy and tangy. The white meat was juicy, but I preferred to just take in the sauce with naan.

They had a series of dishes served on a sizzling hot plate, which they call “Indian style barbecue”. The “Tandoori chicken” was what we tried, where the juicy pieces of dark meat were served bone-in. It is marinated with authentic Indian spices and grilled in tandoor. I enjoyed the little vegetables that surrounded them, but I felt it needed more to complete the dish. A base of rice, or some other starch.

With all the tense flavours consumed, their “Mango lassi” was the best palette refresher to end our meal on. It came with extra care taken to drizzle syrup on the sides of the glasses. A smooth beverage made with true mango purée.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I would come back for all my butter chicken and naan cravings, and to taste more off their menu. There was nothing I didn’t like; and much more to try, with the hopes that they are just as good. A great places for good food or to have a fun night at. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SULA
1128 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2N1
604-215-1130
sulaindianrestaurant.com

Inspired to taste Canada event

I never knew that there was an award to celebrate Canadian cookbooks until today; when I was invited to the “Inspired to taste Canada” event, hosted by “Taste of Canada awards”; in conjunction with the Hudson’s Bay company. This event was a nation wide celebration of Canadian flavours and the chefs who created them, for a Canadian audience. A travelling show and kitchen that made its way across country, to this, their final stop at the flagship “Hudson’s Bay”, downtown Vancouver.

The event was held on a Saturday, centred around two local British Columbian authors, who have had their books entered as nominees for this year’s awards. However, a last minute change, swapped out Meeru Dhalwala, author of “Vij’s Indian: Cherished Recipes”, for her co-writer and the man’s whose name appears on the cover of the book: Vikram Vij. His opening cooking demo was followed by Denise Marchessault, author of “British Columbia from Scratch”, a cookbook that focuses on the bounty that BC offers.

The event also included sampling booths set up by event sponsors that allowed you to engage in their products through tasting and conversation with their brand specialists. These were scattered around the event area, as a self directed experience; and included canola oil, Cuisinart, Tumeric Teas, Grosche coffee and tea accessories, and Delonghi kitchen appliances.

I came early enough to grab a front row seat to the cooking demonstrations. Their portable kitchen was rigged up with cameras giving attendees an over head look at what was going into pots; and being stirred in pans. Small portions were passed out into the crowd, as both chefs gave abbreviated demonstrations of what it was that their audience was eating. This was the closet I have ever been to being in the audience of a cooking show. It was all prepared with produce from UBC farms, with their recipes coming from the pages of their respective cookbooks.

Vij began his set engaging the audience with salutations and “Namaste”, like he does at his restaurants. Almost everyone received a personalize greeting, as he invited stragglers in closer for a better look. He went on to explain his desire to elevate Indian cuisine back to the level it should be, explaining that it has decreased thanks to food court representations and buffet lines staples. As he presented he educated the audience on his beliefs and his passion for living and loving life. My biggest take away was the need to not measure when it comes to Indian cooking. Which was the opposite of the baking demo to follow. Cooking is from the heart so it’s what you see, taste, and feel that is represented on the plate.

The first dish was a daal curry made with lentils. As we sipped a runny soup, he explained that the word “curry” means sauce in Hindi, and therefore there should not be any assumption that a curry should be thick. It can be saucy. He and this dish affirmed that it is merely a myth that Indian food needs to be spicy. This was mild with plenty of flavours. Flavours from a plethora of spices he kept in metal rounds that he passed around for us, the audience to take in the aroma of.

The next dish was a zucchini and potato stew. Traditionally for Indian cuisine, you start with a lentil curry and then follow it with such a vegetable stew, along side rice and naan. It is here that we learned that Indian cuisine does not use stocks, so relies heavily on onion and garlic to create flavour. And here the potatoes were included to help soak up these flavour. Vij also reassured us that, should we try any of his recipes at home, it need not taste exactly as we have had here, today. Cooking is different from person to person, even if you use the same recipe. It varies based on the heart of the one creating it.

Vij was a passionate speaker, imploring us to eat with our hands for a most sensual experience; and to put our phones down and to step away from our social media addiction. The latter was sort of of ironic, considering as a blogger, I was invited to this event to share my experience and reach with this blog and my social media following.

By comparison Denise Marchessault and the flavours of the desserts she was showcasing today was more demure. Hers was a lovely and gentle end to help cleanse the palette. She spoke with passion for our province and told us how lucky we are to be surrounded by so much produce and wildlife to tap into. And how when she is at cooking conferences she is the envy of other chefs, for that very reason. Something that is poignantly highlighted in her beautifully photographed cookbook: “British Columbia from Scratch”.

The first dessert was a four ingredient custard cream, topped with a raspberry coulis with mixed fresh berries. If trying the recipe at home, she suggested adjusting the topping based on seasonal offerings. Like in fall a nice caramelized poached pear, over the luscious creamy cup would be ideal.

The accompaniment to this was a delicious butter cookie curl. It was crispy and light. I dipped it into the cream to add a contrasting texture to both. Great alone, better together.

During the event if you spent $75 at the bay you got either one of their cookbooks for free. Spend $125 and get both, with the opportunity to have your book personalized by either or both. As media I was lucky to receive a copy of each, and did not hesitate to stand in queue. I was able to engage each chef and have them further make this event as one to remember.

This was certainly a lovely gathering and a great way to highlight our nation’s 150th through its diverse talent and cuisine. Looking forward to the actual awards ceremony.

TASTE CANADA
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