Story by Tricia Edgar
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Deborah Son says she was “starstruck” when Vikram Vij greeted her at the door of his renowned restaurant on Friday night.
Two sunny days after arriving in Vancouver, Son was meeting the celebrity chef, whose establishment she chose ahead of all others in the nation for her customized grand prize. Son won Vacay.ca’s Foodie of the Year contest for her entry that nominated Winnipeg’s Segovia Tapas Bar & Restaurant for inclusion in the Top Restaurants in Canada. The grand prize featured dinner at the restaurant of her choice and her pick was Vij’s, the winner of the Top 50 Restaurants of the Year balloting in 2012 and the No. 3 overall choice by judges and the public in 2013.
Vij’s Indian food is famous throughout the west coast, and Son and her mom, Jae Suk, took their place at the head of the line before 5 pm. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and lineups often run around the block. Visitors who arrive too late to get a table in the first round of seatings are ushered into the lounge and plied with complimentary chai and appetizers during their wait.
Vij’s Welcomes Canada’s Top Food Lover
Son arrived on Wednesday, with round-trip airfare and a four-night luxury stay at the Loden Hotel included in her prize package. She has spent much of her time in Vancouver exploring the city’s food scene. She had a well-deserved meal at the top of Grouse Mountain after making her way up North Vancouver‘s natural StairMaster, the Grouse Grind, which features 2,830 steps. She also visited Phnom Penh in Vancouver’s Chinatown to take in its Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine. And, yes, she even stopped at one of Vancouver’s most famous street-food establishments, the corner hot dog and Japanese food-fusion eatery called Japadog.
But the highlight was meeting Vij and finally tasting his cuisine. I spoke with Son at the door of Vij’s as the eager crowd anticipated the 5:30 pm opening. What was she planning to order? “The menu is so amazing that it’s hard to decide,” she said, “but I’m thinking of ordering the prawns.” BC’s famous and delicately flavoured spot prawns are in season, and the combination of prawns, coconut, and fenugreek sounded utterly tempting to Son.
“I am highly honoured that she chose us. It is a great compliment,” Vij said when he was first told of Son’s selection of his restaurant. “I will make sure she is well taken care of and leaves here well fed.”
The chef and his team saw to that, demonstrating the restaurant’s acclaimed hospitality. Like the splendid mountains and sunshine of Vancouver, he assured Canada’s Foodie of the Year that her evening at Vij’s would not disappoint — as everything at the restaurant is made with love.
Following the meal, Son said, “We felt so taken care of. The best part is I know that’s how everyone who was dining tonight, or any night, feels when they go to Vij’s.”
After her taste of the ocean at Vij’s, Son is planning a trip across the water to Victoria on Vancouver Island, ideally with some wildlife watching included. “I’d like to make it to the beach,” she said, “and perhaps when we get back to Vancouver we’ll explore Stanley Park as well.”
The park is celebrating its 125th anniversary this weekend with a number of free outdoor events. The Foodie of the Year returns to Winnipeg, which has an emerging culinary scene of its own, on Sunday.
[box_light]Foodie of the Year Deborah Son will publish a review of her experience at Vij’s and her stay in Vancouver soon on Vacay.ca. Watch for it![/box_light]
More About the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada
The Canadian public teamed with 34 of the nation’s top food experts to provide the most definitive resource to fine dining in the country ever published. Vacay.ca revealed the 2013 list via a video series published on May 1 that named five restaurants at a time. View all segments here:
Restaurants 1-5: Joe Beef, Langdon Hall, Vij’s, Atelier and CHARCUT are featured
Restaurants 6-10: See the video covering Toronto’s favourite and others
Restaurants 11-15: See the video covering 5 great chefs
Restaurants 16-20: See the video covering the 2013 People’s Choice winner
Restaurants 21-25: See the video featuring Araxi in Whistler, B.C.
Restaurants 26-30: See the video showing Brooklyn Warehouse in Halifax
Restaurants 31-35: See the video featuring Momofuku in Toronto
Restaurants 36-40: See the video and read about the top restaurant in New Brunswick
Restaurants 41-45: See the video for these restaurants
Restaurants 46-50: See the video covering the beginning of the countdown
Runner-up restaurants 51-100 were also named. They can be found by scrolling down on theTop 50 Restaurants webpage.
More About Vij’s
Vij’s chicken curry is made from a family recipe and is one of the restaurant’s most popular menu items. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)
Chefs/Owners: Vikram Vij, Meeru Dhalwala
Telephone: 604-736-6664. Twitter:@Vijs_restaurant
2013 Vacay.ca Rank: 3; 2012 Vacay.ca Rank: 1
Price range: $24-$29.50 for main courses.
You Must Order: The famous lamb popsicles, which are a rack of lamb served with curry and meant for eating with your hands using the rib bone as a stick. ($28)
Need to Know … from Judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life: Unquestionably an institution that is quintessentially Canadian in ideology, hospitality, embrace of ingredients and sensibility. The cuisine is refined, yet highly approachable. Musts: lamb popsicle or, even better, the curry goat, and the complimentary chai.
Ontario Regional Chair Rebecca LeHeup of Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance says:Hospitality at it’s finest. Chef Vij is often onsite greeting guests at the door. Waiting for your table is a treat as staff bring around pakoras, samosas and other bites in their lounge. The room seems to be constantly busy yet you feel like you are in your own little world once your meal arrives- this is hands down the best Indian food I’ve ever had!
See a video of Vikram Vij cooking in Niagara, Ontario, and read about what being namedVacay.ca’s No. 1 in 2012 meant to him.
More About the Loden Hotel
Location: 1177 Melville Street, Vancouver, BC
Reservations: Telephone 877-225-6336 (toll free) or book online
Room Rates: Nightly rates in the summer start at around $299, depending on the date of arrival.
Vacay.ca Coverage of the Loden Hotel: Read “Loden Hotel has Vancouver Covered” by West Coast Sports Editor Miguel Strother.