One of the best parts of being on vacation is being able to order wine with lunch. We started with a Montepulciano. It was drinkable, not bad but not spectacular. To eat, I chose a “small” lamb souvlakia that came with rice pilaf, roast potatoes and greek salad all for $7.95.
Jim ordered the pita lamb souvlakia: lamb and pita with tzatziki and french fries ($6.95).
Stepho’s has had a wait since the day it opened 20 years ago and there’s a reason this place is always packed. Stepho’s does my husband’s favorite kind of food – traditional basic food done well at an affordable price. We headed back to the condo and a rendez vous for Finland v. Bellaruse hockey tickets with a quick stop at the wine store across the street. After Rafael at Wall Centre Fine Spirits helped us choose 3 bottles of BC wine (a Gamay, and 2 Bordeaux style blends), we were ready to head to Ireland House. It took us about 30 minutes to get in but we talked to some lovely Vancouver natives while we waited. Once we got in, Womens Freestyle Moguls was showing in the packed Guinness drinking “bar.” To say Canada is proud of its athletes is an understatement. In the midst of “Ireland” the crowd was pro-Canada all the way.
After Ireland House we wandered up Granville, checked out Downtown Live and discovered that you can zipline across Robson Square (we are so doing that tomorrow)! After a pit stop at the condo, we embarked on a 2.5 kilometer walk to Vij’s – an Indian fusion restaurant recommended by our friends Pallavi & Ash and the New York and Seattle Times. We arrived about 7 pm and the wait was already 1 1/2 hours long. My husband looked at me like I must be insane. I suggested a walk and a bottle of wine. After walking around a bit more we settled into the outside heated patio and enjoyed a bottle of 1996 Bondegas Condesa de Lagonia Reserva, Tempranillo. It was a gem. While we waited we were served an endless array of pakoras, mini fennel chapati and other tasty appetizer treats from the kitchen. The pass-around appetizers were so good, that our appetite was seriously diminished when we got seated. Nonetheless, we prepared to expand our stomachs for the cause 😉
I overheard that Vij’s had a cookbook, so Jim asked our server if we could take a peak. 12 pages in I was drooling over recipes like jalapeño and cumin-spiced paneer and couscous cakes and Jim quickly asked if we could buy a copy. An added bonus – Vikram Vij himself was there to sign it and chat with us.
We chose 4 dishes – 3 appetizer size and 1 entree. We started with Samosas filled with lamb, beef and paneer and chickpeas in star anise and date curry over grilled kale. The spicing and flavors in the chickpea dish was unusual, spicy and incredibly flavorful. While I enjoy the nutritional value of kale it was not necessary to this dish but did add an element of crunch. Jim, who was not happy about the 1 1/1 hour wait, decided it was all worthwhile when he bit into the samosas. They had the perfect amount of deep fried crunch, minimal doughy interior, and spicy filling.
Although we were already satiated at this point, we didn’t even think about cancelling our Mutton kebabs with Bengali style curry and Rajasthani goat (yes, goat) curry with lightly spiced bell peppers and cabbage.
Both were incredible. The goat was so tender that when Vikram Vij stopped over to ask us how it was, Jim asked if it was really goat. He smiled and then shared his secret – slow cooking, 4 to 5 hours in a closed pot with just the spices til the goat is falling-off-the-bone tender. He showed me 2 recipes in the book to try – I can’t wait!
While I oohed and ahhed over the goat, Jim raved about the mutton. Even though we had both been wondering how we could possibly eat only 5 minutes before, we were savoring the flavors as they danced, exploded and melted in our mouths.
We did not have room for dessert ;( But, there’s always next time . . .