A slew of food writers and restaurant critics fall all over themselves when they praise Vij’s, in Vancouver, British Columbia, as the best Indian restaurant in North America. When food journalist Alan Richman writes “there’s no more-beloved Indian restaurant in North America,” he’s not lying. I and about 80 others stood in line–in the rain–for nearly an hour last night, queing for one of the restuarant’s 50 seats. When the doors finally opened at 5:30, the unlucky 30 were directed to the bar, where they waited for an hour and a half for the tables to start to turn. No grumbling, though: Vij’s sends plenty of pass-arounds to snack on while patrons wait for tables.
Worth it? Absolutely. Hands-down, a fantastic meal. Here’s a recipe for Vij’s signature dish, lamb popsicles. (They were terrific–but the goat curry was even better.)
Vikram Vij’s Marinated Lamb Popsicles with Fenugreek Cream Curry
For the popsicles:
2-3 French cut racks of lamb (with the bone cleaned down to the chop)
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup grainy yellow mustard
¾ teaspoon salt
For the Curry Cream:
2 tbsp. crushed garlic
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. turmeric
1 litre whipping cream
1 tbsp. dried green fenugreek flakes (known as ‘kasuri methi’)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ lemon juice
¼ tsp. paprika
Cut the racks of lamb into the ‘popsicles’ by slicing the chops in between the bones. Mix the white wine, mustard and salt together in a large bowl, then add the popsicles, turning to coat them on all sides. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
In a separate bowl, mix together the whipping cream, salt, paprika, cayenne, fenugreek flakes and lemon juice. In a medium-sized, heavy pot, sauté the crushed garlic in the canola oil. Once the garlic is golden in colour, add the turmeric, stir and heat for one minute. Add the whipping cream mixture, stir and heat on low to medium heat for a few minutes. (the water in the whipping cream will evaporate, thickening the sauce. If your heat is too high, the cream will separate.) If making the sauce a day ahead, let the garlic mixture cool completely, then add to the cream mixture and refrigerate. Thicken the sauce close to serving time by heating gently.
Grill the popsicles just before you are ready to serve your meal. You can either pour the cream curry over the grilled popsicles or use it as a dipping curry for them.
(Vij’s serves them over some sliced, cooked potatoes that have been lightly sautéed in oil, with a couple of handfuls of washed spinach thrown in just until the spinach wilts slightly.)