It was our first-date one-year anniversary, so the sous chef and I planned on a special dinner at a Vancouver institution, Vij's. We biked from work and arrived just after 6. I had anticipated that there would be a wait, but when the friendly host informed us that there would be a two and a half hour wait. I looked at my hungry dining companion sadly, and we bumped into my friend Amy, who recommended that we go next door to Vij's sister restaurant, Rangoli. Even though I was disappointed, I decided to roll with the punches, and go next door.
We were greeted warmly and informed there would be a 10 minute wait. Much more do-able. There is a big difference in the atmosphere between Vij's and Rangoli. Vij's dark, cozy, intimate with a real "taste of India" feel. Rangoli is bright, minimalist, clean and functionalist. They have a covered, warmed patio for outdoor seating as well as indoor seating area that is connected to their "take-out/deli/store" section selling packaged curries, rices, naan, sauces, and spices.
The service was polite, friendly, speedy, and quite efficient. Our food came out really quickly.
The prices were slightly higher than other Indian food in the area, with slightly smaller portion sizes. Rangoli is quite clever with their portrayal of Indian food. They know their target audience and cater to them well. It's a modern take on Indian cuisine, with beautiful presentation, lots of colour, and they balance heavy Indian food by pairing all of their curries and stews with light salads with Indian flare.
We thought we would order two vegan dishes and share- so we ordered the Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry and Grilled Eggplant with Chickpeas.
Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry on paneer with beet salad and naan $13
This comes highly recommended from my pal Amy who works at Rangoli/Vij's.
We should've chatted with our server about our vegan-share option plan (I thought the sous chef could eat around the paneer)...because this dish was definitely not vegan. It was a cream sauce, and not a coconut cream one. The sous chef could tell right away, and with the catch, it was clear that I'd be eating the mushroom curry and that he'd eat the eggplant and chickpea curry and we'd share the sides. It worked out okay for me, because this dish was DELICIOUS! It was a sweeter, rich, onion based curry that tastes infused with caramelized onions, red peppers, and a generous amount of meaty, juicy Portobello Mushrooms with a few small slices of paneer. This was big on flavour and I pretty much licked the plate clean. The side beet salad was a nice balance, texture and flavour-wise. It was tangy, crunchy, and fresh. I liked the naan as well. It was thick, puffy, chewy, and buttery, with a real cumin flavour.
Grilled Eggplant with Chick Peas in ginger and fenugreek curry with chapati and raita $13
This was tasty but nothing too exciting. The flavour wasn't as bold in this dish but still nice. There was a mound of curried chickpeas on top of two slices of grilled eggplant. They really could have used more eggplant in this dish, but the presentation was nice. The side cucumber salad and chapati were tasty as well- especially the chapati flatbread. Unfortunately, the portion size was a bit small for the sous chef, who couldn't even eat the side of raita (yogurt).
They brought us a complimentary Coconut Pudding (thanks Amy!) for dessert. Topped with fruit, this dessert was very refreshing and sweet.
A nice meal and dining experience, but it definitely wasn't quite the "special" date night, I was expecting. I would definitely recommend it though for good food with great flavours and balance. I would definitely bring out-of-town foodie guests here to experience a quintessential "Vancouver" meal. I'm not giving up on Vij's though....I'll be back!