We’ve been waiting for this.
Vij’s in Vancouver, BC, has been hailed by The New York Times as “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.” My first time was a June evening three years ago when I went with our senior editor James Ross Gardner to Vancouver to serve on a magazine panel (scarily titled Grilled Editors). Vij’s doesn’t take reservations, and even though we arrived at 5:30 just as it opened, we were already way too late to get a table.
We perched outside next to a concrete pond with floating candles and sipped a fizzy, gingery drink with all the other slightly late comers, thinking grumpily: This better be worth it. But when a server threaded through the waiting diners with the first of several rounds of truly spectacular finger food, we forgot to be annoyed. Dinner, when we ordered at last, was off-the-charts memorable. A person could get a food high on the lamb “popsicles,” tiny lamb racks afloat in a heady curry of fenugreek leaves, turmeric, garlic, and cream.
When our Nosh Pit bloggers ask what restaurants Seattle needs, Vij’s dominates the list: “Whenever I am in Vancouver—which isn’t often enough—I wait hours to get my fix. Every time Vij comes around to each table to check on guests, I tell him personally that he MUST come to Seattle,” wrote one commenter. Who could be surprised to learn that on any given night one in 10 diners at Vij’s is a Seattleite?
So when Seattle Met food editor Allecia Vermillion broke the news online that Vij’s wife, kitchen manager, and recipe developer, Meeru Dhalwala, would be opening Shanik in South Lake Union, people went kind of nuts. One reader posted: “OMFG! Vij’s is my all-time favorite restaurant anywhere on the planet!” And others: “life-changing Indian food,” “cue Hallelujah chorus.” (They’re eager to help, too: “Meeru...if you need taste testers...”)
Here in Seattle, where we rightly revel in our foodscape of groundbreaking chefs, award-winning restaurants, and locally sourced ingredients, Shanik will catapult us into gustatory territory that puts us on the map in a whole new way.
So yes, we’ve been waiting. The project has been under way for months, and Allecia followed along as Dhalwala interviewed kitchen staff, directed the design, and developed recipes. Dhalwala brings an extraordinary artistry, even genius, to her cooking. At the risk of sounding like “a total food whacko,” she shared with Allecia an epiphany she’d had during her morning jog. The fading pink and blue flowers and dark green leaves of hydrangeas along her route inspired a colorful new curry dish on her fall menu. “It was just delicious with my spice combination and gorgeous to look at. My front managers were in shock.”
We’ll get in line for that.