Dear Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala,
Greetings from St Andrews, Scotland. I didn’t anticipate showering praise on the owners of Vancouver’s beloved Indian restauranteurs but you know what they say about Lent. Anything can happen.
When my husband and I left Vancouver we were living at 10th and Hemlock, nearly around the corner from Vij’s and Rangoli. We visited as much as we could justify, each time wishing we could linger a little longer, sip one more cup of chai, lick a little more chutney from our plates. There are restaurants and there are restaurants. Your establishments sat side by side, two pakora-sized pieces of paradise at Granville and 11th and every time I walked past, my pulse quickened. Don’t I sound like a fool?! This is what fantastic food does to me.
But I want to discuss more than your superb menu. Above all else, I appreciate the way in which you two approach hospitality. It’s not every day that you look up and discover the person asking how your meal tastes is actually the propreitor himself, blazing red tunic and flashing turquoise eyes. It’s uncommon to look forward to waiting for a table. It’s rare to feel so completely at home and yet thoroughly spoiled while dining out on a busy Friday night. In my eyes, you have a monopoly on gracious hospitality.
The more I ponder my affection for food and the people who have inspired me along the way, I can’t ignore the role you’ve played in my story. I need to keep this brief because I run the risk of gushing like a school girl. These are the things the two of you have taught me.
Everyone deserves the same treatment. Your bit about not taking reservations was practically a compliment. No reservations, no VIPs. Everyone is an honoured guest.
Small spaces don’t hinder hospitality. Yes, one must get creative but so long as the heart is pure and the drinks are bottomless, there’s always room for a crowd. The toddler clutter just gets shoved to the side.
Finally, student menus need not be dull. Thank you for producing two volumes’ worth of Indian recipes to mesmerise our palettes without destroying our bottom line.
My heroes are artists and entrepreneurs who hone their craft and pour their heart and soul into their work, regardless of the fiscal payback. You are amateurs in the best sense the word, people who love generously. Thank you for getting things started right in 1994 and never looking back. Huge congratulations for all the recent accolades. I cannot wait to see your new space on Cambie.
With much affection,
PS. Bonus points for setting up shop near the in-laws in Surrey. My Shanti is both literally and figuratively the silver lining I’m focusing on when I lament leaving the UK and returning to suburbia.