Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tastes of the East

OK, I'm sure that I'm flying in the face of all sorts of sage advice and etiquette here, but I'm about to blog while under the influence.

Yes, I'm slightly tipsy. More like pissed as a newt.

I've just had a splendid meal accompanied by splendid drinks at a splendid restaurant with better-than-expected company (it was a work shindig, after all) and I feel compelled to share this with you.

Vij's. Quite possibly the best restaurant in Vancouver. Not the priciest, not the most sumptuous, but the best.

Modern Indian cuisine done with thought and wisdom and artistry and verve and passion. And without pretense. Not a drop.

No reservations taken, but the 90-minute wait was passed happily quaffing pale ales and noshing on endless circulating platters of pakoras and cassava fries.

The genial Vikram Vij circulates and serves and buses and informs and frets over you.

Sweet, sweet, ripe, ripe mango and bitter gourd in a counterpunctual coconut and date sauce.

Perfect lamb tenderloin cooked as perfectly as a wee lamb tenderloin could hope to be cooked. Encrusted with pistachio and Indian spices, and cloaked in a light cream curry.

Pistachio ice cream laced with cardamom, a spice that makes me weep with delight.

And the drinks.

I was conquered by the Dark Army.

Appleton dark rum. Mango juice. Lime juice. Garam masala.

Ohboy. Two please. Right away. Like a real sour whiskey sour, or a mojito, with a dazzling spiciness.

Dear Friend, if you visit I will take you there and we will have a wonderful time.

And so, a grand reason to post a couple of tracks from a recently rediscovered East-Meets-West album, first heard on a fabulous mixtape made a dozen years or so ago by my Dearest Friend and sometimes commentor, Bishakh. Monsoon formed in the early 1980s as a serendipitous fusion of the delightfully evocative voice of Sheila Chandra and the pop sensibilities of an Indophile producer/writer Steve Coe. A beautiful album and a top ten UK hit ('Ever So Lonely') resulted in 1982, but stifling artist-label conflict ensued, the group shattered, and Chandra went on to pursue a successful, if sidestream, solo career.

So listen to the fluidity, clarity, and exotic lustre of these musical dishes.

Pity there are no Dark Armies to accompany them...

Monsoon - Third Eye and Tikka TV
Monsoon - Shakti (The Meaning of Within)
Monsoon - Ever So Lonely

(Buy the one and only Monsoon album here)

And I promise Camera Obscura next. Promise. You are so patient...


Oh Simone said...

Sounds like good eatin'. You've made me hungry.

You're lucky - most Canadians I've met have never had Indian food before. It makes me cry to hear it, sometimes.

unknown said...

You need to blog whilst totally mortal more often my friend.

One line sentences in blogs are a good thing.

Just like RanDom CApiTAlisatIon.

And, jeezo, that night out sounded excellent (like comrade oh simone I'm now rather hungry).

I'd get a plane ticket right now to that culinary magic shop but in the current international climate that's possibly not such a good idea.

You are really building up this Camera Obscura gig review by the way... :)

(but I know you'll live up to it, that's for sure)

Erm, might they do takeaways via FedEx?

FiL said...

Hello, O Simone! Indeed, that's been my finding. Which surprises nme, given the notable Indo-Canadian population. That said, Chinese seems to be the non-Western ethnic cuisine of default, ast least out here in Vancouver.

Dearest Colin, at the time of writing I was having difficulty stringing paragraphs together, so one-liners it had to be. I'm pleased that in the sober light of day they seem to flow in some semblance of intelligible order.

As for Camera Obscura, please get not your hopes up too high. It's just that I promised to tell y'all about it, and I've been derelict in my duty. A promise is a promise.

In that vein, I've not forgotten about the Bleach I promised you. It's just that I found the stylus on the ancient record player I have is shot and I'me having a hard time replacing it. Sigh. But I will prevail, and you will have your Bleach...

Bishakh said...

Rum, lime juice and GARAM MASALA? What the ding dang?! Actually that sounds pretty tasty. As did the rest of your evening. I could do with a couple pakoras right now in fact.

As for Ganesh, if that mouse is supposed to be his mount, how come you never see him riding it? You see Durga atop her tiger, Kartikeya (patron saint of prostitutes and owner of a thousand other names, one of which is apparently mine) riding his peacock, but Ganesh is always sitting down to a nice meal of ras mallai and jilebis - never riding the rat towards victory over the netherworld demons. No wonder he's got that little belly.

And Monsoon...still one of my favorite albums. Sheila Chandra of course went one to scale the dizzy heights of more 'sophisticated' world music mountains but I still love the pure pop pleasure of the synths, sitars and drum machines from that more naive era. Thanks for representin', FiL! Big ups and all that!

Mentok the Mind-taker said...

"please get not your hopes up too high..."

Apparently, a couple of drinks and you start talking like Yoda! ;-)

Joining the chorus, I must say I feel nearly frantic to drive out and try this delicious restaurant.

It's an interesting but true observation about Canadians and Indian food. I've noticed in my own neck of the woods that, while any old greasy chow mein or Greek joint seems able to build a clientele with no effort, East Indian eateries seem to struggle and frequently fail.

I can't explain it but it is a shame and a travesty that demands action.

Here's a question that might lead to a partial explanation: Are curry joints as popular in Scotland as they are in England? I've often noted that my countrymen in all things act more like Scots than English.

unknown said...

Mentok: yes, very popular indeed. In Glasgow we have some of the finest Indian restaurants, I'm pleased (and smug) to say... And I am now SO hungry... :) It's no surprise though, given the composition of Glasgow's population and patterns of immigration. Matthew Taylor was right when he said: 'multi-culturalism is fattening...' :)
I love it. Worth the gym visits.

merz said...

I took a cruise years ago to the Carribean and my favorite drink was dark rum and pineapple juice. I drank way too many but enjoyed it thoroughly. That Dark Army sounds like it would taste good!

Oh Simone said...

FiL, if you're ever in London I'll extend the same general invite and take you to Brick Lane, to prove my point that Glasgow actually *doesn't* have the best curries. I've seen off the Birmingham challenge, now I just need to demonstrate the entire streetful of Indian restaurants in the East End. It's bliss.

merz said...

Carribean = Caribbean, the older I get the worse I spell...

unknown said...

Oh, now, c'mon, everyone knows the best chefs in the best Brick Lane establishments were trained in Glasgow eateries such as the Ashoka... :)

coxon le woof said...

Blogging while under the influence?

How brave, I would never dare. I'd only end up embarrassing myself across the whole wibbly web. It probably wouldn't make any sense and my spelling would be atrocious.

Personal note - don't ever do what Fil did. He was successful, I would not be!

galateaa said...

mmmmm, pakora. and if i weren't hung over, i do believe i'd be rounding up the ingredients for that masala drink. was there really masala IN the drink?

also have to mention that one of my favorite indian places is mother india in glasgow. not sure if the it's the real real thing but i find it delicious.

unknown said...

Mother India!!!!

(bows down in worship)

So, so spot on Galateaa!

It is 4 Real.


A. B. Chairiet said...

Blogging while under the influence...You did lovely, Fil. The writing doesn't seem at all tipsy. Maybe shortened. But still wonderfully detailed!

If I actually knew anything of this type of food, I'm sure I'd be hungry too. :)

I do know alcohol...and rum is a favorite. So is blogging whilst drunk.

I never thought twice about it back in my early days, and did it, at least, three times a week...and got branded for it.

I'll continue to do it, though, until I make such an ass of myself I have to leave Blogger forever.

Which will probably be soon. ;)



Camera Obscura: it's finally posted I see, but just reading "you are so patient" makes me more impatient! :)

I haven't read it yet. Reading these in order for the full effect...

I've been looking forward to it, though, and if I'm ever in Canada, you and I are hitting the rum.

We'll blog tipsy and yes, you can borrow my orange wooly jumpsuit...I'll wear the red Annie dress and we’ll sing Camera Obscura on karaoke. ;)


Great post, as always. :)

~ Ash

FiL said...

Dearest Bishakh, I have wondered about the mousey mount myself, but I have found proof here . Of course maybe that only happened just once before mooshikam shrunk in a freak clothesdryer accident, but kept his title due to local workmen's compensation agreements. There is power in a union!

Dear Mentok, I suspect right you may be, mmmm...

Dearest Colin, can I count on a Mother India trip if ever I get to Glasgow? Can Galateaa come along?? ;)

Dear Merz, if you make it over here, the Dark Armies are on me!

Oh Simone, I worked for over ten years in near London Bridge and Canary Wharf, during which time I visited a couple of Brick Lane emporia. Indeed, I should've visted more and more frequently, but the nature of my work environment made it difficult (part of the reason I emigrated, but that's another story). One was rather nice (recommended by a Pakistani colleague), the other was nowt special. I would gladly take you up on your kind offer to further my education when/if I next visit London!

Dearest Razzle Dazzle Ash, I would highly recommend that you try Indian cuisine. It is truly delightful. And yes, if ever you make it out here, the rum will be waiting and blog we shall in costume!!