One of the greatest challenge that I have while working at my place of employment is deciding where we can go for lunch. (Not an answer that I would give in a job interview). The Kitsilano/Fairview boundary is a mecca of flavors and tastes. We have everything from executive style fine dining to casual barbeque joints, authentic Neapolitan pizzerias to mediocre Chinese restaurants that can go out of business any minute. Trying new flavors during my lunch breaks is FAST becoming a hobby of mine. An addiction, even. Wanting to try something completely different, I dragged a co-worker out for Indian. Rangoli is the casual take to Vij’s flagship restaurant of the same name. How does it fare? Read on!
My first attempt to visit this restaurant failed. This place could easily get pack during lunch, a good indication that I should come back. My second, more successful visit, we went early, and we got the last indoor seat in the small restaurant. It was a cold Vancouver day and there were still diners filing up the patio seats. Now that was unbelievable. I’ve never seen Vancouverites braving the cold, dining on Indian food.
The cramp (or cozy) room have very limited seating, and with the high demand for its goods and services, the seats filled up quick. Half the restaurant is actually a market, selling frozen packaged Indian meals for take out. Quite the businessman, Vij is. Not quite the interior designer, however. It’s like dining in front of the frozen foods section in a supermarket. The empty space in front of the coolers took up quite a bit of real estate in the already small room, and more importantly, not generating revenue (ie. filled with tables with paying customer). But again, that’s not my place to judge. Another section is the kitchen itself, where you can peer into and get glimpses of your meal being cooked.
I started off with the Mango Lassi. Basically a mango smoothie, the texture was thick, creamy, and rich. It tasted of fresh mango and quite sweet, a stark contrast to the meal we were about to have.
When I was at Vij’s the last time, I had the legendary Lamb Popsicles, and I remembered it as being divine. I was hoping my main, the Lamb in Cumin and Light Cream Curry, would live up to that. Perhaps I took the word light, a bit lightly. I was hoping to mix some of the delicious sauce to mix with the rice or the naan bread, but the sauce was too watery to be picked up by the rice. In any case, the sauce was flavorful, but I thought it needed more punch. The lamb was perfectly cooked, however.
Don’t know what the salad was doing there, but judging from the theme of the restaurant, it was there to please the Western crowd. This was a bit of a gamble. Yes, you could cater to the local populace, but that might alienate diners looking for a modern Indian dining experience. I just think it’s better to take some risk to be creative and modernize, instead of taking the easy route to dumb things down.
My fellow co-worker had the Lamb, Chickpeas and Potatoes in Yogurt-Date Curry. Surprisingly, it didn’t come with rice, so he’s forced to expend the sauce with the naan. I had a bite of it, and the flavor did pack a bigger punch, just not enough elements to balance off the sauce. The lamb was again, super tender and melted with the sauce.
Service was mediocre. Every waiter seemed to be too busy, and it took a while for them to take our orders. My co-worker asked a question about the menu regarding rice and the waitress just squealed “RICE?!?” like a high school girl. Now that was a major turn-off. What happened to Vij’s front of house charm that were in his main restaurant next door?
Overall, my experience at Rangoli was good, but certainly not great. Fusion food is like how America ported foreign television: they strip the best part about it and replace it with something mundane. You can see some of that happening here. Don’t get me wrong, the parts that were Indian, they did it right, somewhat. However, it is a mere shadow of its flagship restaurant next door.