VANCOUVER, B.C.: Vij’s Rangoli

In the mood for a change of scene, I decided to head to Vancouver, B.C., and have lunch at a place I’d been hearing about for a couple of years. I didn’t make it to the place I was seeking, but stumbled upon another establishment that made me glad I’d missed my original mark.

Walking around the city’s Granville area in search of a particular Chinese restaurant, my nose caught the smell of curry. Heading down 11th Avenue east of Granville Blvd., I found the source of the scent: a little place called Rangoli.

Opened in the autumn 1994 with the premise that there is no such thing as a typical Indian curry, Rangoli has been showcasing “[T]he beauty and taste of different Indian spices in combination with locally available ingredients,” according to its website. The establishment makes its own yogurt and cheeses, roasts and grinds all of its spices, and makes its own pure ghee, a clarified butter used as a cooking oil in India.

Entering the lobby, I noticed several cold cases with packaged dinners that patrons could enjoy at home. The hostess asked if I was alone or expecting someone to join me, then directed me to sit anywhere I’d like.

tamarind chicken at Vij's Rangoli, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Tamarind and yogurt-marinated chicken

While there were several small tables inside, the weather was perfect for outdoor dining and, because Rangoli is on the north side of the building, the sun did not beat down directly on it, making it all the more comfortable. I chose a seat under a glass canopy and was greeted quickly by a server who brought menus and a carafe of water.

Two gentlemen beside me were deeply engaged in a conversation that was punctuated by long pauses as they tucked into and savored the food in front on them, so I asked what they were enjoying. They said it was the tamarind chicken, which they strongly recommended.

I ordered as they suggested, along with a glass of falanghina, a white grape varietal from Italy which perfectly complemented the chicken that had been marinated in tamarind and house-make yoghurt. My main dish was also served with sprouts salad, rice and naan, the Indian frybread.

The grilled chicken had the smokiness of the grill but remained moist and was not overcooked. The flavor of the tamarind was distinct but delicate, with the side dishes providing a bit of contrast. The curry sauce included for dipping was pungent but was very mild in flavor.

Not one who is afraid of spiciness, on my next visit I may follow the lead of one of Rangoli’s Indian guests who asked, “What is the spiciest thing on the menu?” The response was the lamb in cumin with mustard seed curry, which I had considered before opting for the chicken.

Lest one be concerned about a dish being too spicy for their particular palate, Rangoli offers a selection of cooling yoghurt drinks called lassi as well as a selection of juices and a ginger-lemon drink.

While no one can make a fair assessment of a restaurant based on a single experience, whether good or bad, my sole visit to Rangoli was enough to convince me to return and continue working my way down the menu. In fact, I can hardly wait!

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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