Show 215, March 18, 2017: Celebrity Chef Vikram Vij, Vij’s, Vancouver, B.C.

VIkram VijWhen it comes to star chefs and high-profile Food TV personalities in Canada the top of the class is surely Vancouver’s Chef Vikram Vij. He has introduced the joy of Indian flavors to tens of thousands of fortunate Canadians since he debuted the original (no-reservations) 14-seat Vij’s in 1994. The incredibly popular restaurant has since relocated and expanded to 85-seats plus a bar / lounge area.

The no reservations system is designed to be fair to all. Everyone is a VIP and if you get there at the evening opening the line to be seated moves quickly. Once seated the servers offer chai and complimentary appetizers as a welcome to set the stage for the evening’s pleasures. Nice touch…

In December 1994 Vikram married Meeru, who then joined him at the restaurant. “Our cuisine has stood out from others in that we do not serve what is typically expected from an India restaurant. We prefer to stay away from the tandoor oven since it’s already being used in so many other restaurants. Our philosophy behind the food has always been to keep our spices and cooking techniques Indian – from all regions of India – while using meats, seafood and produce that are locally available. To this effect, we change our menu seasonally.”

Last December 10th in Las Vegas Chef Vikram was one of the high-profile celebrity chefs (along with Thomas Keller, Ming Tsai and Curtis Stone) presenting a standout course at The Venetian’s & Palazzo’s annual Ultimo: A Weekend of Excellence. (The “SoCal Restaurant Show” was there observing in the kitchen.) Chef Vij’s dish for Ultimo’s Grand Banquet (a super luxe extravagance) was Marinated Lamb Popsicles with Fenugreek Cream Curry. (The complex sauce slowly simmered for five hours.) The recipe was published in the December 5th issue of Parade Magazine Daily.

We’ll meet the incredible Chef Vikram

 

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Show 215, March 18, 2017: Celebrity Chef Vikram Vij, Vij’s, Vancouver, B.C. Continues

VIkram VijWhen it comes to star chefs and high-profile Food TV personalities in Canada the top of the class is surely Vancouver’s Chef Vikram Vij. He has introduced the joy of Indian flavors to tens of thousands of fortunate Canadians since he debuted the original (no-reservations) 14-seat Vij’s in 1994. The incredibly popular restaurant has since relocated and expanded to 85-seats plus a bar / lounge area.

Vikram was born in 1964 in India and grew up in Amritsar and Bombay. His most vivid childhood memories revolve around food and family. He pursued this further by studying Hotel Management in Salzburg, Austria. After his studies, Vikram continued working at various fine dining restaurants in Austria and, in 1989, moved to Canada to work at the Banff Springs Hotel.

Meeru was born in India but moved to Washington, D.C. at a very young age with her parents. Prior to marrying Vikram and moving to Canada, she worked with various organizations in human rights and international development projects.

“Along with the kitchen staff’s dedication and our love of experimenting, Vij’s blossomed quickly and won its first award from Vancouver Magazine for Best Asian restaurant in March 1995. In September 1996, we moved to a larger location and Meeru took over the kitchen and the recipes for the most part. Vikram focused his efforts on the overall running of the restaurant, the presentation of the food and the wine list. In October 2001, Vikram became a certified Sommelier.”

Vikram’s biography, Vij’s: A Chef’s One-Way Ticket to Canada with Indian Spices in His Suitcase publishes on March 21st.

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Show 126, June 13, 2015: Chef Akasha Richmond, Sambar, Culver City

Akasha RichmondChef Akasha Richmond is one of the pioneers in destination dining in Downtown Culver City with Akasha which she debuted in 2008. Now she has launched her second restaurant in Culver City, Sambar, which is located steps away from Akasha.

It’s inspired by her travels throughout India as well as her affinity for the rich culture and traditions of the country. Sambar showcases the diversity of Indian cuisine with an invigorating array of clean, bright flavors and choices – all inflected with familiar ingredients as interpreted through a California lens.

The concept takes its name from a traditional Indian based vegetable stew that is a staple in most South Indian homes. It was the first Indian dish that Richmond had ever tried many years ago. “I’m enamored by the balance of the very complex yet comforting approach to Indian cooking,” says Richmond.

The menu at Sāmbār will change with the season as the kitchen turns out a selection of spice-driven dishes that focus on local California ingredients including small plates, snacks, and street foods. While the foods of India can be as diverse as the varying states, from the heartier and richer curries of the North, to the rice-based and more tropical fare found in the south, there is a common thread which Richmond has effortlessly captured with the Sāmbār menu emphasizing a balance of sweet, spicy, hot, and salty, dishes such as Sevpuri Chaat, Gunpowder Smashed Potatoes, Truck Stop Goat Curry, Mississippi Masala Wings, Cheese Thali, or Black Quinoa Uttapam–a small fermented pancake.

Chef Akasha Richmond is our guest.

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Show 126, June 13, 2015: Chef Akasha Richmond, Sambar, Culver City Continues…

Akasha RichmondSambar is open for dinner to start with an announcement of lunch to follow. Richmond’s penchant for the lighter foods of the Southern region, as well as nourishing and curative ingredients will stand out at Sāmbār, such as the Pigeon Pea Fritters, Goan Chicken Xacuti, or Lemon Rice, as well as Curries and Vegetables including a Backwater Shrimp Stir-Fry and Punjabi Mama Greens, to name a few.

Exploring new techniques, the ever-evolving menu will showcase Richmond’s culinary prowess and ambition to try inventive dishes while striking a balance with approachable and crowd-pleasing items. “While there will be vegetarian options and we won’t have beef on the menu, we will have goat, lamb, and pork dishes, there will be something for everyone,” says Richmond. Additional entrées will include Tandoori-Style dishes such as a British Raj Chicken, Pistachio Lamp Chops, and Pork Shoulder roasted with vindaloo masala served with naan focaccia.

Think Indian food only pairs with beer? Nonsense! Sāmbār’s resident mixology team will be led by Clare Ward who, together with Richmond’s influence, inspired the cocktail program at Sāmbār. Ward also serves as the lead mixologist at AKASHA, Richmond’s landmark Culver City neighborhood eatery. Spice driven cocktails, housemade bitters, and rare and interesting spirits will be found on the drinks menu including “Last Train to Goa” ̶ a punch made with Arrack and rose syrup, or East Indian Pimms made with fresh curry leaves.

The most popular Spice Trade Cocktail thus far is “The Maharaja.” It’s rye, kummel combier, carrot syrup, beet shrub and lemon juice. It goes down way too easy…

The beverage program also incorporates housemade chai and organic Indian teas. Guests can enjoy cocktails at the bar or take a front-row seat just steps from the kitchen at the chefs’ counter and share Head on Prawns with Mango Powder Marinade and Turmeric Naan, or the Sāmbār Snack Mix and a drink.

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