Last week I was sifting through the local events calendar, attempting to draw inspiration for what to do with my weekend, when I came across a vibrant ad for the annual Indian Summer Festival taking place in downtown Vancouver. This underrated event runs from July 9-18th and brings an array of musicians, artists, and dancers to the streets and venues of the city in an exciting and inter-active multi-arts festival. Very cool!
But what does this festival have to do with Lower Lonsdale? Well..not much. However, the mere existence of the Indian Summer Festival gave me the perfect excuse to celebrate the flavours of India. Now–if you didn’t already know–Lonsdale Avenue is a fantastic place to be if you happen to love Indian food, and everyone seems to have their favourites. My personal go-to is Vaades Indian Restaurant, just west of 3rd and Lonsdale (149 W. 3rd). While I usually order in from Vaades, last week I decided to live a little and check out this little eatery in person.
Nestled between Domino’s and a Korean BBQ, Vaades takes up a small portion of the strip mall’s real estate. It’s narrow, unassuming, and lacks any outdoor seating. In fact, if it weren’t for their effective signage, it would actually be fairly easy to miss. This is not to say that the restaurant is not worth visiting however–quite the opposite! Once inside, you are immediately welcomed by a lovely combination of friendly staff and tasteful decor. From the wooden tables to the warm lamps, it’s one of those places that you can easily imagine whiling away the hours in good company, surrounded by hearty food and full-bodied wine. The downside–no AC. Advice: Pick a table near a fan and pretend you’re in India, taking in the heat and beauty of the southern states.
To start, my date and I ordered the Roasted Tandoori Paneer–a delicious plateful of Indian ricotta cheese, spiced and grilled to perfection. Having never tried this dish before, I was pleasantly surprised by the firm texture and well-balanced flavours that came to life in the roasted cheese. The spice was not overwhelming, and paired perfectly with the accompanying green chutney. The temperature of the paneer was slightly cooler than anticipated, but this didn’t distract from the eating experience. Note: this dish also comes in meat-eater options, which I imagine are just as divine.
For our mains, we opted for the Chicken Coconut Curry ($13) and Baigan (egglpant) Bharta ($12). These two dishes are pretty much polar opposites in terms of flavour. While the coconut curry features braised chicken and potatoes in a soft, creamy curry, the bharta–which Vaades heralds as their exclusive recipe–offers a thicker and more savoury combination of roasted eggplant and veggies. Both dishes were tasty and filling as all heck, especially when paired with some sun dried tomato naan–yum!
One of my favourite things about ordering from Vaades is the $4.95 “make a meal” upgrade. This add-on provides you with a nice medley of rice, naan, and a small veggie dish (usually daal). You can choose from brown or white rice, and when you upgrade your meal in the restaurant you also get a salad–something that I was far too full to consume!
All in, Vaades provides a lovely space to enjoy some hearty and delicious flavours of India. Despite that fact that I’ve been ordering from here for years, I’m still impressed by the array of quality eats on the menu, and have already picked out what I want to order next. There’s free parking, free wifi, and free delivery–and apparently they also cater and host events! It’s a great option for vegetarians and vegans, and just so you know, when they say “mild” spice, it really is mild..hurray for catering to North American palates!
TIP: Check the website for deals of the month. July’s deal features free eats when you order 2 or more entrees!