100 Favorite Restaurants: Uncorking the Possibilities

  • Karen Cakebread

Wine and Indian food are just beginning their courtship, and Vikram Vij, a 44-year-old native of Mumbai and owner of Vij’s, an Indian restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, is doing his part to bring the two together. “It’s like going on a date and just having fun,” he says. “That’s all that matters.”

He says that the stumbling block in pairing wine with Indian food is history, or rather, the lack thereof. “Indian food has never been enjoyed with wine in India, so culturally, there has never been a benchmark,” Vij explains. “So I can create my own benchmark, because there are no guidelines to follow. I can be an artist.”

Vij, a chef who also is a certified sommelier, developed his restaurant’s wine list while considering the many ingredients at play in a typical Indian dish, which might include cumin, coriander, chili, and tomato. Wines with heavy-handed tannins might be unsuitable, says Vij, but old-world whites can work well, for they can be complex without masking the flavors of the food.

One old-world winemaker, Johannes Selbach of Weingut Selbach-Oster in Zeltingen, Germany, says Vij’s “may well be the best Indian food outside India. I could eat up and down the menu without ever being bored. Plus, they know and appreciate wine—a rare treat in this genre.” Selbach’s favorite entrée is the lamb popsicles, which are marinated in white wine and served in fenugreek cream curry with potatoes and wilted spinach. For that dish, Vij suggests one of those old-world whites, or a Grenache Noir.

Vij’s, Vancouver, British Columbia, 604.736.6664, www.vijs.ca

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