The city is still abuzz from last week’s announcement that the culinary mastermind behind Vancouver BC’s acclaimed Indian restaurant Vij’s will open a new restaurant in South Lake Union this fall.
Foodies have been raving about Vij’s for years, gushing over the flavorful curries and imaginative fare. The New York Times went so far as to say it was “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.” Just last week, travel website Vacay.ca named Vij’s the number one restaurant in Canada.
So out of all the places they could have set up a new sister restaurant, why did Vij’s co-owner Meeru Dhalwala and her business partner Oguz Istif decide on South Lake Union for its new eatery, Shanik?
Dhalwala says it’s all about being part of a creation story. She and her husband, Vij’s co-owner Vikram Vij, have always liked being part of something new, rather than joining something that already exists. In fact, when they first looked for a site for Vij’s, they deliberately selected space in a neighborhood that was not fully developed.
“We thought it was a form of freedom to create something new,” she said. “We thought ‘this is a challenge’.”
That’s why now they are heading to South Lake Union.
“I just feel like ‘Wow, I get to be part of creating a vibe in a place that is in the process of being made.’ If you go to Ballard, it’s done. I can’t join the running,” she said. “This is me being able to be part of creating something. There’s a role for me here.”
Dhalwala said she was also attracted to South Lake Union neighborhood because of its sustainable development and commitment to the environment.
“Being in a LEED Gold-certified building was such a big pull for me,” she said.
Shanik is scheduled to open in November at the northeast corner of Republican and Terry. It will be open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday. While Dhalwala describes South Granville hotspot Vij’s as “dark and sexy with a deep voice,” Shanik will be less formal and inspired by a blend of Dhalwala’s experiences.
“It will be a combination of everything I’ve done for 17 years,” she said. “I’ll take what I like about Vij’s and what I like about our other restaurant, Rangoli, and then take it to the next step.”
At Shanik’s, there will be a certain “everyone’s equal” ambiance to it – all wine bottles will cost the same price, and there won’t be any reservations.
The menu, which will boast new signature dishes, will be about 40 percent vegetarian. Like Vij’s, the offerings will likely change seasonally based on what’s locally available. Dhalwala doesn’t stick to any single regional cuisine, and is constantly experimenting with techniques, spices and ingredients.
“I call it ‘my Indian food’ because I don’t follow any particular style. This is seriously me closing my eyes and literally smelling things and coming up with my own recipes based on what my hands can do. I love it,” she said.