Diversity was one of the most facinating things about Vancouver BC (when I visited last year) that caught my attention. With the snobbery of someone who lives in the shadow of NYC, I never thought that I would be impressed by diversity, somewhere else. Vancouver, however does it differently. It is a much smaller town and its diverse heritage is pretty much built into its fabric and ambience. The street signs such as this one for Punjabi Market, actually feature the script of the community it represents. You will see similar signs across other neighborhood, such as their vibrant and large Chinatown.
So, visiting Punjabi village we went. I will warn you that if you are expecting something like Jackson Heights, you will be disappointed. This ethnic neighbourhood is significant smaller. It is possibly a distance of about 2 to 3 blocks and has a collection of food markets, clothing stores and restaurants.
It is however filled with a lot of good character and a select number of eateries at least one of which, I can vouch for.
We settled for the restaurant that appeared the busiest called All India Sweets and Restaurant, and yes as the name suggests, they certainly do have a good assortment of Indian sweets. They also keep Indian style tea, available in carafes to enjoy. This is very smart because, if you like your tea and have a sweet tooth like me, chances are you will try some of their wares to pair with the tea. A note on the tea, while it was avaialble for the taking was seriously good, and this I will say is from a tea snob like me. They have an affordble and interesting buffet, but their menu seemed more interesting by far.
They had an authentic assortment of sweets and savories and some of the best tea that they had available in carafes. I think if they were closer we would have stopped there frequently just for tea, dessert and samosas. The later by the way, was flakey, hot and flavorful.
We ordered a bunch of chats, their papri chat was especially good, made with fresh and crisp tasting papris which essentially tasted like home. The dosa which we ordered at the kids insistence what interesting. Well, I say this because while the sambhar tasted nothing like the real deal, the lentils that came with it was very good and flavorful in their own right. Just goes to show, food may not often be authentic but still taste pretty good. The milder coconut chutney tasted more like a yogurt raita howevr met the approval of the younger customers who dunked their dosas into this dip with glee.
The highlight of our meal were their Channa Bhaturas, for which I had high expectations and they did not disappoint. The channa was soft with fresh spice notes, the bhatura was freshly fried with the distinct tang of fermenet dough. All of this was accompnied with red onions spashed with lemon juice lightly dusted with chaat masala. Just heavenly. It is one of the best versions of this dish, I have savored outside of India.
All Indian Sweets and Restaurant
6507 Main St Vancouver, BC V5X 3H1 Neighbourhoods: Sunset, Punjabi Market (604) 327-0891