Have you ever seen silk on the ceiling or chandeliers of Egyptian gemstones? Just one block east of Gastown on Powell is a new escape into an opulent lounge of Indian and French cuisine with an unexpected healthy twist. It has taken 5 years for the owner, Gary Sidhu, to bring his vision to life. Much of that effort went into building relationships with organic and local, when possible, suppliers and the gathering of extravagant décor items.
From the outside, the giant Buddha head and bright turquoise, traditional Rajasthani door may throw you off guard on this block that isn’t particularly known for anything. The hand painted elephants of this 135 year old door are guarding a treasure trove. Step beyond the doors and you’re immediately transported into a tranquil sitting area washed in pastel blue with subtle hints at what’s to come with the subtle gold foil details, silk ceiling and a beautiful floral mural.
Peel back the curtains into the main dining area and it’s another world again. Another giant Buddha head hovers behind the bar and candles dot the tables, shelves and corners. Silk covers the walks, leather covers the seats in the lounge area and everything else is in gold foil or gemstones. The more you look the more there is to see.
With the extravagant show that the décor puts on, it was unexpected that the owner was this modestly dressed, soft spoken but all smiles man. We chatted in the bright waiting area about growing up in India, organic farming, nutrition and how he hasn’t caught a cold in 7 years due to healthy eating.
Gary grew up working on his father’s organic farm in India with his siblings when they were children. He absorbed all of the techniques that his father taught him but it wasn’t until he came to Canada that he realized how important it is to grow organically. One of his first jobs in Canada was working at a non-organic greenhouse tomato farm. He described to me his shock when he learned all the practices. His sentiment could be felt in way he said this single sentence: “nothing came from the soil.” Taking what he learned from his father and wanting to make something good for the world, so comes Silk Lounge with its organic ingredients and whole eating philosophy.
“The main thing I want is to stop unhealthy foods like processed foods.”
Gary described to me the loss of nutrients and other benefits that come from natural foods as they become more processed. Which means a high involvement in sourcing and preparing ingredients in their kitchen. They grind their own spices from seeds. They avoid using white flour and opt for other grains such as barley or millet which is more nutritious. Most impressively they make their own cheese in-house with milk from local and organic Avalon Dairy.
I am convinced that organic food is more healthy but sometimes I wonder just how much of a difference does it make in the taste department. I got my answer when their paneer cheese blew me away. I’ve never really liked paneer. I’ve always found the texture strange and dry and the taste pretty bland on its own. Silk Lounge’s paneer is on another level and was my favorite dish of the night. I’m convinced this is how paneer should be and everything I’ve had before were imitations. You should know it’s not the blinding of healthy food talks. I ate the food before I chatted with Gary and evaluated the taste prior without knowing the story.
At the table we filled our bellies with appetizers and cocktails. Mushrooms with a gingery kick and steak bites with very fragrant peppercorn.
If a hot chili kick is more your game, the shrimp is dressed to spicy perfection.
If you don’t like spice then there is the basil chicken. Locally raised and free-range.
For dessert we wrapped up with a completely house-made cheesecake with mango and caramel sauce.
There is a certain joy in this restaurant amidst the shimmering decor. Their floor manager in training Baz, pictured in the candid above, lights up when you ask him about his favorites. The owner fights through language barriers to share his passion for whole and organic foods. They shared a moment when Baz was telling me about how much work has been put into the ingredient sourcing and Gary gave Baz appreciation for his dedication to the front of house.
I’m definitely going to visit this hidden gem again. In all dimensions from food to service to atmosphere, there’s something special going on here.
132 Powell St, Vancouver, BC