February 10, 2010 | | Comments 35

Mezbaan Fine Indian Fusion on Kingsway and Melbourne, Vancouver

To tell the truth, I had been barely able to hold things together the past two weeks. I had been juggling way too many balls at the same time that it is only a matter of time it is all going to come crashing down on me. Already I had been dropping a few balls here and there.

So last Friday, Suanne was asking me if I had decided where to go for our Friday night out. I told her I’ll figure out something during the day. I didn’t.

I completely forgot about it. I did not realize it was already past 4PM when Suanne called me on my cell telling me she’s waiting for me to meet up for dinner. That was when I decided enough is enough. I just shoot off the last email. Work can wait till next Monday.

My mind was scrambling on where to go. Suanne leaves the choice of the places to me — all the time. She had always done that ever since we met. It is like my responsibility to bring her to new places to eat. She likes that and I like my role too.

Do you feel this way I feel? When I am not looking for a place to eat, I could spot a million places while driving. I would tell Suanne “let’s go there next time. let’s go here next time”. But when I actually needed to find a place to eat, I can’t seems to see any at all.

So without a place in mind, I decided to drive along Kingsway in the direction to downtown. I did not have to drive far. It was just right after Boundary that I spotted one of the “let’s go there next time” places. Frankly, I had not even remembered the name of the restaurant … but I did remember that they have a “Fine Indian Fusion” words on the signboard.

I had been thinking a lot of what Michelle was saying during the 12B dinner that there is no really great Indian restaurants in Vancouver. Based on what she said, I was intent on finding out more about Indian food. No, I really did not think that such an unknown restaurant like Mezbaan would fit the bill of a great Indian restaurant at all. But we did find something new … something unique in this restaurant that makes me want to come back again.

There was no customer in Mezbaan when we walked in shortly after 5PM. As a matter of fact, there was only one other customer the whole night we were there.

The decor was painted in warm orange color. Suanne said she noticed a lot of Indian restaurants are painted in this color. Well, I thought it is because it is the colour of the national flag on India. I made that answer up but I do sound convincing, don’t I? :-)

The Chef served us. I know he is the chef because I had just read on the newspaper reviews by the entrance about the restaurant. The Chef’s name is TJ and the newspaper clipping said that Mezbaan is North Indian and that Chef TJ grinds his own masala spice. They don’t use branded, pre-made spices in their cooking. I thought it was a good thing to call out.

Chef TJ was an obliging man but I think he was kind of suspicious and uncomfortable with us. We were asking way too many questions and I had a big camera in my hands and Suanne has a pen in hers, catching every word he was saying onto her notebook. Chef TJ did not ask what we were doing but am sure that was the question in his mind.

Apparently, Mezbaan has been in operation for 11 months already. The word Mezbaan means “unique host” in the Urdu language.

We were served Papadams. It was small and rolled into a cone. I wished it is of the larger pieces that we find else where. I could eat tons of this. Too little here.

Are these expensive? If not, they should serve this in stacks for the customer like restaurants do with bread.

The papadams were served with the usual tamarind sauce as a dip. Sour and spicy is how the sauce tasted. I prefer eating this plain sans sauce.

We started with Prawn Pakoras ($9) as appetizers. This was nice. The prawns were a bit on the small side.

It was cooked in a crispy seasoned batter. The batter is very thin, not as crispy as we expected. Pakoras usually are heavy in batter but not this one. Even though we did not expect it to look like this, we like it.

Despite the size of the prawns, the deshelled prawn was springy. It tasted good.

We did not know what to get for the mains and asked Chef TJ what he thinks is the best in the kitchen today. Without hesitation, he said we should try his … Lamb Methi. I did not ask but I think the word Methi is the name of a spice, a herb or something.

The Lamb Methi is $13. Chef TJ said it is big enough to share if we add on rice or naan to go with it. It sure was! We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the serving. Some other places would serve curries in small copper bowls but here it’s bigger than that.

It is boneless lamb cooked with creamy onion sauce with a touch of fenugreek which I think is equivalent to Methi. For once, we ask for medium spicy this time.

Mezbaan had a few types of bread on their menu. They also have a Bread Basket ($3.75) which consists of 3 types of bread. We got that — wanted variety to taste. The three types of bread are plain naan, garlic & basil naan and Lechhedar Paratha.

The Lechhedar Paratha is a multi layered flaky whole wheat bread with butter – lightly crispy outside. It is very much like Roti Canai but without the grease. Suanne likes the Paratha but I was not too excited over it.

Instead I thought that their naan is super. It is so pillowy soft to the touch too. Between the plain and the garlic+basil, I like the flavoured one better. There were lots of flavour with that garlic and basil.

We enjoyed this very much. There were lots of gravy which was very rich in spices and creamy. Between Suanne and I, we did not care … we double-dipped into the curry. Errr … got a question for you … do you find it gross doing it with your significant other? LOL!

That was all we had. Actually it was very filling because of all the bread too.

The bill came to just over $25 before tips. I thought it was quite cheap considering that we often spend more than that for our Friday night out.

Oh … I was telling you earlier about that unique thingy that they have on the menu. There are two items that require you to pre-order 24 hours in advance. Chef TJ told me that these two very traditional menu items are ONLY served in Mezbaan and that we should try it.

The thing is it serves 6-8 people and the price is based on Market price. It is normally about $60-$80 which works out to be about $10 per person. The two items are:

  • Tandoori Raan - whole lamb leg marinated in yogurt, garlic, ginger and special Indian herbs. Cooked in Tandoori and served on a platter.
  • MurghMusallum - Whole chicken stuffed with minced and rice, grilled in Tandoori and cooked in cashew sauce.

Suanne and I wanted so much to try this but we need people to join us. Anyone want to do this with us? I was thinking of a Saturday dinner within the next 2-3 Saturdays. Let me know by way of email or comment. We only need a minimum of six people but if we can get 12, we can order BOTH of their specials. I promise you that I will not double dip into the curry if you join us. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Below is their takeout menu. We wanted to also try their signature fusion dishes too … like Mexican Chicken and Mango Chicken.

Mezbaan on Urbanspoon

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  1. jonnek says:

    I noticed they also have lunch buffet. It will be worthwhile to try that first and sample their dishes.

  2. Marike says:

    Depending on the time, I would be interested to try!

    And it’s not gross to double dip with your SO. Think about all those family dinners where everyone grabs food with their own chopsticks!

  3. GourmetBride says:

    I’ve been to there lunch buffet and it’s actually pretty good. Not a lot of selection but for $7.95, it’s worth it.

  4. bill says:

    I don’t think double dipping in food with your significant other is a no no. Wife and I always do it. I wish I could be a part of the co-op eating at this place. If only Tx was close by.

  5. LotusRapper says:

    “there is no really great Indian restaurants in Vancouver ….”

    Whoa !! Michelle *needs* to go to the following:

    - Vij’s
    - Maurya
    - Red Fort
    - Ashiana
    - House of Dosas

    Funny I stumbled upon Mezbaan in December and stopped in for the buffet lunch. While the selection is on the slim side, the food is quite good and cooked delicately with good-quality ingredients, and without an over-zealous hand on the salt (which I find a prevalent problem with too many local Indian restaurants). The $8 price isn’t bad, but I like the small intimate space where I was able to enjoy a nice read with my lunch despite the place almost full with customers.

    A repeat for me.

    Glad you found them :-D

  6. Nancy says:

    I’ll go and convince hubs. We have Olympic tickets for Sat 27th and that would be the only Saturday night we would not be able to make it.

    As for another place to try…For price point and freshness, we discovered a tiny hole in the wall on Fraser Street called Al Watan. It is located by the South Hill Library and by Dockers Restaurant. They are an Indian/Pakastani and Halal restaurant. They speciality is Tandoori. Yummy! Prices are cheap but servings are typical of other restaurants. They have the cheapest Indian tea I’ve seen but don’t ask for chai because this is not it.

    MMMM…Boy am I craving some good Indian food now!

  7. Luckystrikeed says:

    As always Ben and Suanne……Laurene and myself are always in on any adventures you are up for. I’m sure you can count Tyler in too !!!
    Let me know potential dates and hope they work for us too.

  8. ito says:

    “Whoa !! Michelle *needs* to go to the following:

    - Vij’s
    - Maurya
    - Red Fort
    - Ashiana
    - House of Dosas”

    despite this list, i’m definitely with michelle on this one.
    Vij’s is a good resto, but it’s very much fusion (and so over-hyped)
    house of dosas is great, but obviously more on the sri lankan / south indian styles.

    he rest of that list is decent, but i’d have to agree that i have yet to find “really great” indian in vancouver.

    btw, just discovered this site, and am loving it.

  9. Katie says:

    Double dipping with your significant other is not gross – kissing probably transfers more germs! The curry looks really nice. I like sharing meals (sometimes!) because it’s romantic.

  10. trisha says:

    i’ve never seen prawn pakoras but they look good. papadam is not expensive and i agree – they should give more!

    ok, i looked through your archives and you need to visit two places. sitar in gastown is the best indian i’ve had. the service leaves a little to be desired – not rude, just indifferent. also, Tandoori King at the south end of fraser street.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Trisha: I remember that there are two Tandoori Kings on Fraser. I can’t remember the story but there was a tussle over who is the original Tandoori King. Anyone knows?
      Ben

      • trisha says:

        really? i didn’t know that! the one i am referring to is at 8017 fraser street and i think that’s the ‘real’ one because it’s been there forever. food is great.

  11. LotusRapper says:

    There’s Tandoori King on Fraser at 64th. Then there’s Tandoori Kitchen on 65th around the corner from Fraser.

    There are no two “Tandoori Kings”.

  12. egirlwonder says:

    Being new to GVRD we haven’t tried too many Indian places yet, but Cafe Mumbai on Broadway was a very pleasant experience. They’re an a la carte place only – the kebbab platter was particularly good! http://www.cafemumbai.ca/

  13. Mia says:

    “Michelle was saying during the 12B dinner that there is no really great Indian restaurants in Vancouver.”

    That’s just wrong. There is a sizable Indian population within Vancouver and there is good Indian food to be found. Apart from the hyped Vij’s, try those hole in the wall small Indian restaurants you come across.

    Additionally it’s technically not in Vancouver but cross a bridge or two into Surrey and there are amazing Indian restaurants:

    Mahek Restaurant
    9470 120 St.

    Desi Junction

    Bengali Fish & Curry

    Just to name a few. There are plenty more restaurants, come out here and explore.

    Indian restaurants from the diaspora like Africa or the Carribean are worth checking out as well. These tend to offer different cuisine from the dominant North Indian cuisine.

  14. Michelle says:

    Hi Ben,
    I’d be game to join the dinner party. I love lamb raan and actually have had some success making it myself. I’ve tasted very good versions on my travels through India….head to Amritsar for the best food at the local dhabas. And the seafood at Trishna in Mumbai will blow you away. I’ve never tried a murgh musallum but it sounds delicious. As for Indian restaurants in Vancouver, sorry to sound so down on them. I’ve tried all the ones mentioned by Lotuswrapper, plus a host of other ones. My contention is that many of the curries at these places end up tasting the same as they tend to use the same base. Vij’s is probably the most creative and does use a good array of Indian spices to vary his dishes. Certainly, he is good at showcasing what variety there is to Indian food. Someone just recommended me to try an authentic biryani place in Surrey….I will get the name for you. I’ve also heard recently that Mumbai Masala in North Vancouver is good.
    PS. Last night Arvind and I tried the 7 flavours of beef at Song Huong…quite delicous!!…and tonight, we are heading to Starry Night for dinner…:-).

    • LotusRapper says:

      Michelle – you may find Saravanaa Bhavan a refreshing change if you haven’t already. South Indian vegetarian fare. W. Broadway between Oak and Laurel:

      http://www.saravanaabhavan.ca/

      Ben’s been there and did a write up:

      http://chowtimes.com/2008/12/05/saravanaa-bhavan-on-broadway-vancouver/

      • Michelle says:

        I was quite excited when Saravanaa Bhavan first opened up and I’ve been there several times. It’s been a bit of a hit and miss with me. The dosas tend to become a soggy quite fast. I think they need to made a bit crisper. I’ve also tried Chutney Villa and been disappointed. There was a place on 10th Ave and Kingway that I tried a few years back that I thought was quite good…I’m not sure if it’s still there.

        • Ben says:

          He he he … I thought need to come to the defense of Michelle on the account of what I had written. You know, sometimes it is hard to put into proper context what I meant. When I said that “Michelle was saying during the 12B dinner that there is no really great Indian restaurants in Vancouver”, I think I should have clarified that at no time did Michelle say that there are no good Indian restaurants. During the dinner at 12B, we were talking about GREAT Indian restaurants around the world that we know of. Michelle had traveled extensively around the world in search of culinary delights and that simply amazes me. It is just that Vancouver is not known for its GREAT Indian cuisine … not that they are not any good. I am thick skinned and can take the to-and-fro … but somehow I don’t know if Michelle had been put into a defensive position by what I wrote (without putting words into proper context). LOL!

  15. Michelle says:

    I certainly haven’t had a chance to explore the vast opportunity of Indian restaurants in Surrey and Mia’s list will be on my “next visit” list.

  16. keev says:

    Indian food; similar to Chinese food is very regional based. Depending on where you live and your social status, Indian food can be quite different. I agree with Michelle that there are better Indian food in London, England vs Vancouver.

    Southern Indian food is still relatively new in Vancouver scene. I think Nooru Mahal on Fraser was one of the earlier places i can remember serving Dosas back in the mid 90′s. Saravan Bhagavana and House of Dosas are both hit and miss.

    IMHO, a good percentage of Indian families in BC eat at home. The North American Indian food is relatively easy to prepare. Pretty sure if you’ve traveled throughout India you’ll soon discover the depth and flavors of real Indian food.

  17. dawn says:

    We went here a while back for the lunch buffet and I have to say the food was DANGEROUSLY cold…I was actually afraid after I left. I thought to myself, “I have taken food safety…what was I thinking, I should have left after the first few bites.”

    We mentioned it to the owner and he was nice enough, but I don’t think anything happened to fix the problem.

    Sadly enough the food was tasty, but we will not return.

  18. dawn says:

    It was the entire lunch buffet…from the butter chicken to the samosas and rice. That was the scary part, everything that was supposed to be hot was very cold.

    • Ben says:

      That’s bad, Dawn. Thanks for letting us know this. Suanne, who is also trained in food safety, echos the same danger sentiments too. It does not take much effort to keep the buffet warm within safe limits. I just don’t understand why Mezbaan did not do so.

  19. Abby says:

    you should try Saffron in Burnaby near metrotown, they have GREAT indian food! the butter chicken and butter prawns are outstanding!
    speaking of places nearby, you should try Burbble world, it’s goot great bubble tea, but the food is great to. try their salty peppery chicken. mmm mmm! it’s right next to saffron by the way.

    oh, and samosa garden, just past boundary across that huge telus building. AWESOME lunch buffet!

    • Ben says:

      Hi Abby: Totally agree. We love Saffron too. Our office mates goes there a lot. We went there so many times that we stopped going. Too much of the good thing! As for Samosa Garden, they WERE good. I find the place a lot different nowadays. The food was just unexciting, unlike Saffron’s. I don’t know but I see the place looking old.
      Ben

  20. Sal Merlo says:

    I went to this place first time and it is great, ask for spice because medium is not that spicy – fresh, good vegetables high quality food

    http://dinehere.ca/vancouver/golden-kitchen

  21. James says:

    Thanks for info Ben!

    I am going to be in Burnaby within a few blocks from there this afternoon and was in the mood for some tasty Indian food..With so many in the area, I wanted to try a new place but not go in blind!

    • Ben says:

      Hi James: You do travel all around Metro Vancouver don’t you? There are a lot of good food in that section of Kingsway. I must say that Mezbaan is inconsistent. Some days are good. Have you tried Bo’s Laksa before? it is nearby. If not, you must. Ben

  22. James says:

    I tend to go off the beaten path when it comes to eating..that’s why I like food carts so much..They’re on the beaten path but doing something that’s not in this city :)

    Mezbaan was pretty good. I’m not going to go with the argument about food in India vs Indian food here. I’ve had that debate about Hong Kong’s street food vs ours and it’s quite pointless IMO.

    The people were genuinely kind, that struck me right away. Nan was nicely prepared, not too crispy or doughy..just right! The rest of the meal was on par with many establishments charging alot more money.
    With that in mind, I would recommend it if you’re around Metrotown/Joyce and want a decent Indian meal on a budget.

    Northern Indian food is the most prevalent in Vancouver hands down and in that category I’ll cast 2 votes.

    Tandoori Kitchen on 64th. Great food, awesome breads and spice. Be forewarned on delivery from these guys. The last couple times I ordered they charged me and extra 12 dollars for nothing! I didn’t notice it the 1st time until after we finished eating (too hungry). The next time I checked the bill at the door and got into an argument with the driver about the ‘mystery charge’. I had a copy of the menu and added it all up+tax and basically told him that he had to fix it cause that’s where his tip was coming from. It wasn’t worth the BS (I don’t like getting into arguments with people..esp when I just wanna eat). Dine in maybe, delivery..never again!

    Mirchi. Granville and 64th-ish. Mirchi(Spicy in Hindi) is a fantastic little gem on the Marpole strip. The food and service are fantastic (ive read of people getting their nan late in the meal(a big no no for me) but that was on WHINEHERE and has never happened to me. Be sure to check them out, it feels like you’re over at a friend’s house while you’re there!

    Haven’t tried Bo’s Laksa and now you’ve got me planning my dinner spot next time I’m in Burnaby!

  23. Hill Mere says:

    Hello

    I was just here the other day and had the lunch buffet, it was real good, and their naan bread was great, so flaky.

    I asked about their food and he said they just hired a new cook directly from India.

    for $10 taxes in this is a great deal

    and the dinner buffet is about $13 taxes in he said there are more items and they have lamb or other specialty curries for dinner

    But be sure to have the naan, it comes with the buffet !!

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