Last night, I paid a visit to one of the region's newest Indian restaurants.
The upscale Ember Indian Kitchen in Steveston is an Ismaili-owned establishment offering the same type of African-Indian cuisine found at places like Jambo Grill and Simba's Grill in Vancouver.
Situated close to the south arm of the Fraser River, its high ceiling, bright and spacious interior, and inspirational quotes from world-famous personages give it a far more comfortable vibe than some of the Indian eateries in Surrey.
The recent opening of restaurants like Ember and Delhi-6 Indian Bistro on the West Side of Vancouver are a sign that food entrepreneurs of South Asian ancestry are aiming higher in terms of décor and the presentation. But with better ambiance comes higher prices.
While the food at Ember passed the test, I felt the service could have been more efficient.
Anyone enjoying Indian food needs lots of water, and my glass remained empty for much of the meal.
Perhaps that will improve if the proprietors read this article.
That said, the Mumbai street bhel puri—soaked lentil fritters, boiled potatoes, chickpeas, puffed rice, and light sev with onion, cilantro, and tamarind sauce—was as good as any I've ever eaten in the Lower Mainland.
The butter chicken was a bit heavier than what I'm used to at other establishments, including Delhi-6. But it was still exceptionally tender and there was no sauce left in the bowl by the end of the meal.
Lamb biryani is a staple in large parts of the Muslim world—and here, it came loaded with flavour and a large serving of meat.
The naan was crispier than the squishy-soft version I'm used to at Raga Restaurant or Akbar's Own Indian Restaurant on West Broadway in Vancouver.
So is it worth it for a Vancouverite to take the long car ride to Steveston to eat at Ember?
I would respond "yes" if it's combined with a show at Richmond's Gateway Theatre, which is 15-minute drive north via No. 2 Road with a buttonhook onto Gilbert Road.
Ember is also about 15 minutes by car from SilverCity Riverport Cinemas on the southeastern side of Richmond.