Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala expanded their empire with Shanik, but it failed after 2½ years, as their relationship was ending. Now, they’re business partners and friends.
MEERU DHALWALA faced plenty of highs and lows when she opened Shanik restaurant in Seattle in 2012. Expectations were extravagant for the restaurant, the first U.S. outpost from the owners of Vij’s Indian restaurant and its sister businesses in Vancouver, B.C.
Shanik was an early landmark in now-booming South Lake Union. Dhalwala learned the hard way that, among other issues, neighborhood tech workers wanted quick casual food rather than cooked-to-order creations. The restaurant stayed open for 2½ years, making a mark with Dhalwala’s vivacious presence, the cups of chai that greeted diners (a signature at the original Vij’s), and brilliantly flavored chutneys and curries, as well as a commitment to environmental sustainability.
Now, with two recent books, Dhalwala and Vikram Vij talk for the first time about the personal roller-coaster that accompanied the challenges of their restaurant realm. As Dhalwala made her weekly commute between B.C. and Seattle, she also was working through the breakup of the couple’s 17-year marriage. She and Vij had to navigate new partnerships in business and parenting, retaining bonds they say will always tie them together.
Their cookbooks — “Vij’s Indian” (Penguin, $28) is their third — are like journals for the major stages of their lives, Dhalwala says. Along with stories of their recent years, the recipes in their latest cookbook “blur the distinction between work and home,” offering dishes that can be cooked at both places — refreshing salads, intriguing curries and soothingly familiar favorites.
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In a separate memoir, “Vij” (Penguin, $32), Vij wrote about how the couple met, in a match suggested by their mothers. Dhalwala flew from Washington, D.C., to spend five days with him in Vancouver, hanging out at his first “dingy little diner” and taking in his ambitious plans for the future. Dhalwala headed back to the airport thinking they would try a long-distance relationship. Vij, struck by her confidence and passion, and eager to move forward with his career, told her instead, “I wanted to give her the rest of my life, right now, or end it.”
In the busy years that followed, Vij’s became a sensation, ranked as…