Despite an almost overwhelming number of options, there really is a paucity of Indian restaurants serving up tasty and authentic cuisine outside of Vancouver’s suburbs. While establishments offering mediocre palak paneer, daal and aloo gobi are a dime a dozen in the downtown core, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish one from the next and most meals do not inspire a return visit. We were thrilled to discover that Sargam House—tucked away on an unassuming block of Broadway just east of Oak Street—had taken over the old Saravana Bhavan space and revamped both the décor and the menu. With expansive selections drawn from both North and South Indian cuisine, Sargam House has more than your average Indian restaurant on offer and has something to satisfy every palette. We’ve visited the restaurant on a number of occasions since it opened, and each time were impressed with the sumptuous flavours of the dishes and the spice levels that while intense somehow managed not to overpower.
Although Sargam House serves up only vegetarian fare, with so many options and such delectable flavours even the staunchest carnivore will be satisfied. Combining traditional dishes from both North and South Indian cuisines means that Sargam House’s menu is absolutely enormous and includes a generous selection of Dosas – thin lentil and rice crepes stuffed with vegetables – and the more ubiquitous curries and stews served with naan and rice. We began our meal with vegetable samosas which were large both in size and flavour; crispy on the outside and packed with potatoes and peas that were expertly seasoned, the highlight of the dish was the chickpea curry served as a condiment that paired perfectly with the pastry and enhanced its taste. The flavours were so delectable we were inspired to order a chickpea dish – Chana Pindi – as a main. Unlike some curries where the sauce is more abundant than the vegetables, Sargam’s had the ideal consistency and the chickpeas retained their firmness, strongly seasoned with an intense blend of exotic spices. The Eggplant Bhartha was equally as delectable and the mashed vegetable was the perfect topping for the garlic naan which had a crispy exterior that gave way to a chewy, flavourful centre.
For those who find large menus off-putting, Sargam has a number of tasting plates on offer that provide an opportunity to sample a large variety of their scrumptious fare. The traditional Thali meal includes three vegetarian curries along with naan and pualo rice – basmati rice cooked with peas and carrots and flavoured with cardamom and clove – which was outstanding and the highlight of the plate. The Sargam Special includes a number of house specialties including Poori – deep fried puffed bread – Rasam – Sargam’s take on the South Indian soup that was expertly seasoned – and one of the best iterations of Chana Masala that we’ve had the pleasure of consuming. Sargam’s version of this Indian staple was simultaneously spicy and slightly sweet revealing a quite intricate flavour composition.
All of the dishes that we’ve sampled at Sargam House were potent yet harmonious in flavour and we’re already clamouring to return to taste some of the other delicacies on offer. Unlike many Indian restaurants we’ve visited, the food at Sargam is not greasy or heavy; the curries, while decadent, achieve the perfect flavour balance and are not overpowering. Fine dining this is not but the casual, home-style fare tastes like it was made using traditional, family recipes and is of a quality far superior to what you encounter at a typical Indian restaurant.