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12th Street spices up: Indian restaurant replaces 14-year-old Chinese eatery

A peek inside Vada Pav Mirchi, which went from being a takeout spot to a 50-seater dine-in in less than six months.

This might be good news or bad, depending on whether you like Indian or Chinese food better — a new Indian restaurant has replaced the longstanding Chinese restaurant Spring Garden on 12th Street.

On June 20, the team at the 14-year-old Spring Garden Chinese Seafood announced its permanent closure, on Facebook. “We have sold the restaurant. New Westminster will soon enjoy a new restaurant,” they wrote. 

“We are happy for a change, in good health and will take a well-earned break before considering what our next adventure will be,” they added.

Following this announcement, there was little time for New Westies to guess what business would fill the void left by Spring Garden.

In less than a month of the seafood spot closing its doors, the Indian restaurant Vada Pav Mirchi opened them wide again — inviting customers into a revamped space that bears little resemblance to what it used to be.  

The exterior of the building has been painted a bright orange and sports an awning that reads: "100% vegetarian"; the interiors have been decked out with custom-made wooden furniture; and the walls splashed with colourful rangoli (traditional decorative patterns) and artworks depicting the saints and freedom fighters from Maharashtra — a state in the Western peninsula of India and home to the centre of Bollywood industry, Mumbai.

The spruced-up spot opened to the public on Thursday, July 13, calling itself “Canada’s first authentic Maharashtrian restaurant.”

For Geeta Batule and her daughter Vayuga Batule, who run the business together, it’s a major step up from the small shared kitchen that they previously ran on Fifth Avenue in the Brow of the Hil.

In fact, it’s “much better” than what they had ever dreamed of, said Geeta.

Serving home food 

At the eatery, customers can order a wide variety of traditional Maharashtrian offerings including the street food that the restaurant is named after, vada pav — a deep-fried spicy potato patty sandwiched between buttered buns and drizzled with garlic chutney. 

The menu includes items that are rarely served in other Indian restaurants — like thalipeeth, a multigrain flatbread; puran poli, a flatbread made with a filling that’s a mix of lentils, jaggery and ground spices; sabudana khichdi, a meal made with tapioca pearls, boiled potatoes, roasted peanuts and spices; and bhakri, a gluten-free bread made with millet, among others. 

The selection is similar to what the mother-daughter duo previously offered at their "small and cramped" takeout place. Now, with a bigger kitchen, an expanded team and a place for customers to dine in, they are able to serve all the same items "hot off the fire."

This makes the whole experience around the food better, said Vayuga, adding that packing crunchy patties and ghee-laden breads in takeout boxes often affected their freshness. 

Ever since the launch, they have had both new and old customers flocking in, she added.

“One of them even cried right here at the restaurant … he said that it felt like he was eating his mom’s food,” said Vayuga.  

“And that’s the difference between this place and every other place … my mom's not a chef," added her brother, Gavikant Batule, who manages the restaurant's operations.

"She's a mom. I have eaten the food that’s served here all my life. And I eat it even now. My whole family eats here. All my friends eat here,” he said.  

“So, it's not like we make a different food for the public and something different for us."

"It’s literally the same” — fresh, nutritious and made with love. 

Vada Pav Mirchi is located at 832 12th St.