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New modern Indian restaurant inspired by 'playfulness and divine drama' opens in Vancouver

"It’s a place where guests can unwind, relax, and enjoy a memorable meal," describes half of the powerhouse duo behind the new restaurant.
Lila is a new restaurant on Vancouver's Main Street launching this week. Meeru Dhalwala (left) and Shira Blustein have teamed up for this new concept focused on modern, sustainable Indian cuisine.

A team of acclaimed Vancouver hospitality pros have joined forces to open an exciting new community-driven modern Indian restaurant on Main Street.

Shira Blustein (The Acorn) and Meeru Dhalwala (Vij's) have softly launched Lila in the former Arbor space at 3941 Main St, with the official opening set for Thursday, May 23.

The Arbor, a casual plant-focused sibling to nearby The Acorn, shut its doors at the end of April after a 7.5-year run. 

The Lila crew immediately set to work to transform the location for the new concept. 

"We always loved the Arbor space and its unique charm," Blustein tells V.I.A. in an email interview. "When the opportunity arose to reinvent it, we were thrilled.

"I love how the space feels both intimate and expansive, with the garden patio offering a serene escape right in the heart of the city," she adds. "It’s the perfect setting for Lila’s cozy, inviting atmosphere."

The "secret back patio" also plays a key role in Lila's renovated interior, which features dark, rich tones and texture.

"We added lush greenery that makes it feel as though the garden patio is extending through the dining room," says Blustein. 

Also of note is Lila's new hand-painted mural, done by Blustein's partner Scott Lewis (with an assist from the couple's kids). 

What to expect on the menu at Lila

Lila's concept is rooted in its name, which is Sanskrit for playfulness and divine drama, explains Blustein, who adds that definition was "a guiding theme and inspiration" for the new restaurant. 

The menu features dishes that represent modern, sustainable Indian fare using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. Smaller share plates and larger dishes allow guests to try many items and also experience the communal nature of dining. 

"It’s a place where guests can unwind, relax, and enjoy a memorable meal with friends and family," describes Blustein.

Look for dishes on Lila's trim menu like Black chickpea and zucchini cakes in coconut curry with Basmati rice, Paneer “truffles” in mustard seed curry, and Pacific prawns in coconut, green onion and ginger curry. To go with the food, a drinks program of natural wines, beer, and cocktails, all aimed at bringing people together. 

While Lila's predecessor, The Arbor, was meat-free, there are seafood and dairy items on offer, however, plants command much of the menu space, allowing for the restaurant to be flexible to diners' needs. Further, Blustein shares that Lila's kitchen is equipped with a dedicated celiac-friendly fryer for gluten-free guests.

Being welcoming is a huge priority for Blustein and Dhalwala. "At Lila, we are committed to incorporating plant-forward options that appeal to vegetarians, vegans, and non-vegetarians, ensuring everyone can enjoy our offerings," Blustein explains.

Though some may see the closure of a plant-forward restaurant like The Arbor as some kind of harbinger for meatless dining in Vancouver, Blustein is firm in her belief that "the plant-forward dining scene in Vancouver is still vibrant and evolving."

'I see a bright future for vegetable-forward dining'

The award-winning restaurateur points to the differences she has clocked in just the past decade, particularly at how prevalent great plant-based food is in Vancouver, and not exclusively at meat-free restaurants. 

"You can get a really good vegetarian or vegan dish that has had thought and care put into it almost anywhere," she observes. "The standards for plant-based cuisine have increased dramatically as it has taken over a much larger part of the market share than ever before."

"I see a bright future for vegetable-forward dining, with more people embracing diverse, sustainable eating habits," she continues.

Lila is surely a part of that bright future (and present) thanks to Blustein and Dhalwala's shared vision for what a contemporary restaurant in Vancouver can be. 

Partnership grew out of shared passion, mutual admiration

Blustein says she and Dhalwala have known each other for a decade and that the two share "a passion for innovative cuisine, sustainability, and hospitality."

After years of crossing paths and mutual admiration, moving into a business partnership seemed almost like an organic next step, and the duo knit together their "unique strengths" to develop Lila. 

"We wanted to build a restaurant that offered a fresh take on Indian cuisine, making it sustainable, approachable, and enjoyable for everyone. Thus, Lila was born," explains Blustein. 

"We are incredibly excited to share Lila with the Vancouver community and beyond," she continues. "Our team has put a lot of love and effort into creating a space that feels incredibly warm and welcoming, with a menu that offers something for everyone."

After its official opening on May 23, Lila will be open daily from 4 to 10 p.m. with Happy Hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. The restaurant will also offer lunch service on Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon.

Follow @lilavancouver on Instagram for more updates about Lila.

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