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Indian....again

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  • erly Feb 12, 2009 09:20 AM
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With Tablaa gone (I didn't enjoy it on my last visit ), and predicted its' demise, I need a good Indian fix.
I am spoiled by a fantastic Indian meal recently, in Frankfurt of all places.
Anything new?
...or what is the best of the rest.
I want to taste the freshly ground spices!!!

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  1. It's not the absolut best I've had, but I like Kathmandu on Yonge, north of College. their butter chicken is great, and I also like the lamb sali bothi.

    1. Have you been to Debu's Nouvelle Indian Cuisine yet? I haven't been, but it's on my current shortlist.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577470

      8 Replies
      1. re: phoenikia

        I have!
        And won't return.
        Already going downhill - needs a re-think.

        1. re: estufarian

          O.K. Estufarian
          Where then???
          You share our love of Good Indian and we need a fix.
          I don't understand why Tablaa went downhill, as it started out with so much promise, yet an amazing restaurant like the Ivory Club, in a city that doesn't really understand Indian food thrives.
          Best Tandoori Chicken that I have ever eaten, and we have been to India a half a dozen times.

          1. re: erly

            see my post below.

            1. re: erly

              This seems, unfortunately, to be a trend in Toronto with certain styles of cuisine. I think that the masses have come to expect certain cuisines like Thai and Indian to be cheap and plentiful based on the huge number of these restaurants that serve large quantities of poorly prepared food, either a la carte or buffet. Thus, when faced with Indian or Thai food of actual quality at a price that is reasonable but clearly well above what they're used to paying, they balk, because they can't begin to fathom the joys of higher end cooking of these types. Thus, the restaurants can't compete and either sink to the depths of their cheaper kin or close down.

              I am so glad to be back in Ottawa now, where Indian food is brilliant. I've eaten at four Indian restaurants since I moved back and all except one were better than what I was able to find in Toronto during my four years there. We don't have the ultra-cheap Indian and Thai restaurants of Toronto, and I personally think that this is a very good thing.

            2. re: estufarian

              Sad to hear it's already going downhill.

              1. re: estufarian

                Could you elaborate?

                1. re: ChalkBoy

                  I did (on Oct 19 in this thread)
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564045

              2. re: phoenikia

                You should take Debu's off your list. I was a fan of his Biryani House, so I was excited to try his new place. I waited until a few months after it opened, thinking it would get over the new restaurant teething pains. Dinner for 2 came to $160 tax and tip in. This is more than what I normally spend for Indian food, but less than most restaurants. We got many items on the menu, and all disappointed except for the soup, and my companions poached pear. Chicken was dry, some of the food seemed cold, I have my suspicions that some of the food was prepared the day before.

                Service however was fine. I left a good tip for the waiter, he did a great job...too bad for the forgettable food. It's a shame, because I can see what Debu Saha is trying to do. He's trying to infuse traditional Indian food with new techniques...and that should be applauded. The food, however falls flat. I was very disappointed.

                For good Indian food, there's Amaya, Amaya's Bread Bar...both very good, and in the general area of Debu's. There's also Dhaba, The Host, and The Spice Room (Technically not Indian food...just Indian spices)

                Happy Eats

              3. I'm not aware of anything that has survived. The others that were attempting 'fresh' Indian have downscaled their aspirations. Indian Rice Factory may still be 'authentic' but last time I went, the service was abysmal and the spicing was 'super-hot' so impossible to detect any layers of flavour anyway.
                I understand that Tabla changed when it became Tablaa, so it was a changed place, rather than a gradual slide.

                1. We are fans of Nataraj at Bloor and Brunswick. It's really good. A lot of people also swear by Banjara at Christie and Bloor which is very good, but I don't like it as well as Nataraj.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                    Both gone downhill.
                    If you like Nataraj then try Trimurti (Queen west of University).
                    If you like Banjara, look for the cheapest you can find.

                    1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                      I also swear by Banjara at Christie and Bloor.

                    2. Has anyone been to Udupi Palace lately? A co-worker of mine (who is of Indian decent) swears by it.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: tj2007

                        The fact that your co-worker is of Indian decent does not mean that beause he loves Udupi Palace, you will. In my family, my parents, some of my siblings, and my wife would never go back there and think it's mediocre. But I have one sister who keeps going back. I'm not sure why, but I think it's mainly because of the low prices.

                        One place I tried a few months ago that is very reasonable and has good food is Maroli.
                        It doesn't have the atmosphere of many other higher-end restaurants, but I'm more interested in the food.

                        http://www.maroli.ca/

                        1. re: foodyDudey

                          well,
                          After reading Estufarian's suggestion we headed for Madras Masala.
                          Give it a zero for atmosphere.
                          But at this stage, we came for the food.
                          Just the two of us, so couldn't try as many dishes as we would have liked.
                          The Chicken Xacutti was very well prepared, and there were certainly layers of flavor.
                          DH really loved this dish.
                          We requested medium by South Indian standards, and hot by Canadian standards, and the young lady server understood, and the heat was perfect or us.
                          (Once in Bangalore, I actually burned my tongue on the food).
                          The Aloo Paratha was very well prepared, but surprisingly bland.
                          The Dahi Puri, was crispy, and not n the least bit greasy, and another winner.
                          The disappointment was the Mutton Biryani, but Biryani is an elusive dish anywhere.
                          If it sits too long in the kitchen, it becomes a wet mess.
                          We certainly will return to try other dishes.

                        2. re: tj2007

                          Haven't tried it recently - and won't. Tried it a couple of times and am not at all impressed. One 'flavour' - hot. No sense of specific spices at all. And didn't particularly like the prices - more expensive than downtown (OK - the same as downtown).

                        3. am trying Jaipur Grille (yup reopened after fire) on sunday, will report.

                          i loved amaya in the fall.

                          kathmandu is great for affordable and filling and spicing and original options (goat!) but not sure it's a fine night out sort of place.

                          1. If you go out to Ajax, the Mt. Everest on the North side of Kingston Rd a few blocks West of Westney Rd has a chef/owner who grinds his own spices. Call to make a reservation as he is often full.
                            Best Indian in GTA in my opinion.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: snoopy12

                              Um pretty much every Indian chef grinds his or her own spices. My Indian wife grinds her own spices even when she is just cooking a quick meal.

                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                That's not necessarily true. Roasting and grinding spices takes a lot of time, which I highly doubt many chefs do.

                                Freshly ground spices are important, but one thing I never hear mentioned is how many chefs serve curries that are prepared (edit - with the meat) the night before?

                                Finally, for the non-indians, do not assume because an "Indian" likes a restaurant you will. Many Indians, especiall old school south Indians, enjoy one flavour - HOT (as estufarian alluded to). Everything else is secondary.

                                1. re: Apprentice

                                  We have tried many Indian restaurants, where the spices are prepared in advance,, and taste like the Curry powder/sauces you purchase in jars.
                                  Apprentice is correct about the "heat" .

                                  1. re: Apprentice

                                    Well said Apprentice. Another thing to keep in mind is that millions of people love eating the food at McDonald's, which I would never attempt, but it seems to satisfy many many people with its cheap salty/sugary hit that's bound to appeal to tastebuds that haven't grown up - and the same could be true of people who enjoy the cheap Indian restos around town. Look at the Little India area - every resto there seems to be trapped in a fixed "low price" cartel - well low price means crap ingredients and least labour intensive cooking. I don't think any one of the Little India places dares to improve the quality of their ingredients or give us something different and fresh because it would mean raising prices and - PRESTO - out of business. Most of the places on the strip are already empty most of the time - how/why they stay in business is a fiscal puzzle to me, but I know nothing about tax avoidance.....I really hope an adventurous resto will soon prove me wrong. Really miss Madras Durbar - does anyone know where the cooks are now?

                              2. could you share the info on the Frankfurt joint? I spend a lot of time there and never thought of Indian.....

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: shekamoo

                                  If I do, it will be removed (because it is not Vancouver, or Hong Kong, or Tokyo).
                                  Just click on my name, as I reviewed it recently, and you will find it.

                                  1. re: erly

                                    We used to go to Nataraj all the time...then we discovered Mt Everest (just across the street on the south side of Bloor west of Spadina). It's good food for a good price point. Have never been disappointed there.

                                    1. re: sam_1

                                      I love Mount Everest -- great atmosphere, and great food at a reasonable price.
                                      Estufarian -- I'm curious. What's your take on this place?

                                      1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                        I try to be encouraging (others may not have the same opinion!) - so I stayed out of this discussion. First time I went I loved the price - although, given the name I had hoped for something a little different - really didn't find anything I couldn't get elsewhere. Since that first visit I've travelled in North-East India and Bhutan - and have to say the food in that region is not particularly exciting (although Calcutta was a treasure trove).
                                        So I did go back to Mount Everest about a year ago and I find it run-of-the-mill. It serves the same style found in many other places and is reasonably competent without being exciting. I did find their vegetable dishes to be overcooked for my tastes (a common issue for me in Indian places). So ultimately it comes back to price, and simply put, I'd rather pay an extra $5 per person at, say, Trimurti, for food that stands out.
                                        Blindfolded I probably couldn't distinguish Mount Everest from a dozen other places. But there are certainly worse places around.

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          Thanks for your input estufarian. I'm not an experienced Indian-food-eater, but I have to say while I really enjoyed the tandoori cauliflower at Trimurti -- I prefer the food at Mount Everest overall. That just goes to show you, to each their own!

                                          1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                            And that's great. If we all liked the same place we wouldn't be able to get in!

                                    2. re: erly

                                      thanx

                                  2. i recommend mela
                                    please see: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/489490
                                    again, biryani, goan shrimp and veggie dishes well done
                                    take note, ask for "old style" versions of dishes for more intense flavours with a little more heat

                                    1. I have been beating the drum on this topic over and over.
                                      Sorry caucasion folks but me or any of my fellow brown folks who know well about Indian food, would never step in any of these places unless it was an emergency mentioned above or below.

                                      Unless its the ambiance you care about.

                                      If you want Authentic or atleast close to authentic Indian/Pakistani Food Check out the following places.

                                      Tandoori Time(various locations through out T.O)
                                      Lahore Tikka House(gerrard st)
                                      Makkah Restaurant (donland&danforth)
                                      Iqbal restaurant (thornciffe)
                                      Kwality Sweets (Steels and Torbram)

                                      Enjoy..

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: mzshan

                                        Appreciate the comments.
                                        I've tried both of Lahore Tikka House and Iqbal. And at neither did I find dishes that showed layers of spice - rather than just a 'hot' experience. Maybe I just didn't order the right things.
                                        In particular, at Lahore Tikka House everything seemed to be prepared with the same 'mother sauce' - which was a 'standard' sauce with a possible 'adjustment' for the different nominal styles. I tried this place several times and NEVER found any subtlety.
                                        At Iqbal I've only beeen for lunch (usually while shopping there - it's a regular haunt of mine) so don't know what they might produce in the evening. However, although competent and filling, it struck me as little more than a 'cafe'. Again, not really sophisticated - but workmanlike. Didn't really get any regional 'flavour' - just sort of 'generic Bangladeshi' - not that that's necessarily a bad thing, Just wasn't showing any specific spicing (but to be fair I didn't sit down and concentrate on the food - I just treated it as sort of 'Asian Fast Food' - obviously next time I'll take a closer look/taste).
                                        Haven't tried the others (although the name Kwality rings a bell - just don't think I've been to one at Steeles and Torbram - unless that's the place that closes around 4:00pm - there's one place out that way that is only open for lunch and I trundled out there only to find it closed).

                                        By chance, did you ever try Tabla? It was apparent to many of us that their spicing was definitely more sophisticated - and for some of us well worth the extra cost (for example they claimed that their Vindaloo preparation was a 36-hour process - although obviously the meat wasn't in there for that whole time).

                                        1. re: mzshan

                                          I have to agree with estufarian re: Lahore Tikka House. I used to live around the corner, and given that the prices were quite reasonable, I would get it every couple of months when I didn't feel like cooking and needed a change from my usual haunts. To say that it's good food, though, is a stretch: I found it was just about spiciness and lacked any subtlety, balance, and depth in terms of flavour. I'm not sure why this place is held in such high esteem.

                                          1. re: vorpal

                                            I will continue to bang the drum of bypassing the mediocre Lahore Tikka House and heading across the street to 786. My wife's father (born and raised in Calcutta) wants to go there every time he's in town. On Saturday, the nihari special is not be missed. Sure the ambience is nonexistent, and in the summer we will hit Lahore Tikka for the fun patio and kebabs (their curries and biryanis are sub-par), but for great food 786 is the spot.

                                            1. re: childofthestorm

                                              Thanks - haven't tried that - I'll add it to my (lengthening) list.

                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                Hope you enjoy. Some other outstanding dishes are the whole fried Lahori fish, and the whole chicken, Lahori Charga. But the nihari on Saturday, sopping the rich spicy beefy gravy with naan, oh man, it's a top 5 dish for me in Toronto.

                                          2. re: mzshan

                                            Been to both Makkah and Lahore Tikka. Both disappointing. Lahore Tikka wasn't too "hot" however, I found that it tasted like the emptied every jar of spices they had into each sauce. Overkill! Their homemade almond kulfi was fantastic though. Makkah was just dreadful! Definitely fell into the "hot" category mentioned above. It tasted like english roast beef gravy with a whole jar of chili emptied into the curry. Awful! The nan was great, but to top things off, had hair on it. Just great. Won't ever be going back.

                                            I will definitely try 786. So far, I haven't been impressed by anywhere in the bazaar. I usually go into Motimahal for a quick chicke tikka with nan special, but it's just o.k.

                                          3. i did a pseudo v-day meal at Jaipur Grille last night and am happy to report that the place was close to full. we skipped apps and split the daal makhani, chana amritsari and chicken tikka masala between us two. the daal had a dark, rich, smokey flavour with great complexity, as did the chickpeas. the chicken sauce had a bit of a canned crushed tomatoes consistency to it and the spicing wasn't that layered, but overall the food was filling and service executed excellently. it came to $65 with one beer and one glass of wine. before tip. decor remains nice and fresh-feeling with a touch of romance. not a replacement for tablaa to be sure, but a great neighbourhood spot.

                                            1. Due to my food allergies I have to stay away from alot of Indian food, but my friend went to Jaaadu on Yonge Street last night and he cannot stop raving about his meal.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: smr714

                                                Keepingwith the original question, where would people reccomend for fine Indian dining? Haven't seen anything on the boards about Amaya, there is a tiny bit about the Amaya Bread Bar. It got rave reviews intially, has it gone downhill that quickly or do people just find it overpriced? And is that because people are not willing to pay more for finer Indian food? I was not impressed with either the Indian Rice Factory or Jaipur Grille when I ate there. Thanks in advance for any suggestiorns. Cheers.

                                                1. re: lkomar

                                                  When I first went to Amaya's Bread Bar, shortly after it opened, the place annoyed me no end - not the food quality, which was good, nor the prices, which seemed somewhat excessive, but the teensy naan, which was about the size of a deck of cards. It's the aggravating little things that can turn you against a place, and $3 for a very, very small naan did it for me, as two diners need at least three orders of naan that size to sustain a dinner. Nine dollars for bread? No, thanks. I vowed not to return.

                                                  But circumstances found me at the Bread Bar again last week, and I'm happy to report that the $3 naan is now at its traditional larger size, and just as tasty. I guess I wasn't the only one to express dismay about it. Prices overall have shrunk somewhat, and the food quality's just as good as I recall it the first time round. And one nice extra touch: a couple of side dishes, ordered with the mains, didn't arrive at table till too late to enjoyably accompany the main dishes as they were supposed to, despite my asking twice to kindly bring them forthwith before I die of old age. But both side dishes, which arrived eventually (and were tasty, too) were taken off the bill without my asking - I never ask for such a thing, despite the strength of my case, assuming that any joint that won't do the right thing without being prompted just isn't my kind of place after all. I then make a mental note not to return. But the Bread Bar did the right thing, and I'll be back to give the menu another workout (especially now that Tabla is out of action). In the U.S., such comps are routine when the resto has messed up. But in Toronto, I've found, it's mighty rare - restos seem to have a hard time quickly admitting guilt and making the appropriate gesture.

                                                  I'd be intrigued to hear of other Toronto restos at any price range that, like Bread Bar, do the right thing when they mess up - without you having to insist.