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Anjappar Chettinad - Wow

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With the closing of Tabla and Chakra, the luxury of good Indian food close at hand has vanished. That has led to a couple of efforts to rediscover some of the favourites in other areas (will miss the Vindaloo at Babur), with some hit and miss experiences.

A friend suggested an expedition to Anjappar Chettinad, past the Golden Mile, way out on Eglinton east. We gathered the troups, and tried it the other night. With the location, it serves buffets at lunch and dinner, which seem to attract people. Don't be fooled. We ordered off the menu, and they turned the kitchen up to 11.

The Tandoori prawns, chicken reshmi and chili mushrooms had amazing flavours, not greasy, and well-spiced.

The Biryanis were sublime, with perfect texture, and a nice side sauce. The keema paratha was sublime, and the curried crab was an education.

In reading about this place in other postings, I've heard many positive comments on individual dishes, but also comments on how this is a suburban chain. In looking into this, there are two locations in Toronto, closely held, with what appears to be great quality control. Definitely worth a visit, but you've got to stray from the buffet to the menu, and let them know you're not afeared of having it like the locals.

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  1. Is this the place that serve 'Southern Indian' cuisine and the food is 'ultra hot and spicy' with fiery curry leaves found in almost all the dishes?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Charles Yu

      The Chettinad region is in the far south, and there is some warmth to the food, though they dumb it down if you don't appear to be southern Indian unless you ask otherwise.

      There were definitely many pieces of the various herbs and spices in the dishes, including curry leaves. Curry leaves are more aromatic, though, with a subtle spice that's infused. Much like bay leaves in application.

    2. Only been there once a couple of years back and I recall myself and the SO enjoying their crab curry.

      Curry patha leaves add a wonderful flavour to dal/daal/dhal/dahl/...however you wish to spell it.

      1. There is an Anjappar Chettinad here in Brampton too, directly across from Shoppers World on Hurontario, where the Kelseys used to be

        1 Reply
        1. re: duckdown

          To clarify I visited the one in Brampton.

        2. Thanks for the review, I've driven past the Scarborough location quite a few times but it never really seemed all that busy. I'll have to check it out!

          P.S. I like the 'way out on eglinton east' comment. It's good to see someone venturing past Victoria Park Ave in search of good eats. ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dr Butcher

            Just tried the Brampton site for lunch last week, and broke my no-Indian-buffet rule as there was a two-for-one deal on and I was with co-workers. I was very impressed, even though it was only buffet. Flavouringsand spice level were spot on (clear evidence of "doing things right", and I got a good head sweat going without having to ask for extra peppers), everything seemed fresh, and I didn't end up with the usual greased out nausea that most Indian buffets seem to trigger in me.

            I believe the two-for-one buffet deal is lunch on weekdays only for the rest of the month.

            1. re: gimel

              confirmed the lunch 2for1 deal on their website (for September).


              The lunch buffet is $8.99 on the weekday from 11:30 to 3pm.

              Might have to check it out as 2 for 1 is great deal.

              Here are the addresses:

              3090 Eglinton Avenue East @ Markham, Scarborough

              Bartley's Square, Unit # 5, 1 Bartley Bull Pkwy, Brampton,
              (Highway 10 and Steeles)

          2. Easily one of the best Indian restaurants in Toronto, my Indian in-laws want to go to two place - Anjappar Chettinad and 786 - every time they are in town.

            1 Reply
            1. re: childofthestorm

              Add my name to the list of fans of Anjappar Chettinad. Eye-openingly good Indian food, even on buffet. Everthing Gimel said.

            2. I absolutely adore this place. Actually, most of the 'locals' were having the breakfast buffet when I went on Saturday morning. It was fantastic too. I spent a lot of time in the south of India and it's my favourite regional cuisine. This version is very authentic and no one bats an eye when you eat with your hands. The menu is great, but there is no shame in the buffet!

              5 Replies
              1. re: munchieHK

                Karaikudi is so much better than Anjappar. THey both feathure a certain type of South Indian cooking and I love this place better than Anjappar.


                1. re: TOchowgal

                  I just drove by there the other day and wondered about it. Thanks for the recommendation. What dishes do you like there?

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    3 of us had the naan, chicken curry and the spicy shrimp curry. Also tried the pakora and chicken biriyani. The biryani was actually very good and the rest of the dishes were good.

                    I will definitely go back to try their other dishes.

                    1. re: TOchowgal

                      Two Indian buffets within a reasonable distance from where I am! My cup runneth over! Thanks for the reports!

                      1. re: TOchowgal

                        Well, it only took me about two and one-half years to get around to TOchowgal's tip on Karaikudi, but - wanting a little change from the first-rate Copper Chimney, just a 10-minute drive from my lodgings - a companion and I made our way one evening this week to that dismal stretch of Kennedy Rd. north of Lawrence Ave. upon which Karaikudi stands. Given its surroundings, I expected nothing, but it was surprisingly good. Airy, attractive interior, large tables, lots of space between them, good-qualify tableware, solicitous service - things you don't often find in modestly-priced Indian dives. But more to the point, tasty food with some zing (if you want it ). if you don't want it, you'd better speak up, and they'll accommodate you. We liked the soups, the veggie dishes, the biryani, the garlic naan. Some of the veggie dishes seem a buck or two overpriced, but most everything else is priced respectably. It won't replace Copper Chimney in my mind, but it's a good backup if you're hankering for the snap, crackle and pop of South Indian nosh. The largish restaurant was about one-third full - pretty good for a Monday night in that part of town - with what looked like serious people who seemed to know their South Indian cuisine, and won't put up with anything that might be dumbed down for interlopers like me. So I'm assuming we got the real deal.

                2. Any recent datapoints on Anjappar Chettinad ?

                  And do all three locations operate at the same level or is there one particular standout ?

                  I am interested in some descriptive data on the vast Chettinad dishes on their menu. Not particularly interested in the buffet, but on my next visit to Toronto I would like to cut a wide swath through the menu and would like to know where to focus.

                  The menu looks incredible.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Nab

                    I always go to the Scarborough location on Eglinton, which I believe is the original location. Standouts include the Chicken 65 from the apps, the mutton pepper fry (hot as hell), and the crab masala...I end up with spicy brown gravy up to my elbows eating that dish.

                    Make sure to get some raita or yogurt or whatever because they bring the heat big-time.

                    1. re: Nab

                      I've tried the Scarborough location irregularly over several years - last time a few months ago - and my BIG problem is that they don't layer their spicing - it seems to be a concentration on chilis and hence just HOT. Pricing is fair for the quality - but unless you're addicted to HOT don't really see the point in going there (although lots of parking!).

                      Can't argue against them - excellent range of dishes - but I prefer more layered spicing, so only go when I need an extreme fix.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        This sounds like the opposite end of the spectrum of problems with many Indian restaurants - instead of pre-made batches of master sauces being repurposed for every dish, it sounds like they are making dishes fresh but rushing through the process of layering spices.

                        estufarian, do you have other preferred favourites for regional S.Indian cuisine ?

                        1. re: Nab

                          The 'race to the cheapest' has caused the demise of most of my favourites. I'm still searching.

                          If you want Keralan cuisine, then there is one outstanding survivor - but be aware that it's at the top end of the Indian Restaurant price spectrum (and totally worth it for my money) - Aravind (on Danforth). Proteins are organic; most ingredients are fresh and the menu is small - no repurposed sauces here. Also a well-chosen wine list. Sounds too good to be true - but it's struggling. Their price point (and location) is out of the norm for 'Indian restaurants'. But it's no more expensive than many of the neighbourhood bistros that are all around the city - just that Indian food is 'expected' to be much cheaper.

                          Layered spicing, full flavours and the best 'fish' I've had in Indian places in Toronto (as befits their Keralan origin). And the service is also excellent.

                          Right now my choice as the 'best Indian' in the city although I seem to end up at Copper Chimney (NOT southern) more often as there are more choices and it's cheaper (OK I've just undermined my own price argument - but Copper Chimney has easier access as well).

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Thanks, estufarian. Aravind looks great and it's not just anywhere one can find Keralan cuisine. I hope they thrive.

                            As an occasional visitor, I am probably being a little too quick to judge, but in a town teeming with Indian restaurants, it seems next to impossible to find a few gems. OTOH, there are several world-class Pakistani restaurants.

                              1. re: haggisdragon

                                Well, we usually eat Pakistani food at home, but we'll occasionally go to BBQ Tonite in Mississauga which can be really sensational at their best, but my folks tell me when the owner is not in the food is middling. But we enjoy the barbecue and I think they have one of the best renditions of maghaz masala anywhere (pictured below). My uncle was a longtime bihari kabab-walla in Karachi and his were the best until I tried BBQ Tonite's. Then I tried Patna Kabab House's barbecue in Scarborough and was summarily blown away by the kabab craft going on there - each kabab has its own texture, spicing, and treatment with fire - the guys are like yakitori masters. Their nehari was also superb (also pictured below). On my next visit home I plan to try Bihari Kabab & Biryani House in Scarberia too.

                                I am blanking on a couple of other places in Mississauga which I'll have to ask my folks about.

                                Gerrard Street is no longer really on our hit list. We went to Lahore Tikka House a few months ago and it was a total bust. I have very fond memories of going to Chandni Chowk 20 yrs ago and I was surprised to see that not only are they still around but they appear to be in worse physical shape than before which I thought was impossible ! There was one other place, I think called 786, which kinda set off the chow-dar but I've not been. When we go out we're usually eating barbecue or the big heavy specialty dishes like haleem, nehari, paya, etc.

                                But compared to other big Pakistani hubs on the continent (Chicago, SF, Houston) - I think Toronto is right up there in the big leagues.

                                1. re: Nab

                                  Thank you - a couple of new places there for me to try.

                                  Lahore Tikka has been poor for some time now (IMO) - so your other recommendations now carry more weight with me.

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    Made it to Patna Kabab House - their menu is on the website, except maybe 1/3 of the items were unavailable the night I was there.

                                    Indeed the Kababs are excellent. My favourite (to my surprise) was the chicken, which was perfectly spiced. I also loved the texture. The lamb and beef were good - but the texture is similar so I found some 'sameness' across the three. Spicing is indeed different for each, but the lamb seemed the most subdued.

                                    Another hit was the Channa Curry (Chickpea) also perfectly spiced.

                                    I was disappointed with the Nehari (beef) - not the flavour, but rather the texture. The beef itself had been tenderized, giving it a 'slippery' texture and the sauce had a similar 'gooey' (not quite gelatinous) texture that I didn't particularly like - but maybe that's cultural.

                                    The milky naan was OK - served its purpose to mop up the sauces; but was bland in both taste and texture.

                                    But overall an excellent find.

                                    Next time I'll try some of the alternative kabab offerings (if available) such as the Bihari and the Gola.

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      I'm glad you went and shared the experience, estufarian. Indeed the "Silky Kabab" (aka reshmi kabab - chicken) is a delight - an impossibly light texture. You may also enjoy the "Darbari Kabab" which is an unusual lamb-chicken mix, lamb flavour predominating, but with that same smooth texture as the chicken kabab. The "Gola Kabab", in contrast, is a pleasingly dense, meaty golf ball that gets much more char-treatment than the lighter kababs, yet retains its juice. The bihari kabab, having been marinated in papaya (and mustard oil, among other things), has already been tenderized and gets just the right kiss of fire before drying out. I've only been there once, but the differing treatments of spicing, smoke, grind of meat, char, etc I found striking. Most places will dump a Shan packet onto some meat and just slap it on the fire without a care.

                                      I'm curious about the nehari. Gelatinous would be a desirable texture/consistency as this is a dish that should be laden with bone marrow. Many places add a cornstarch slurry that can add an off-taste and off-texture. I enjoyed the nehari at PKH and, as I think can be seen in the picture above, was pretty rich with marrow. I do agree, the Milky Naan, while robust with eggs/milk/yogurt, is not as flavourful as the Neopolitan tang of a traditional tandoori bread, but a little goes a long way for mopping and sopping.

                                      1. re: Nab

                                        Certainly the bone marrow would explain everything - chalk it up to my ignorance of the components. I usually have bone marrow on toast - which provides a real contrast in texture. So maybe it was just too much of the 'same' thing for my personal taste (or rather texture).

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          Good point, estufarian. The marrow should actually be well-integrated, melted into and throughout the gravy, but if served at a cooler temperature it can take on that gooey texture. I also enjoy marrow on toast, and even enjoy nihari this way the next morning for breakfast.

                                  2. re: Nab

                                    Seconded, very useful post thanks.

                                    1. re: Nab

                                      thanks for the great post. are there any pakistani places in the downtown core (reasonably TTC accessible) worth trying out?

                                        1. re: autopi

                                          Sorry, I can't recall a time I've eaten Pakistani food downtown, autopi. I usually eat "downtown food" downtown. ;)

                                          I also recall a memorable breakfast had at a food court in Mississauga - the place is called Tabaq, and I see they have two locations now (website below). The poori-halwa brekkie was a very good value at $2.99 - poori, halwa, aloo, channa, achar, yogurt - it was the channa that I recall as being absolutely sublime, and I've just never, ever had a version to get incredibly excited about. I still vividly remember that one. The menu looks to big to be good across the board, so hopefully folks will sniff out the gems. I note that they have 'katakut' - a dish that traditionally is comprised of a variety of offal (liver, kidneys, heart) plus ground meat (keema) cooked in a myriad of spices on a high-heat karhai. The name is given for the sound made when hacking up everything on the karhai. Few places actually use offal - BBQ Tonite does on very rare occasions (and with advance notice) - but I'd be curious to know if these guys do. They're in close proximity to a few butchers, so I have hopes.


                                          1. re: Nab

                                            Not a exactly restaurant, but there's a terrific tiny little Pakistani grocer that also sells some excellent prepared foods - Eastern Foods on Hurontario (just north of Dundas) in Mississauga. I was highly surprised to see Jim Leff stumble upon this nearly hidden gem in his trip to Toronto several years ago:


                                            The shammi kebabs are maybe the best I've encountered anywhere. The biryani is decent, the parathas excellent.

                                        2. re: Nab

                                          Funny that you mention Patma Kabab house. I do volunteer work in Scarborough, and many of the apartment buildings on Lawrence in the Scarborough Golf Club to Orton Park Road have ads for them in the elevators.

                              2. re: Nab

                                Was planning to try Anjappar Chettinad in Scarborough tonight but their website advertises their "Aachi Mess" night on a Friday eve - long tables, music and only battery powered lanterns! Has anyone been on a Friday and can shed any light (battery powered) light on what this is all about, and whether the quality of the food suffers for the entertainment?

                                1. re: Nab

                                  So I did finally make it to the Mississauga outpost.

                                  The menu is vast and my sense is that it would take many visits to really get a handle on things here.

                                  Chicken 65 was fine - it's a bar snack, nothing to get too excited about, though it was a pretty tasty rendition, one that my 4 year old niece probably enjoyed more than me.

                                  Vegetarian biryani was a poor order on our part.

                                  The parottas were excellent, and I enjoyed the straight plain parotta moreso than the mutton keema stuffed version - unadorned one can fully appreciate the impossible balance of flakiness and pliability they achieve, though the chicken gravy that accompanied the keema parotta was a savoury & slurp-worthy bit.

                                  Chicken Chettinad seemed a requisite order and, while it was plenty tasty, the version of this dish with which I have become most well-acquainted is a totally different beast, much sharper and bolder in flavour - Anjappar's version was almost too integrated, the complexity of spicing muted, and somewhat undistinguished.

                                  In stark contrast, the kattharikkai kuzamambhu (eggplant curry) was nothing short of sensational - sharp puckering notes of tamarind, a bracing heat and a spectacularly complex and aromatic curry that I'm still thinking about today. I eat a lot of different cuisines' curries and this one was a marvel I will not soon forget. Even better the next day served with some pongal at home.

                                  Despite being stuffed, I had to try a dosa so out came a 4-foot ghee paper dosa which was also terrific, particularly the chutneys and sambar and rasam and potatoes. My family was already stuffed to the gills, but once they started tearing into this, it was gone before we knew it. Excellent - if flying solo, I'd come back for dosas alone.

                                2. Nice write-up of the newly-opened NY branch of Anjappar Chettinad in the New York Times, I need to try some of the recommended dishes at the Toronto branch...


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. This may be a tall order, but has anyone out there been to both Anjappar and the new Southern Spice in (near) Long Island? If so, can you compare the two? Thanks!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: guanubian

                                      OK, I tried Anjappar. It was good, but I was underwhelmed. I had Gobi 65 -- tandoori-red cauliflower with a vinegary dipping sauce -- and Mutton Sukka Varuval -- kind of a super-spiced bowl of tender meat, variously referred to as lamb, goat and sheep (I think it was sheep). I thought the former was good but nothing special; the latter was a bit of a sleeper -- it seemed good, then really began to smolder nicely in my mouth, as it featured just about "every spice in the Indian larder," to quote a reviewer. So respect, but nothing really notable.

                                      I'm a little jaded, because chettinad food is stunning and I've sampled it in a pretty authentic setting.

                                      Looking forward to Southern Spice to see if it stands up.