Bihari Kabab and Biryani House
It's there. Really. It's hard to find but very much worth the search.
The Bihari Kabab and Biryani House is tucked away in an impossibly badly designed strip mall (at the corner of Morningside and Sheppard) and it only has a door-sized storefront. Walk down a small hallway to a windowless room for the best South Asian kababs I've had in the city. I've been a few times (mostly to take out) and it's superb. (To put in comparison: the only kababs in the city that come close are at Patna Kabab. Iqbal, Pak Centre and others don't have the freshness of toasted spice or the tenderness of beef, lamb, chicken, or goat meat.) Given where the owner is from (Patna, in the state of Bihar), the Bihari kabab is touted as a house favourite and deservedly so. Bihari kababs sit somewhere on the edge of minced and shredded meat, a balance few restaurants can achieve. Here, they are perfect; spiced effectively and smooth on the tongue. Other kababs are every bit as good. I particularly like the gola kabab (a unique kabab in this city). These rounded kababs of minced beef again achieved the perfect balance of fresh spice and tender meat. But don't get carried away by the kababs (and fresh, tangy naan). My wife and I adored the haleem and nihari. Haleem, by the way, is a long, long slow cooked stew in which the meat (lamb or beef) and daal dissolves into a thick gravy, spiked with ginger. This is a dish that depends on patience. It must be tender enough to fall apart into a gravy and the spices must be toasted and ground and carefully applied. I've eaten this a lot in Toronto, Delhi, and Hyderabab. No place in Toronto has done it this well and I would have been delighted to eat this version in India. It's spectacular. In our house, I head for haleem; my wife for nihari, another long, slow meat dish. She remembers it from the famous Kareem's in Delhi. Again, we've searched it out often in Toronto. Many places cheat and plunk meat into pressure cookers to get the tenderness. But, done this way, the absolute silkiness of the gravy, the natural oils emulsified, is lost. The version here is truly wonderful (thankfully the haleem is so good, I'm not switching allegiances). The meat is perfectly tender, just enough toothiness that it gets a chew or two before it melts into the silky sauce. Many places in Toronto make up for the deficiencies of gravy by over-spicing. Not here. the balance of masala and natural meat flavour was just right. Beyond these, I thought the chole, redolent of fresh ginger, a carefully prepared pure-veg dish. This is one of the few places that does a goat biryani and we liked it a great deal. A lot of good and gamy goat meat balanced tender rice; its raita was freshly made.
There is a lot of pride at work here; no short cuts; consistent quality; carefully applied masalas; and patience in producing rather hard to make dishes. The first time we took out, we called immediately to give them complements. We waited to try them again and again before posting. It's terrific.
Bihari Kabab and Biryani House
1145 Morningside Ave,
ON M1B 0A7
Phone : 416-281-4259
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
The serving sizes are pretty reasonable. Not overly huge. Not tiny. The biryani had a lot of meat. I've eaten at Makkah a lot. (We live nearby.) I have found over the last five years that Makkah's spicing is a bit out of sync and that the masalas are not as well balanced. Personally, I like that the kabobs at Bihari Kabob are much better -- and I still enjoy those at Makkah. In terms of spicing, the gola kabab is spicier than the bihari kabab, but not searing. My young child enjoyed the nihari and chole (i.e. not chili-hot). Actually -- and this is high praise indeed -- the spicing was in good proportion. That is, the chili heat carefully balanced by other spices and the silky textures of meat and gravy.
I just drove all the way from Richmond Hill to try it out. I ordered the Beef Nihari, Beef Bihari Kababs and Lamb Karahi. When I mentioned I was from Richmond Hill, the owner was so surprised, he gave me a complimentary bottle of mango juice!!
May be I am not used to this version of Indian food, I found the taste of the 'curry' dishes to be a bit bland and the meat very gamey. However, the kababs was tender and nicely spiced.
The OP was right. The location and entrance to the plaza was a bit of a challenge to find. For those of you who are planning a visit, the plaza is on the same side as the Esso station and the restaurant is directly across from the huge Sobey's sign on the other side of the road!
Right now, I think I'll still stick to Chuhan on Woodbine for the type of Indian cuisine I prefer.
No kidding, deabott--that sounds fantastic!
Duckliver, can I ask about spice levels? Personally, I love the heat, but some in my family are more sensitive to spice. Any tips? Also, thanks for posting the link to the website. It looks very inexpensive and every dish is quite clearly explained, although it's difficult to tell what the serving size is. Thanks again for your wonderful write-up.