Saturday, December 31, 2011

Indian

I realize it's New Year's Eve and everyone is doing retrospective posts about the year behind, or resolving to make 2012 ______ (fill in the blank with the positive action word of your choosing).  Me?  I don't do resolutions. And I haven't really spent much time looking back on the past year.

So instead of all that, I'm going to talk about my first experience eating Indian food in a restaurant.  I've had (bad) Indian takeout, I've had good curries in the homes of friends, I've made some curries that have been quite good myself, and I had some awesome nibbles  in Toronto during Taste of the Danforth some years ago.  But I had never eaten in an authentic Indian establishment until my friend and I went to a place downtown last night.

It was one of those post-holiday craziness, last minute "I need out!" kind of nights for her, and I was only to happy to go along.  We circled around a few times before settling on the pay and display lot across the street from the restaurant.  It was raining.  We didn't want to walk far (aside - what is up with the weather? No snow of any substantial amount thus far, near double digit temps... I'm in a tank top as I type this).  Anyway, we sat in a quiet little corner by the window and had a look at the menu.  There were several dishes I was familiar with, at least by name, and several I'd never heard of.  The descriptions were very helpful (I'll try to link to as many recipes as possible, for those who, like me aren't as familiar with the cuisine as others, but I make no promises about how authentic they are).  I knew I wanted onion bhaji, and was hoping for pakora, but they don't have that.  There were so many delicious looking appetizers that we settled on a mixed platter, which included two kinds of ground meat kebabs, onion bhaji, generous samosas and chicken tikka, with raita, and two anonymous dipping sauces; one sweet, the other very hot.  We chose a white wine to accompany our meal, though they do have Indian beer as well.

While we waited for our appetizers to arrive, we were served two paper thin papadums, flavoured with whole cumin seeds.  A bit like a very light chip, it was pleasant to have something to nibble while we waited.  We also ordered the rest of our meal at that point, having taken our time with the menu.

We decided to order a meat dish and a vegetable dish each to share, plus two pieces of naan bread in lieu of rice.  My friend ordered Chicken Dupiaza, Channa Masala and a hot mango pickle. I settled on a beef dish called Bhuna Gosht, which boasted a "rich, thick sauce" and Saag Paneer, a classic dish of spinach and Indian cheese.  The dishes were smaller than I'd expected, but they ended up being just right for two to share, with some leftover for my friend to take home.  I really liked the sauces that each of the dishes had.  Perfect for dipping the bread into.  The beef was braised and quite tender.  The chicken was alright, but I found it a little bland.  I really appreciated the contrast that crispy peppers and onions in each dish provided.  The chickpeas (channa masala) were really tasty, and the cheese in the saag paneer reminded me a little of curds.  I found that the spinach was a bit strong, but it was nice when mixed with the sauce from one of the other dishes.

We didn't get dessert, but there seems to be a variety of authentic Indian sweets to choose from.  Maybe next time.  We were a bit full, and opted for a walk before heading to another place for dessert.

The service was great.  We had the manager and two servers taking care of us.  It wasn't terribly busy, and the pace of our meal was very relaxed.  I lost track of time, but I think we were nearly an hour and a half.  I grabbed a takeout menu, and I definitely will be using it in the new year.  There, I'll call that a resolution!


This review is linked to UrbanSpoon
 Touch Of India Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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