Last night, my wife and I tried the relatively new "Copper Chimney" restaurant on Kingston Road in Pickering Village, Ajax. Having never heard a thing about this establishment, my mind was open with no expectations - but my palate was discerning, as per usual.
Copper Chimney is a half block away from Mount Everest Indian cuisine, one of our best take-out options in Ajax and a terrific place to go for "mainstream" Vinadaloo, Aloo Gobi, Pakora - type dishes. So dining in the shadow of Mt. Everest :), I was worried that I would be constantly comparing the two. But as soon as I looked at the menu, I saw there was no need to worry. I could see that Copper Chimney had set itself apart.
The Copper Chimney menu is organized into sections based on cooking style, each with a nice little intro on the style, the region where it's used (usually Parsi) and traditions surrounding it. The choices on the menu were, in some ways, narrower than your standard Indian menu. They had some familiar vegetarian options but the meats only consisted of chicken, goat, shrimp and fish (usually pomfret). Also, the appetizers all hailed from the Tandoor (including goat's brain). For our starter, we ordered the Parsi variation on tandori chicken, followed by the goat rogan josh (again, with additional Parsi spices), an okra dish - and then the one I was most excited about - whole pomfret coated in a green paste (consisting of cilantro, chillies, Parsi spices and coconut milk), then cooked in a banana leaf.
The food was perfect, or very close to it. The chicken was among the most tender and juicy tandori chicken I've had. It's funny, one would think that using a yoghurt-based marinade and a super-hot oven would always yield this result, but alas so many places serve dry tandori chicken. Are they cutting it into pieces that are too small? Are they overcooking it? Alas, I digress.
The goat was fall-off-the-bone great. I usually prefer a little more heat to my rogan josh, but the mildness forced me to appreciate the flavour. The okra was delicious and perfectly cooked. I'm so accustomed to overcooked okra, but the texture in this okra dish was akin to "al dente" and was a really pleasant change. The winner however, was the pomfret. It was served whole, still wrapped in the banana leaf, tasted very fresh and was as sweet and as tender as a small fish should be. The 'green paste' was wonderful and I found the dish to be quite unique among my Indian dining experiences.
Service was attentive and very friendly. But I'm a bit concerned that they might not last. Copper Chimney is charging Yorkville Indian Restaurant prices in Durham (most meat dishes were $13.95 and higher). The food is definitely worthy of these prices, but people might not be willing to pay them. For my sake - I hope I'm wrong... because the person in the back firing up that Copper Chimney REALLY knows how to cook!