Restaurants & Bars

Ontario (inc. Toronto) Indian Vegetarian

Exceptional South Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian food!

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Exceptional South Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian food!

Dan | Dec 28, 2004 03:40 PM

I wanted to give updates on two truly exceptional South Indian restaurants, one on each end of the city. Both are branches of well-known South Indian (Chennai) restaurants which have recently opened branches in the GTA (as well as in Singapore, Dubai, and elsewhere in India). People who have visited the Indian branches say that the food at the TO branch matches that in India. The two places are Saravana Bhavan and Anjappar Chettinad.

Some people might be familiar with the kind of food served at SARAVANA BHAVAN from places like the Udupi Palace, i.e. dosas, idli, and other vegetarian savoury dishes. S.B. is, however, a big step above, based on a few visits there. The cooking and service has been at the same excellent standard on each visit. Things to try include the superb thali (special meal--a wide sampler of vegetables, pickles, curd, and rice and bread), onion rava masala dosa (the potato filling and two coconut chutneys are very good), and mini idli (swimming in a fresh sambar curry). An absolute not to be missed is the appam, a rice flour pancake, served with a cauliflower gravy. Other breads, including the parotta, are also lovely and come with the cauliflower gravy which I could, frankly, eat every day of my life. That said, I was disappointed with the plantain bhaji with a tasty, but too heavy gram flour batter. It is located in a strip mall at Hurontario and Eglinton in Mississauga. They are opening a Scarborough branch in February they told me.

The real find is ANJAPPAR CHETTINAD which opened just last week at the other end of Eglinton in Scarborough. Few people will have sampled this regional, non-vegetarian cusine. It is little known even to South Asians from the north of India or Pakistan. Its spicy (but not overly) and has an enormous range of very different dishes, from seafood, fish, meat, and vegetables. I was fascinated, amazed, and delighted. We just kept ordering away and still happily eating leftovers. The management promises that even more dishes are on the way once suppliers are found, including biryani made with Japanese quails and a special stew called paya kuruma (made from slow cooked lamb trotters). Meanwhile, we started with cauliflower '65, a wonderfully crisp spiced, fry, and mutton kothu parotta. This last dish is unique; it is dried, flaked bread, with intense minced meat, onions, and gravy. Then, we had the single best crab dish I have ever had: crab roast. Amazingly sweet crab in a dark, rich masala. It was a mess (we made several visits to the wash basin), but we were so happy we were quivering. We moved on to the signature Chettinad chicken and a prawn biryani. Both were simply perfect, as were a selection of breads. I'm visiting again in a few days, this time having vanjaram fish fry (fish dusted in rice flour and spices and fried) and mutton sukka varuval (mutton marinated in peppercorns, fried with chopped onions and curry leaves). It is on Eglinton, just east of the Eglinton GO station.

South Indian dining has taken a huge step forward in TO and I'm so much the happier for it!

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