Babur [reviewed in 2001, reviewed again in Dec 06]

273 Queen W
(416) 599-7720

Babur is conveniently located in the Queen West neighbourhood at Queen and McCall right next to Much Music and City TV. I first went to Babur in Oct of 2001 and I really enjoyed the place but I found the portions to be too small and the prices alittle too high. I did love the food, though. I also found it to be crowded, noisy, and alittle too high-end for me, very a la “Indian rice factory” but larger. Indian Rice Factory is TINY and crowded and very noisy. Babur is alittle more spacious.

I recently went to Babur with some friends for New Years celebration. We were a group of 11 people and two people from our group are regular customers and have been going for the past 13 years. Obviously this place is good since it’s been around a long time and the food and service is reliable and prices have been stable. They did mention that there often has been a change over in staff so they found it interesting to see the change in staff over the years.

Gladly Babur did not hike up their dinner prices for the New Year. We all started with drinks. I ordered a Mango Lassi, WAY too sweet for $4 and not as thick and creamy as that new veggie Indian restaurant in Little India (Kissan). Others ordered wine and soft drinks (also known as pop to Ontarians).

For our appetizers we ordered a round of samosas (YUMM) with Tamarind and coriander dipping sauces. For our mains we ordered Malai Kofta (veggie type dumplings in a thick tomato cream curry), Anakali Bahar (boneless pieces of tandoori marinated chicken grilled to perfection in a melange of onions, peppers, and garnished with pomegranate seeds), Bengan Bhartha (thick whole eggplant in a tomato curry sauce, kind of resembles Jewish eggplant). We also ordered Aloo Tikki (a potato curry), Saag Paneer (delicious spinach and homemade Indian cheese curry), Paneer Korma (a creamy mild curry with homemade cheese) , Tarka Daal (hearty, earthy lentil curry), Nurmahal Biryani (lamb biryani- a lamb and rice mix), Aloo paratha (deep fried Indian bread stuffed with potato, and Saffron rice, aromatic rice with saffron.

Food was hot, fresh, colourful, not too greasy, and delicious. Portions have gotten better over the years but prices are alittle high for what you get. Service is very friendly and efficient. The restaurant is clean and tablecloths are real linen (as opposed to paper). Staff are pleasant and knowledgable. Tables are alittle closely placed together so dining is not that intimate. Can be noisy at times. Too many tables packed into this restaurant. The food is good and I would go back but portions are small and prices are kind of high for what you get.

Mt. Everest Restaurant

 469 Bloor St. West
Tel: 416-964-8849

630 Church St.
Evanston, IL
Tel: (847) 491-1069

Mt. Everest is conveniently located in the heart of the Annex at Brunswick and Bloor. Originally from Chicago, Mt. Everest is proud to open up a branch in downtown Toronto. Labeled as combining the tastes of cuisine from India and Nepal, Mt. Everest is unique in the city of Toronto. For our meals, Kinga and I ordered the vegetarian table d’hote for $27. Comes with daal (lentil curry), saag paneer (spinach and cheese), pilao (rice), a huge skewer of marinated Indian-spiced vegetables (chunks of brocoli, cauliflower, paneer, onions, and other veggies) Our meal included a dessert of warm rice pudding (with cloves, ginger, and cardamom) for dessert. Peter ordered butter chicken, melt in your mouth chicken breast in a creamy butter mild curry.

For drinks we all ordered Diet Coke. Service was fast and efficient. Food was fresh and hot. Portions were small, but that is why you need to order rice, to “beef” up the portions. Open late. Non kitschy decor, very clean and cosy and inviting ambiance. Mains are about $13-$15. Does offer table d’hote which is a relief in the city with a lack of Table D’Hote options. Liquor license. Accepts all cards.

Mahar Restaurant and Sweets (post reno)

 1410 Gerrard Street
416-466-6241

Last winter I went on a blind date to Mahar and I thought the place was worse than McDonalds. What kind of person (but an idiot) would take someone to a fast food Indian place that specialized in desserts and offered dinner as a sidenote and most dishes were luke warm, and under $5. I am no snob but a dinner date should be in a somewhat nice place in a “non takeout” setting and where your date does not ditch you to serve other customers (they were a friend of the family and decided to serve other customers instead of hanging out with me).

CREEP.

Mahar used to be ugly and disgusting but this past 5-6 months, after a drastic renovation, it has undergone a rebirth, like many places in the Gerrard street neighbourhood. Mahar is now a real “sit down” North and South Indian restaurant with sweets but dinner is their main venture and sweets are now secondary. Decor is absolutely lovely. Totally tasteful and updated, the dirt and kitsch has disappeared, even the bathrooms are lovely!

Offers both North and South Indian favourites like veggie pakoras and samosa with yummy tamarind or coriander sauces, aloo gobi with thick chunks of cauliflower, “reddish” chana masala (as opposed to yellow-ish), malaki kofta (orgasmic), butter chicken, tandoori chicken, kabobs, chicken currys, chicken tikkas, mateer paneer, palak paneer, naan, and South Indian favourites like dosas, idly, sambaar (lentil soup), uthapam (fancy rice naan with onions), and delicious desserts like barfi, faluda and ras malai (milk balls in a sweet rosewater sugar milky syrup)

On my most recent visit to the newly renovated place, i went with three friends and we started the yummy buffet with some sambaar (thick lentil soup) with salad, then came the curried okra and potato (Aloo Bhindi), aloo gobi, palak paneer, mattar paneer, piping hot naan bread (hard to come by), chana masala with chunks of cardamom. For dessert, we had faluda (warm milk with rice noodles, tapioca and ice cream on top), ras malai , and barfi (condensed milk with lentil flour and tons of sugar), and freshly made warm rice pudding with raisins and cardamom.

Mahar is opened 7 days per week from 11:30am-10pm. Offers catering for all occasions, with a newly renovated banquet hall. Lunch buffet is $8.99 and dinner buffet is $10.99. Accepts all cards.

Queen of Sheba

1051 Bloor St. W.,
536-4162.

 

Queen of Sheba is on Bloor between Gladstone and Dovercourt, often gets missed since it looks so unassuming and does not catch your eye (poor signage perhaps?). Opened in 1985 or 1986, it’s the oldest Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto (and the oldest in Canada). The restaurant inside is divided into a front dining hall with 5-6 tables and a back dining hall with more than 10 large circular tables. Lots of space for big group meetings.

The one page menu is very much the same for every Ethiopian restaurant. As vegetarians, we really had only one option, the veggie platter. Zam and I ordered the veggie platter for two ($14.95) which was very filling. Portions were very large. Our veggie dish came with two types of lentil “curries” –one red and one brown, with salad in the middle and cholard greens, cabbage, and potato curries. With Ethiopian spiced tea, our meal came to $21 with tax and tip which was an excellent deal.

Food temperature was luke warm which is normal considering it was Ethiopian food. The food was very tasty, comparable to Nazareth. The food was better than Ethiopian House on Irwin. Service was okay. Waiting staff were shy and slightly reserved.

Décor was minimalist in design with champagne (orange-pink) coloured walls and very little art. Need a serious makeover. The decor and ambiance is tacky and dated (trapped in the 1980’s), needed a makeover (like Mahar or Salad King did over the past few years).

Queen of Sheba accepts all cards but at the time of our visit, their debit machine had not been working for months so they only accepted cash.Open Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight. Sunday, noon-midnight.

Reviewed by Mark

Madras Dosa Hut

1123 Albion Road
1-877-DOSAHUT(367-2488)

 

The Library team (our department in the hospital is quite small, with only 5 of us and one volunteer) went for a yummy lunch buffet to Madras Dosa Hut at Albion and Islington for a great deal- a $7.99 South Indian lunch buffet feast

With ample parking, we entered the clean and spacious Madras Dosa Hut, whivh is kid-friendly (it has a McDonalds-like park in the front for kids) and we sat at the large 8 seater circular table.

I had eaten South Indian food before but one volunteer had never eaten Indian food in general. We introduced her to the many delights of Indian cuisine like sambar (spicy lentil soup), rasam (spicy tomato-based soup with tamarind), payasam (sweet tapioca dessert), uthapam (similar to Naan bread but it contains rice flour with onions).

The great part of this buffet is that it includes one free Dosa (a thin crepe with a yummy potato curry filling inside). There were many vegetarian items for me to choose from. I chose the channa masala (chick pea curry), as well as veggie curry with peas and potatoes, while my colleagues chose other curries like goat and chicken.
Madras Dosa Hut was large, spacious, clean, and bright with traditional kitschy South Indian flare. Food was good, constantly refreshed, and water was cold and wait staff were friendly, cheerful, and helpful.

I was impressed with the free Dosa offer. Clearly, this was the best value for a lunch buffet and I was happy to report that Madras Dosa Hut offered no free cockroaches. Accepts all cards. Licensed.

Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant

2658 Islington
416 748-7108

Apart from the cockroach that was scurrying down the long hallway, Aaron and I thoroughly enjoyed Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant. This place was almost identical to its neighbour a few doors down Brar Sweets and Pure Vegetarian restaurant.

Literally 3 doors away from Brar, Rajdhani offers South Indian vegetarian fare and ridiculously low prices. Complete meals are $8 or less and contain a Thali plate full of small portioned snack size morsels of south indian dishes. Aaron and I went for lunch and we ordered the spinach and cheese curry (Saag Paneer), the chick pea curry (channa masala) and 2 types of kofta (looks like dumplings or vegetarian meatballs) in a sweet and creamy yogourt sauce, as well as curried eggplan (bhartha began), and lentil curry (daal). All dishes are wonderful, but i think my favourite from Brar and Rajdhani are the kofta, saag paneer, and bhartha began. Choose 5 items for $7.99 or less and it comes with pilao (rice), naan (fluffy pita-like bread from the tandoor oven) or roti (flat whole wheat tortilla). Comprised about 7-10 tables and decor was plain and not trendy or kitschy. I think Brar recently had a makeover since it looked more cleaned up but i like the minimalist approach to decor. Some places are Gerrard street have dated furniture, kitschy Indian art that is not even genuine or traditional. Sometimes the barren minimalist looks work. Both Rajdhani and Brar seem similar because they are small and they focus on desserts but do offer meals at the back. Food is served fast, fresh, and piping hot. Dishes are already prepared in advance like a buffet but Naan and Roti are made to order. Accepts all cards. Offers many colourful desserts, mostly made of chick pea flour and decadent sweet and thick condensed milk and cream.

Brar Sweets and Vegetarian Restaurant

 199 Advance Boulevard Unit 12
905-799-1625

2646 Islington Ave
416 745 4449

755 Dundas Street West #A4
905-848- 3933

Located in the “other” Little India at Albion and Islington, Brar Sweets and Vegetarian Restaurant serves exclusively Indian and vegetarian fare. Eighty percent of the restaurant showcases traditional Indian squares (i.e sweets) which are colourful, dense, decadent squares made with condensed milk, tons of sugar, sometimes chick pea flour, and cream. These colourful treats are excellent but drink a lot of water after since they are very sweet and rich I’ve tried many before). The decorative tin foil covering these treats is edible so don’t worry.

Brar Sweets contains about 10-15 tables and decor is minimalist and cosy in classic beige with many mirrors. No kitschy artwork or photos. They specialize in sweets and thali dishes (thalis are one large plate with a sampling of many dishes), as well as takeout.

Some of the dishes they offer includes 3 types of cheese curries: Saag Paneer (cheese), a cheese curry with red/green peppers, and mattar paneer (curried peas and cheese) in a sweet tomato gravy. Other popular dishes include bengan bhartha (eggplant), daal (lentils), aloo gobi (cauliflower, potato, and onions), channa masala (chickpea curry), YUMMY kofta balls (dumplings in a thick and creamy yogourt curry). If you opt for the Thali dish, you may choose any salad and pick the pickled lemons and carrots, they’re excellent. You may also want to pick fresh Naan, Roti, or Pilau (rice) or all three. Food is to “die for” delicious, fresh, piping hot, and exploding with flavour, texture, and colour.

The sweets are colourful and decorative, that you do not want to eat them, just look in amazement.

Vegetarian samosas or Vegetarian pakoras are an excellent starter and are best hot (with tamarind or coriander sauce). Complete meals under $10 including all taxes. No need to tip, but highly recommended since service is always fast and courteous.

Kissan (now Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

Kissan (changed Feb 07 to Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

1411 Gerrard St East
416-466-9777

Easily the best Vegetarian Indian Buffet in Little India, without question. At $8.99 for the lunch buffet, the prices are on par with the competition in the neighbourhood, but the quality is waaaay superior. Everything is fresh, looks appealing & tastes just as good better. They easily served the best Naan I’ve had in ages. Smartly, they do not put the naan under heat lamps to go limp, rather, they make them fresh every time new customers come in, and then someone walks around the restaurant serving it up to all who request. It was crispy, warm, buttery, delicious. Among my favourite buffet items were the saag paneer – so savoury & fantastic, the aloo gobi is done properly – no mush! Both Mark & I were blown away by the mango lassi, also the best of Little India. It tasted like real fresh mangoes were used to make this thick, sweet yogurty drink. As for desserts, I was mighty impressed with the carrot pudding. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it before. It was a nice surprise. Take a pass on the unremarkable mango ice cream.

You are not obliged to go for the buffet – there are plenty of lovely dosas and other items on the menu. The service was friendly & efficient, definitely deserving of many happy returns.

Makkah Restaurant

1020 Danforth Ave
416-406-2056

I used to stop by Makkah quite regularly when my dance classes were located at Greenwood & Danforth, but the school has moved, so now I must make special trips when the cravings arrive.

As you walk by, the naan & chicken cooking in the tandoori oven lures you in. Located across the street from a mosque, it is popular with families & naighbourhood folk looking for some fast Pakistani Halal eats.

The prices are right – delicious large fresh naans go for $1. The top price I’ve noticed is $6.99. My typical selection is the meat thali, which is $5.99 & includes a naan. Essentially, you choose 1 meat dish from the bin of prepared food (curry) & two of the veg options (lentils, chickpeas, spinach, whatever). It all tastes good, so I’m happy.

The ambience is not remarkable. I love the tandoori oven in the window, but that’s about it. The counter looks like it was made with bathroom tiles, the lighting is fluorescent, it looks practically hospital-like. There is seating in the back, families from the mosque seem to eat in. I’m partial to taking it out.

They suggest a minimum of $10 for interact purchases, but I’ve paid that way with smaller orders.

Jodhpore Club Indian cuisine

33 Baldwin
416 598 2502

 

Daniel and I met for lunch at OCAD and instead of dining in the Village by The Grange food court, we decided to walk to Baldwin village where we would either go to an Indian or Thai restaurant (our favourite types of food). We walked to Baldwin street, just a hop and skip away and we passed by a medley of ethnic delights: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Vegetarian, and Indian. We went to the Gateways of India last time for lunch and enjoyed a crazy buffet full of food. We decided to try Jodhpore Club Corp. Indian cuisine for a change.

Upon entering, we immediately knew from its cosy, homey feel that this place was definitely more quaint than Gateways of India. Jodhpore was much smaller with only about 5-7 small tables made of teak and had many traditional Indian elements, yet the decor looked like an old Ontario cottage with stucco, exposed dark-wood stained beams, and high ceilings. I’d call the place quaint since it was small and unassuming and that is also how i would call the buffet.

The buffet was nice in terms of presentation but it did not have much variety at all. There were 4 veggie dishes (kofta, daal, matar panneer, and aloo). I did not see the typical channa masala, aloo gobi, or bengan. I was so much disappointed but surprised and in a way happy to see some change in your typical Indian lunch buffet. Daniel noted the presence of lamb, tandoor chicken, butter chicken, and potato wedges. We did see the typical helpings of pappadum as well as tamarind and coriander sauce, but we did not see any salad or dessert or the cliche dessert of mango, chocolate, or vanilla ice cream, often stale with freezer burn.

I started my dish with the curried potatoes (aloo) but I was disappointed to see that there was no cauliflower. I also enjoyed the kofta (soft lentil dumplings in a rich creamy mild curry sauce). In addition I had the daal (lentil puree), fresh naan, pappadum, and mattar paneer (peas and Indian cheese) which was delicious. The buffet was humbling since it was no exploding with variety and there were fewer high quality dishes than most other Indian buffets. Unfortunately, there was no channa masala, or dessert.

Daniel thought the food was good but he admits that for the meat dishes, he prefers
the other Baldwin Indian restaurant. He felt that the butter and tandoori chicken
were somewhat bland and the mutton in the korma dish was rather in-edible. Daniel thought that the vegetarian selections were really quite worthwhile, however, especially that lentil ball dish thingy (kofta)

Daniel described the decor as the left-over from a previous owner. There
were lots of British Raj (British colonial administration in India) with type prints on the wall were a little disturbing, especially given the name “Club”. He thought it made one feel as if one were at a “seem-better-days”. The idea of a British colonial club (in the dying days of the British Raj) tried to keep up the appearance of order and control.

Overall, he thought it was okay. He would go back, but really would opt for the other
Baldwin Indian place if given the choice. I would definitely go back to Jodhpore, despite the lack of variety. Service was fast and friendly. The server always refreshed our water and food was refreshed all the time. The glazed over “expired” look of the food was not present so we were happy. Next time we will probably order from the main menu since the buffet did not offer enough variety. Accepts all cards. Wheelchair accessible at the entrance, but bathrooms are downstairs.