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.

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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.