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.

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.

Kissan (now Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

Kissan (changed Feb 07 to Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

1411 Gerrard Street East
(416) 466-9777

Wendy and I heard about a new vegetarian Indian restaurant called Kissan that opened about one month ago on Gerrard street (aka Little India). We thought it was time to check it out. As i no longer live on the Danforth, i am somewhat out of touch with life in the east end so I try to go back to the Danforth or Little India to see what is going on. You will notice that on Gerrard, there is a definite revitalization going on there so it’s best to buy a house or townhouse there ASAP as prices will go up as the place will “trendify” and become shi shi poo poo like the Beaches, then we’re all screwed over since house prices will go super high ($500,000) for a tiny 2000 sq. foot house. The arrogant city of Toronto has some nerve to make house prices so unaffordable that only the rich or a dual income family can purchase it.

Now back to my review. Kissan is a very pleasant, clean, and non kitschy, non-dated restaurant that serves North Indian vegetarian cuisine in a pleasant non-kitchy ambiance. Set in one small dining area with about 10 tables, we were thoroughly impressed by the constantly refreshed buffet table (at the back), glistening with freshness and not glazed with grease like many Indian buffets (think Dhaba on King and John or any other Indian restaurant on Gerrard street). Maybe it’s because Kissan is new and they are still “young” and “fresh with ideas” and maybe it will all go downhill in the next few months, but we thought we’d give our impressions on this place one month after its opening.

Kissan’s small but high quality buffet included favourite veggie delights like curried cabbage, vegetable curry, chana masala, aloo gobi with fresh chunks of cauliflower, not a mashed up mess mostly comprised of potato. We saw mostly cauliflower and that is a good indication of a good aloo gobi when there is a visible gobi (cauliflower) and there are nice potato wedges. It means there was time and thought involved. Most aloo gobis are mashed up messes and are served in clumps, trust me. I’ve had my share of Toronto’s aloo gobi’s. Another excellent feature is an eggplant curry (Bengan) that was simply delicious. Kissan also served a nice daal (lentil curry) as well as a yummy curried yogourt stew with dumplings. It was a yellow colour and mild in flavour and the dumplings tasted like wet pakoras. The pakoras’ were typical balls of onion and mashed up vegetables wrapped up in a chick pea flour batter. Wendy and I both brought the coriander and tamarind dipping sauce for them and they were excellent. I had to admit that I usually have no faith in Indian buffets but we were pleasantly surprised. The saag paneer was also good but had too much spinach and I had trouble finding the cubes of cheese. Naan was kept away from the buffet table to avoid become soggy and cold so we were impressed when our server told us that he had fresh naan waiting for us.

Both Wendy and I agree that our Mango Lassis were thick, flavourful, not too sweet, and not watery like most Mango Lassis. We both agreed that our Mango Lassi was the best we’ve ever had in Toronto. It tasted so fresh and not pre-made. It was incredibly thick. We asked the secret, and he said thick homemade yogourt, filtered to get rid of excess water, and mango pulp (rock on!). We loved it. For $8.99 for lunch buffet and $10.99 for the dinner buffet, we had no complaints about our experience at all except the yucky phony tasting mango ice cream (I had the vanilla ice cream instead). Wendy also enjoyed a carrot pudding made with delicately cooked carrot slices in a thick sweet milky pudding. It tasted just like rice pudding but with thinly cut carrot slices instead. Kissan also serves a cool milk beverage with fresh cold milk, vermicelli noodles, rosewater and cumin and other spices that gives it a sweet and fragrant dessert. The rice pudding they serve also sounds delicious with fennel (or anise) and cardamom, a delicious spice often used in Indian tea (chai masala). In sum, we were pleasantly stuffed and felt that we really ate very well in terms of quality, flavour, freshness, and service was extra friendly and the server was very knowledgable and pleasant, which is always nice. Open 11:30am-10:30pm 7 days per week. Accepts all cards.

Bar-Be-Que-Hut [Mark Aaron]

 1455 Gerrard St. E.
416-466-2264

Bar Be Que Hut, despite its name, is not Pizza Hut. It is a not a fast food joint that serves hamburgers and hot dogs. It’s a small cosy restaurant in Little India that is frequented by families and casual diners. Bar Be Que Hut, meaning Pride of India, serves traditional Pakistani cuisine with live music every Friday night. Also contains a small outdoor terrace.

Menu is very small and simple. They have typical Indian fare like tikkas (chicken tikka masala), kebabs, tandoori, pakoras and samosas, chicken curry, butter chicken, mutton, goat, beef, and fish curries, and much more.

Bar-Be-Que Hut house favourites include lamb bara kebab, chicken bara kebab, vegetable pakoras. Vegetarian items include channa massala, palak paneer, daal, curried eggplant, and aloo gobi. I ordered garlic naan (fluffy white pita-like bread) with palak paneer (purreed spinach curry with homemade Indian cheese) . YUMM! In addition, i ordered the Mango Lassi ( a thick drink made with homemade yogourt and fresh mango puree), sweet, thick, and delicious. My friend ordered the tandoor chicken dish with regular naan and he liked both dishes very well. The dish also came a spicey meat sausage thing which he did not favour as much. For his drink, my friend ordered King Fisher, a typical Indian beer.

Decor is kind of dated. Place is kind of small and carpets are dark, dingy, and not clean. Staff are very friendly and food is excellent, tasty, and good portions and no bullshit prices. Bar Be Que Hut really needs updating. Food makes up for old, tired decor. There is a television that plays Bollywood movies and musicals, which gives it a cute kitschy feel. As well, the TV also gives the restaurant a very casual, bar-like ambiance. It really needs a renovation like Salad King needed a renovation. Also needs a new name. Bar Be Que Hut does not sound like an authentic Indian restaurant. Open noon to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Wednesday; noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday. No wheelchair access to washrooms. Accepts all cards

Lahore Tikka House [Mark Aaron]

1365 Gerrard Street
(416) 406-1668

 

I have now been to Lahore Tikka House 3 times and I have left happy each and every time. I think that despite the fact that food is served on styrofoam plates and the whole restaurant sits on two trailers, it is one of the best Halal Pakistani restaurants in Gerrard India bazaar neighbourhood.
Very recognizable by its wall of pressed woodchipped exterior sheets, Lahore Tikka has been under renovation for a long time now and I wonder if they will ever complete building their new home next to its temporary dwelling.

The temporary location is housed under a maze of 2 trailers connected together with 2 large outdoor patios with picnic tables, large multi-coloured umbrellas, and a semi-outdoor open-concept kitchen where you can see all of the items being cooked before your eyes. Although the decor sucks big time, they do try to make it look authentic. The two trailers have colourful saris that grace the walls and ceilings, thus making the trailer look very colourful, authentically South Asian, and traditional. With seriously loud Indian dance music, you cannot help but think that you’ve stepped into a cheesy danceclub. Most waiters are Indian teenage boys who have poor communication skills, but at least they try to be nice and smile. The procedure for getting food is as follows: order from the one-page paper menu at the front cash (from communicatively-challenged cashiers) who are spaced out. According to Shaista, Wendy’s friend, they are not on crack, but really cheap drugs. Once a successful order is placed, they give you a number and you sit whereever you like (either in one of the two trailers or on the back patio under the two large tents) Be careful when trying to access the backyard patio, you may get lost. Lahore Tikka House is one big maze and it can be difficult finding your way around.

Lahore Tikka house is famous for its food and for its quirky customer service. The place is packed and it’s quite popular among the locals in the area. On any given day or night, you will find it packed with teenagers, trendy yuppie folks, young couples with kids, and large families bringing their whole clan for the sensible prices and huge portions.

The menu is very simple. It is divided into appetizers (Samosas are only 99 cents), Sizzling BBQ from the Tandoor oven – minimum 2 pieces (beef, lamb, chicken, chicken tikka breast, chicken leg, sizzling fish)- all between $1.69-$6.99. Hefty rice dishes include a medley of meat with vegetables with a very large portion of rice. Some hefty rice dishes include beef and rice, chicken tikka and rice, two kebab chicken and rice, two kebab lamb and rice, botti tikka, and chicken tikka with rice, all ranging from $8.25-$11.25 for a generous portion the whole family can share.

Tandoori naans (puffy bread made from the Tandoor oven) includes regular flavoured naan, butter naan, whole wheat roti, and till naan ($1.00-$1.50), lahori kids specials include kids beef kebab- $1.69 and chicken tikka for kids – $5.99. The Lahori Karahi includes a variety of different types of Karahi dishes (lamb, chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, beef, nahari, haleem, fish, palak gosht, and daal gosht, all between $8.00-$8.99. Biryani dishes (rice and meat) include chicken, beef, mixed vegetables, fish, lamb, and boneless chicken tikka ($8.99-$10.99).

Vegetarian dishes include tarka daal, aloo gobi, channa masala, palak (spinach), the combo sizzler ($8.50) (channa masala, palak, and aloo gobi), palak and daal, palak paneer, and muttar panneer, all between $4.99-$8.50.

Wraps are a simple way to get a small portion of curry wrapped up in naan bread for a great price. Some wraps offer small and large sizes. Some wraps include beef kebab, chicken tikka, boti tikka, veggie veggie, lamb kebab, chicken kebab, all between $4.75-$8.95. On my first 2 visits I ordered the veggie combo sizzler, which was a large portion served on a black wrought iron platter containing aloo gobi, palak, and channa masala. It was extremely hot and delicious. The food here is definitely fresh and has BITE. On my 3rd visit, I decided to order the veggie veggie wrap ($4.99) which comprised the same ingrediants, but wrapped up in a small naan “sandwich”. On both occasions, I ordered the Mango Lassi and although it was alittle watery, it was still cool and refreshing.

As with most Indian restaurants, Lahore Tikka House serves a variety of North American and Indian sodas and juices as well as Lassis (Mango, Sweet, and Salty). They also serve Indian sodas like Limca. Lahore Tikka also serves kulfi (a classic Indian ice cream on a stick in flavours of pistachio, mango, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). Accepts all cards. Open until 1:00am every night. Owners are Muslim and food is authentically Halal.

Sidhartha, The

The Sidhartha – Fine Indian Cuisine
1450 Gerrard St. E
416-465-4095

30 Eglinton East
416-485-5552

See also East Indian, Little India, Yonge/Eglinton

My general impression of Sidartha was that is was significantly nicer in atmosphere than one would expect from a dinner buffet at $9.99! The lunch buffet runs at $7.99 and I’m sure it is just as nice. You can dine in or take out, which I think is fantastic for a buffet. Of course, itf you take out, it’s just the 1 plate, but still, how much can you eat, really? If buffets are not your thing, there is an extensive menu to order from.

My friend & I went for the buffet & it was really good, we kept finding more & more things to eat that we practically stuffed ourselves silly. There were both meat & vegetarian options, pakoras, chicken tikka, vegetable curry & much more. My friend Shane really loved this restaurant – he hadn’t even finished his dessert & he said how much he was looking forward to his next visit. Now that’s the sign of an excellent dining experience!

The really nice & unusual thing about this place is that despite the buffets & great prices, the atmosphere was warm & inviting, they decorated each table with real flowers, instead of fakes, & the big surprise – it was QUIET! What a relaxing way to eat!

All in all with taxes & tip the meal came to $26. Sidartha also caters & has banquet facilities for 100 people. They also do free delivery on orders over $30.

Sidhartha,The

1450 Gerrard Street East,
Phone 416 – 406 – 2538

When I introduced my parents to Indian food in the mid 1990’s I took them to Buffet Maharaja in Montreal and they were mortified. The food was oily, clammy, cold, and flavourless. I should have known better to take my parents to an “non-buffet” restaurant for their first exposure to Indian food. I have visited many Indian restaurants in Toronto and I must say Indian rice factory and Sher-E-Pun-Jab are by far my favourite so far. I still hope that there is an Indian restaurant in Little India that would win me over Indian Rice Factory and Sher-E-Pun-Jab.

Last week I went for takeout with Paulo and we roamed through Little India and we found Sidhartha, a north Indian restaurant, right at the corner of Craven and Gerrard. We peaked inside and it actually had ambiance (unlike Udupi Palace which has excellent food but looks like a hospital waiting room)

When we entered the restaurant, we immediately saw that this place is different. It’s clean, tasteful, with a kitsch-free, classy ambiance. It’s small and cosy , with colourful fabric ribbons, canapes with tables underneath, dim lighting, with a lot of deep reds and other rich colours on the walls.

The lunch and dinner buffets are $7.99 and $9.95 respectively and they offer many vegetarian items (aloo gobi, channa, bhartha, saag paneer) as well as non vegetarian dishes like tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and other traditional curries. Buffet desserts include barfi, deep fried honey cheese balls, and ice cream (mango + vanilla)

There is also an à la carte menu with a large variety of dishes. It seems I have finally found a nice, affordable, non-trendy, Indian restaurant to take my parents to the next time they visit me in Toronto. I am confident that they will enjoy themselves. The decor and ambiance is romantic, cosy (15-20 tables in one dining room), laid back, non pretentious, and comforting. They accept all cards.