East India Company
Address: 349 York Ave.
Indian food has become increasingly familiar in the past decade. Its rich sauces and fragrant spices have easily won over the palates of even the most conservative diners with words like samosa, tandoori and naan tripping off tongues.
The cuisine’s appeal comes from mastering the art of the slow simmer and the building of flavours. Labour- intensive dishes often require dozens of ingredients carefully ground, chopped and minced, resulting in complex layers that play off all the senses.
Thirty-five years ago, Kamal and Sudha Mehra, along with their sons, pioneered Indian cuisine in Winnipeg. Today, East India Company has become the standard by which all other Indian restaurants are measured. Its elborate buffet has diners regularly lining outside the door to pile their plates sky-high with expertly prepared curries.
The spirit and vibrancy of India is characterized in the spacious dining room with traditional statues, colourful tapestries and delicate woodcarvings of sitar players and sari-clad women. Wrought iron chairs, mosaic inlay tabletops and curly-cued cutlery add touches of elegance.
While the buffet features a rotating selection of dishes, the often-overlooked menu offers a chance to travel even further into the cuisine. Here, dishes that aren’t always part of the regular spread dazzle with bold flavour.
Garam masala—a traditional spice blend unique to regions and often specific to families—is the base of every dish. This characteristic flavour of the cuisine combines ingredients such as cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns. The family has been using its secret recipe to rave reviews for decades.
Spark the palate with the lahori malai platter combining perfectly seasoned pieces of boneless chicken and seekh kebobs (ground chicken cooked on heated metal skewers). The pieces are coated in a creamy blend of house-made yogurt and fragrant green cardamom.
Spice aficionados will delight in a light starter of chilli prawns. Plump pink curls lounge with crisp squares of green and red pepper and crunchy slices of celery. The mixture is then coated in a thick chilli-based sauce with a tongue-pleasing hit of saltiness.
Curries spooned into metal bowls served atop sleek, white platters combine traditional and modern presentation in vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrée choices. Structured mounds of fluffy basmati rice provide support for complex sauces that are the highlight of many dishes. Try the light and flaky parantha—a flatbread stuffed with spiced potatoes—as an additional tool for spooning up sauce.
A divine vegetarian entrée is Mountbatten’s malai kofta. Potato and house-made paneer cheese croquettes are fried giving them a delicately crispy crust and tender interior. They bob in a creamy tomato-based sauce that offers a hint of sweetness amidst the warm flavours of cumin and coriander.
Dal is an Indian staple and comes prepared dozens of ways. One of the most popular versions, dal makhani, hails from the Punjab region. Lentils are combined with ginger, garlic and spices and cooked slowly ensuring a rich texture. A flourish of cream adds depth to the flavours and tames the heat.
Pieces of lamb in Nilgiri korma are stewed until they are juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender. They come draped in creamed spinach sauce that mirrors the earthy flavour of the meat. The deep burgundy hue of dhabba chicken is the first hint of its powerful punch. Boneless chunks of curried chicken are enrobed in a spicy sauce laced with cardamom’s floral notes. Whole peppercorns and pieces of cinnamon bark enhance its complexity.
Complement the bold flavours of your meal with the intense sweetness of gulab jamun. Fried Timbit-sized dough balls are airy and moist. Served in a martini glass drizzled with honey rosewater syrup and sprinkled with almonds, they leave us suitably gratified.