East India Co.
Address: 349 York Ave
These days, Indian food can be delivered to your home in plastic containers, or bland butter chicken can be picked up from the grocery store. While these simple solutions to your Indian food fix may cheat your five senses, there’s a superior way to enjoy this spice-laden cuisine.
Since 1967, the Mehra family has delivered a rich sensory experience rivalled only by a trip to India. The adventure begins outside the downtown restaurant, East India Company, where diners are greeted by large statues of the Hindu god Ganesh and two elephants.
If it weren’t for the scent of slowly-simmered curries and fresh buttered naan one might think they’ve walked into an Indian art gallery. The eatery features impressive wood carvings and colourful paintings in a style that’s centuries old. The beat of drums and the sound of sitar strings fills the spacious restaurant.
Longtime fans who’ve tried it all are well served ordering beyond the buffet. The often-overlooked menu offers lots of exciting flavour combinations that open the palate.
Fragrant Bangalore spiced potatoes melt in the mouth, in contrast with the crunch of green peppers and onion. Cumin seeds leave a pleasant nutty aftertaste while dried chilli peppers add a lingering heat. Bright orange-yellow paneer pasanda pops on the table. Submerged in creamy sauce, are slices of housemade cheese that sandwich a thin layer of nuts, raisins and cardamom.
Kurkuri bhindi, a seasonal offering, is a unique blend of sweet okra and enough garam masala to give the dish a spicy kick.
Cool things down with creamy coconut malabar prawns. The large crustaceans, covered in deep golden sauce get a delightfully sweet kick of coconut. Nilgirli korma features fall-off-the-bone lamb covered in a velvety creamed spinach.
A satisfying mixture of rice, vegetables and spices, Punjabi-style chicken biryani arrives surrounded by a ring of salad. Pepper corns and garam masala deliver lively hits of spice, counteracted by bites of sweet carrots and refreshing cilantro.
End the meal with chai. The tea transports one to a tiny roadside chai shop in Delhi. Honking horns and the roar of traffic can almost be heard with each sip.
For dessert, halwa, a traditional treat made of lentils or carrots, packs a punch of cardamom flavour. It’s served in a martini glass and topped with cashews and slivered almonds. Each sweet spoonful is a reminder that ditching the take out tubs for East India Company’s elaborate feast for the senses is well worth it.