Toronto’s palate has benefitted from its long-time and beloved Indian community, providing locals with the knowledge of so many tasty Indian dining staples such as naan, butter chicken, paneer, aloo gobi and biriyani. For diners who want to indulge or expand their Indian cuisine habits, these dining establishments offer the subcontinent’s best dishes.
Pre-theatre dinner spot
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sat 12:00pm-11:00pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:30pm
Aroma by Eva T.
Tucked onto the second floor of the bustling restaurant strip of King Street West, this busy Indian resto is well-known for its daily Indian buffet lunch. Since its less than a five minutes walk from the theatre district's lures for theatre at the Princess of Wales Theatre, music at Roy Thomson Hall or film at the TIFF Bell Lighbox, Aroma is a well-placed spot for pre or post-entertainment dining. Tandoori lovers will appreciate the Tandoori Gobhi ($8.95) marinated and roasted cauliflower, Chicken Noorani kabab ($13.95) chicken marinated with almonds and spices and Tandoori Machi ($14.95) a whole marinated fish baked in the clay oven. Treat your palate to Sali Boti ($12.95) lamb or beef slow cooked with dried apricots or the Dal Makhani ($10.95) stewed black lentils with red kidney beans, tomatoes and spices for several taste sensations
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sat-Sun 12:00pm-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm
Banjara by Dilip S.
A colourful and light-filled space welcomes guests to sample from its extensive menus, with something for everyone’s tastebuds, no matter if you’re an omnivore or a vegan. From five types of pakoras to five shrimp dishes, there are many options to indulge in north and south Indian dishes. For gluten-free and vegan diners, Navratan Korma is a sultry combination of nine vegetables slowly cooked in a cashew spicy gravy ($10,99) and there's tandoori options too, such as the Paneer Tikka ($12.99) paneer slow roasted with tomato and onion and mixed pepper or the whole-roasted Tandoori Cauliflower ($10.95). Shahi Shrimp ($14.99) with coconut milk and spices is a must as is beloved rich and savoury Butter Chicken ($12.99). Additional must-haves include tandoori House Mixed Grill ($17.99), Vegetable Biriyani ($9.99) and perfect for the indecisive, combo dinners which include rice, naan, daal curry, aloo gobi, and one choice of beef, goat, chicken, lamb, vegetable or a seafood dish. ($11.99/$14.95).
Best for milennial foodies
Bindia Indian Bistro
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-9:30pm, Fri 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-9:30pm, Sat 11:30am-3:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sun 11:30am-3:30pm, 5:00pm-9:30pm
This Mint Tikka features boneless pieces of chicken breast marinated in fresh mint and coriander, served with bell pepper chutney.
Photo by Bindia.
This contemporary-styled Indian restaurant in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood may be a new kid on the block, but its modern take on Indian cuisine is blending flavours from North America with the subcontinent's traditional spices. For 20 somethings devoted to food blogs and fusion cooking, Bindia offers the popular chicken or lamb kabab wrap ($9.95) at lunch, and lots of interesting flavours for brunch, such as Egg Bhurji ($12.50) scrambled eggs onions, peppers and Indian spices with a side of kabab or Keema Naan ($9.00) with spicy minced lamb stuffed naan, both which can be paired with a Kale Smoothie ($4.00). Dinner offers more innovation from the chef team, and items rarely seen on Indian menus in Toronto such as Coconut calamari ($12.00), Quinoa salad ($7.00/$12.00), Tandoori Salmon ($26.00). For those who need at least one old school fave, Chicken Tikka Masala ($17.00), Chicken Curry ($16.00), or Paneer Tikka Masala ($14.00) are options to fit the palate. The sweet finish that is an east meets west combination: house-made Gajrela ($8.00), an Indian-style carrot cake with vanilla ice cream.
The critics favourite
The Copper Chimney
Hours: Mon 5:00pm-10:00pm, Tues-Sat 12:00pm-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sun 3:00pm-10:00pm
Photo by Copper Chimney
North Toronto gets a dose of northern Indian cuisine at this intimate dining space with several accolades, and was chosen one of the city's top 10 new restaurants in 2010 and earned praise from well-known food critics such as Joanna Kates from The Globe and Mail, especially for the restaurant's tandoor dishes, such as the perfectly cooked whole tandoori chicken ($19.95) and the onion kulcha bread ($2.25). Diners should consider unique offerings like the Murg Malai Kabab ($11.95) grilled chicken marinated with garlic, yoghurt and spices, Baigan Patiala ($10.95) stir-fried eggplant with ginger and dried mango, and traditional and well-made Aloo Gobi ($10.95) stewed potato and cauliflower or the very spicy Vindaloo made with chicken, lamb or beef ($12.95). Leave some room to Indulge in the housemade naans and parathas with dinner and definitely end the meal with the house favourite: Ras Malai ($4.95), an Indian cardamon pudding.
Best for friends night out
Curry Twist by Dina K.
Bring a group to this modern Indian dining spot, with its focus on Moghlai style of northern Indian cooking and ample options for imported and locally-sourced beer and wine to pair with dinner. Dishes are generous portions, perfect for groups of four or more to start with the crispy Aloo tiki ($7.45) fried potato patties with chickpeas and chutney, Tawa paneer ($8.95) Indian cheese sautéed with tomatoes, onion, peppers, spices and fresh coriander and Daal palak ($9.95) featuring two kinds of yellow lentils slow cooked with tomatoes and spinach. The soundtrack of this lively restaurant is peppered with conversations, only silenced by the flavours of menu items like the tasty Chicken korma ($14.95) slow-cooked in a cashew, cardamom and fennel sauce and the Chili shrimp ($16.95) in a spicy coconut sauce. Add in an order of Fish Magic ($16.95) fenugreek and garam masala-rubbed salmon in coconut sauce or Lamb twist masala (($14.95) slow cooked garlic and herb marinated lamb in spicy tomato sauce, which will easily make Indian food cravings disappear.
Best for special occasions
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:45am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm, Fri 11:45am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sat 12:00pm-4:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sun 12:00pm-4:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm
The Host Butter Chicken and Awadhi Khatti Dal by Itanni B.
With four locations in the GTA, this elegant Indian restaurant attracts guests from all parts of the city to indulge in savoury tandoori and curry options under the watchful eye of Head Chef Sanjeev Sethi. At the Prince Arthur Avenue location in Yorkville, diners are welcomed with classical Indian music and cozy rooms that encourage quiet conversation and a lengthy relaxed dining experience, as well as impeccable service. A few must haves from the tandoor menu include the popular Murgh Mirch Tikka ($15.95) chicken marinated in green chili paste, Rubina Nawabi ($21.95) broiled spicy shrimp and the very popular Tandoori Murgh ($14.95) a half chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices. The Dhabey de Mutton ($16.95) Dhaba-style goat curry or the Bengali Fish Curry ($16.95) will make for a memorable dinner out for that special occasion. For those who want to make it even more memorable, the restaurant offers private dining rooms for intimate celebrations.
Best for the office party
Hours: Mon 11:30am-10:00pm, Tue-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Sun 11:30am-10:00pm (lunch buffet every day from 11:30am-3:30pm)
Mixed Veggie Plate by Little India
A long-time favourite of downtown locals and office dwellers, this Indian restaurant focuses on the best-loved dishes of Indian cuisine, and expects its regulars to show up in duos or groups of 10 or more, thanks to a spacious dining room that can easily be configured for the office lunch party, with its daily buffet available with a wide range of menu items. Diners know their favourites, and there’s several that make the cut for dining with the gang at dinner too: Chicken pakora ($7.50), Onion bhajia ($5.50), Butter chicken ($13.95) and Paneer tikka masala ($12.95). Add in a few other favourites, such as Prawn Masala ($17.95), Lamb Saag ($13.95) with spinach or the Beef Rogan Josh ($12.95). Vegetable biriyani ($10.95) and special naan ($3.95) are essential – and for dessert, the ever-popular gulab jamun, Indian dougnuts with cardamom in syrup ($3.75).
Best for the gourmands
Pukka by Katherine T.
This contemporary Indian restaurant does serve butter chicken, but focuses on diners who want to be adventurous. Mixing Indian classics with ingredients and influences from Europe and North America make for a welcome a change from the standard Indian dinner options. This contemporary restaurant is the place to expand the Indian tastebuds to the next level: the culinary team’s inventiveness is revealed in starter options such as Butternut squash samosas ($8.20), Beets and paneer salad ($12.60) or Tandoori calamari ($13.40) with a citrus salad. For entree options, Pan roasted pickerel with lentil curry ($24.70), Garam masala duck breast ($24.70) with chili lime curry and blueberry and Pumpkin curry ($11.80) are distinct Indian dishes that are only found here. Oenophiles will appreciate that anything on the menu can be perfectly paired with local and imported vintages thanks to sommelier Peter Boyd. Dessert options are equally distinct: Chili chocolate torte ($7.60) with cardamom poached plums or a Sweet plate: Spiced toffee popcorn and Rococoa truffles ($9.80), make for a memorable dinner.
Best for casual dining
Hours: Mon-Thu 12:00pm-10:00pm, Fri-Sat 12:00pm-11:00pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:00pm
Chana Masala Saag Paneer and Spring Dosa
Photo by Udupi Palace
With multiple menu friendly options for those who follow vegan and gluten-free diets, this budget-friendly mainstay of east end Little India is a great place for a multi-generational family dinner and happily welcomes babies, kids and teens to this popular restaurant. Udupi Palace has a wide range of southern Indian dishes, including several savoury chaats, such as pani poori ($5.25) puffed pastry filled with potato or bhel, a popular puffed rice, potato, onion, tomato and chutney salad, perfect for sharing and not too spicy for young palates. Several dosa (rice crepe) options are perfect for lunch or dinner, such as the Mysore Sada dosa ($5.85) with spicy chutney or the very filling Paneer Masala dosa ($8.65) with spiced potatoes, onions and salty Indian cheese. The lively atmosphere of families and couples makes this a a place to eat, chat and then stroll Little India’s strip for street-food dessert options like kulfi (Indian ice cream) or go savoury with Indian spicy roasted corn on the cob on a weekend evening.