Sunday, January 6, 2008

Little? Check. Indian? Check. Delicious? You know it.

Last night Chris and I took ourselves out for dinner and a movie - it seemed like an ideal way to spend a not-too-chilly Saturday night in January. It's that early part of the year where you don't have too many social commitments yet, and we were at loose ends and decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal out. As we were riding public transit (no car this week) we wanted someplace convenient to a movie theatre, and as it happens, I remembered hearing about a fantastic hole-in-the-wall Indian place across Carling Ave from the Coliseum multiplex. I did a quick Google and there it was - the Little India Cafe. Online reviewers used phrases like "hidden gem" and "best butter chicken in town" - it sounded perfect.

And really, it was delightful. They're not kidding about the "little" part - their website claims they have seating for 30, but I doubt it. It's in a small strip mall, and the decor is not much to look at - some random Indian art on the pale pink walls, rose-coloured drapey sheer curtains, a miniscule counter holding a cash register and the bar's selection of bottles. But the food! We wisely decided to skip ordering appetizers and go straight to the main event.

We ordered three dishes to share, plus an order of naan, which was perfectly chewy and scorched just enough. I insisted on saag paneer, which Chris had never tried, and to my great surprise he adored it as much as I did. It was well-executed, with chunks of tomato and some julienned raw ginger scattered over top. I will say that Jaipur Grille's version was superior, but not by much. The aforementioned butter chicken was pretty much flawless - savoury and smooth with a slight heat to it. The sauce begged to be sopped up with chunks of naan. And the lamb biryani, with boneless chunks of meat cooked to melting perfection studded amongst spiced basmati rice, onions, and tomatoes, was marvelous - the best biryani I've had since the one Devi and Luke cooked for us a couple of years ago.

We had to take home some leftovers, though we did manage to get through the saag paneer, which i good, because I doubt it would hold up in the microwave. We did, however, shoehorn in some kheer - Indian rice pudding with pistachios and rosewater. Again, not quite the transcendent experience that the one at Jaipur Grille was, but an excellent dessert nonetheless and plenty when split between the two of us.

Chris enjoyed a Cheetah Indian beer with his meal, while I went with the alcohol-free mango juice, which was excellent once I dumped a lot of ice into it - I like it really cold and a little more dilute than they make it, but the flavour was flawless. It was, to sum up, a filling, delicious, gorgeously presented meal with excellent service, and very reasonably priced as well. We'll be going back - next time there's a movie I want to see enough to bother going to the theatre!

(Everyone run and see Juno while it's still in theatres, by the way. Stellar film in every way.)

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