BRAR SWEETS (2646 Islington, 416-745-4449; 755 Dundas West, Mississauga, 905-848-3933; 199 Advance, Brampton, 905-799-1625) An Indian vegetarian fast-food chain in the GTA's northwest, what it misses in ambience -- think donut shop -- is made up for by first-rate medium-spiced veggie curries sold in multi-sized takeout containers. Best: dry turmeric and coconut curry with crunchy red and green peppers, cauliflower, potato and onions; chickpea kofta balls; mild shahi paneer cheese in a sweet tomato gravy laced with slivered almonds; cheesy peas -- gingery garden peas 'n' paneer; sugary shredded-carrot halva rich with almonds and sultanas layered with silver leaf. Complete dinners for $8 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open daily 11 am to 11 pm. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN --DHABA (999 Albion, 740-6622) Never mind the decor -- evocative of a subcontinental roadhouse -- this superb north-Indian-influenced eatery serves some of the most inventive and taste-intensive food ever to hit Toronto. Order everything the way the chef would have it. Well worth the drive. Weekend reservations recommended. Best: Tandoori Platter with chicken, lamb and veggies; marinated Shrimp Shaandar with shallots; potatoes stuffed with nuts, raisins and paneer cheese in an addictive tomato sauce; tandoor-smoked Daal Tadkiya; stuffed baby eggplant Bhurven Baingan with hellfire chilies; fabulous oven-fired breads -- garlic naan, onion Kulcha and minty Pudina Paratha; homemade pistachio ice cream with rose syrup; spectacular weekday $7.95 all-you-can-eat lunch. Complete dinners for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a bottle of imported beer. Open Monday to Friday for lunch noon to 3 pm, and for dinner 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Saturday, Sunday and holidays 12:30 to 11 pm. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: two-inch step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
JADOO (2222A Queen East, 416-686-7684) This casual 20-seat Beach eatery takes traditional Indian fare and projects it into the 21st century. With encouragement, they'll spice things up considerably. Reservations recommended. Best: share starters and sides like eggplant bharta puree with chickpeas and artichoke hearts; Tandoori Chicken Tikka Bala -- yes, Muskoka -- with mint and mango raita; main-course Balti meal-in-one stir-fries. Complete dinners for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or imported beer. Open for dinner Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. Beer and wine. Smoke-free. Access: one step at door, another to washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
Biryani has a downtown location, but most of the time you have to travel some to get to the proponents of leading-edge Indian food. Here's a tipsheet for the GTA.