Awesome Indian

Chic eatery brings kick-ass curries to the west end


CURRY TWIST
(3034 Dundas West, at High Park,
416-769-5460) First-time restaurateurs
score right out of the box with this
charming Indian gem in the Junction.
Soothing music, attentive service and
startlingly tasty food make this the perfect
dining equation. Soon to be massive.
Complete meals for $30 per person,
including all taxes, tip and a domestic
beer. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday
5 to 11 pm, for lunch Friday to Sunday
11:15 am to 2:30 pm. Fully licensed.
Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN


i’m going to tell you about this amazing new restaurant that nobody knows about. Don’t look up, just keep reading. If word gets out, we won’t be able to get into this first-rate foodie find. And we wouldn’t want that, would we? This is just between you and me, so keep it under your hat. You didn’t read it here, right?

I’m talking about a chic outpost for incendiary grub set in an out-of-the-way neighbourhood time-lost in the 40s. It’s called (close your eyes) Curry Twist. The owners, Ramandeep Singh and partner Pamilla Cheema, have never been in the restaurant biz before yet have done nearly everything right. There’s real passion here.

They start out with a long, narrow storefront and hang the front window with silk lanterns. Upfront, a polished cherry-wood bar wraps around an open kitchen and leads to the main eating area. Brown paper laps over linen-clad tables, and the wall colours reflect the spice palette — pale greens and burnt cardamom. Diaphanous saris billow in doorways as evocative classical music eases tensions.

Look up and note how normally atmosphere-destroying acoustic tiles have been cleverly stencilled in dull gold. This attention to detail continues with Singh’s short lineup of northern ‘n’ western Indian classics. Because we’ve never seen it on a menu before, we start with a rosewater milkshake ($2.95). Mistake. Its intense sweetness overpowers the palate and makes subtle vegetable lentil soup ($3.45) seem inconsequential. The sugary shake makes a far better post-inferno dessert drink.

Now the fun starts. Cheema returns with a small silver tray bearing a trio of stuffed bread rolls ($4.95), golden Wonder Bread (!) breads stuffed with gingery potato, garden peas and fresh coriander. A small bowl of mint chutney (store-bought, methinks) sparks things considerably. The other breads — naan ($1.25) and Gobi Parantha ($2.95) — fall flat by comparison. But any day now, when the tandoor oven gets installed, they’ll match the quality of the rest on offer here.

We follow with Lamb Twist Masala ($10.95), which arrives in a beautiful miniature copper bucket. Great chunks of boneless chop swim in a lively garlicky gravy garnished with more green coriander leaves. Sides include Paneer Veggie Twist ($8.95), where bite-sized cubes of creamy feta-like cheese mix with sweet red and green peppers and long sections of caramelized onion. Layered with long threads of ginger root, tasty rice pulao ($3.45) finds nutty basmati studded with blanched cashews and a toss of regrettable frozen veggies.

With our leftovers packaged, we finish off the last of a strong vintage-free Australian white (Hardy’s Riesling/ Gewurtztraminer, $4.95 glass/$22.95 bottle) that has just the right kick to counter the preceding spice attack. Picking up the tab, I’m shocked to see that the bill totals less than $70. Now you understand why we’re going to keep this place just to ourselves.

We’re back a week later, and besides two other customers we’re the only ones here again. Although our first-visit choices were far from wimpy, tonight we ask chef Singh to give it the full throttle. The fireworks commence with a pair of kebabs ($6.95), two skewers loaded with minced lamb, tomato, both sweet bell and halved jalapeño peppers and grilled onion.

We assemble delicious Haandi Chicken Twist ($9.95) — boneless breast in a spice-rich tomato sauce — with Saag Paneer ($8.95) made with mustard greens and smoky multicoloured lentil daal ($5.95). Another fabulous dinner.

After only a few months in business, Cheema and Singh have made all the right moves (well, excepting those frozen veggies). Whether these newbies can handle the inevitable stampede remains to be seen. There’ll be lineups every night, extra staff to train, expected standards to be met.

This is why we need to keep things quiet. Now, turn the page and try to look normal.it’s not unusual for a beanery to close up shop and disappear into the night, but the Yummy Yummy Truck — the Chinese noodle street vendor located at the corner of Yonge and Elm we reviewed last week — has vanished into the ether! But don’t fear any alien abduction. The truck’s owners have taken a short midwinter vacation and should be back wokking in a couple of weeks. stevend@nowtoronto.comfood & drink

vanishing act

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