Though the pickings are slim at Church and Wellesley, there are oases of culinary competence, and things improve as you head toward Yonge.
BIRYANI HOUSE (6 Roy's Square, at Yonge and Bloor, 416-927-9340) Once known as an ultra-cheap lunch spot featuring first-rate veggie grub, this hole in the wall has morphed into an almost classy boite dishing up the best Indian food south of the 401. While inexpensive noontime noshes prevail, the menu shifts after dark to some of the most spice-creative mains in town. And it's still dead cheap! Best: Sultaani Chaap lamb chops marinated in lemon juice with ginger and mint, then flambéed in rum; spinach, zucchini and onion free-form pakora fritters presented in a pappadam basket over crunchy winter greens sauced with mango and tomato puree; hell-fire Goan beef vindaloo with pickling spices, waxy potato cubes and whole red chilies; Phaldari kofta veggie meatballs with fruit-rich gravy. Complete dinners for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 9:30 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: three steps at door, small washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN