Whether it's served in a fast food joint or an upscale room, Indian food scores big in T.O. Spice up your life at these spots.
BIRYANI HOUSE (6 Roy's Square, at Yonge, 416- 927-9340) This hole in the wall has morphed into an almost classy boite dishing up some of the best Indian food south of the 401. Noontime inexpensive noshes prevail, but after dark the menu shifts to some of the most spice-creative mains in town. And it's still dead cheap! Best: Sultaani Chaap lamb chops marinated in ginger and mint-lemon juice, then flambéed in rum; spinach, zucchini and onion free-form pakora fritters presented in a papadam basket over crunchy winter greens sauced with mango and tomato purée; hell-fire Goan Beef Vindaloo with pickling spices, waxy potato cubes and whole red chilies; paneer kebabs with pineapple chunks and salad; smoky dahl with fiery green chilies. Complete dinners for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Fully licensed. Access: three steps at door, small washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
BRAR SWEETS (2646 Islington, at Albion, 416-745-4449; 755 Dundas West, at Mavis, Mississauga, 905-848-3933; 199 Advance, at Dixie, 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. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
JODHPORE CLUB (33 Baldwin, at Henry, 416-598-2502) This small room gets packed out for its wallet-friendly weekday $7 subcontinental lunch buffet. After dark, the kitchen turns up the heat on reasonably priced and assertively spiced northern and western Indian fare. Best: yogurt-and-mint-marinated, tandoor-fired Pudhina lamb chops with vegetable paneer tikka, large freshly made cheese cubes skewered along with onion, cauliflower and sweet bell peppers; Portuguese-inspired Goan fish curry, sole in tamarind and coconut gravy. Complete dinners for $30 per person ($12 at lunch, $17 at brunch), including all taxes, tip and a bottle of India-brewed beer. Open for weekday lunch buffet 11:30 am to 3 pm, for dinner Sunday to Thursday 3 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 3 to 11 pm, and for weekend $10 prix fixe brunch noon to 3 pm. Fully licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNSD
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