RUCHI (649 Yonge, at St. Mary, 416-926-0953) Complete meals for $20 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic lager. Average main $12. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday 1 to 10 pm, Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
After rhyming off my lengthy takeout list over the phone to Ruchi, specialists in Andhran dishes, I remember to specify that everything be authentically spicy. "Do you mean 'hot' hot or Indian hot?" asks the voice on the other end of the line.
I can understand her concern. The curries and kormas of Andhra Pradesh are some of the Subcontinent's most incendiary, combining the rich sauces of northern Moghul cooking with the fiery chilies of the south.
Most of the menu available at this inordinately narrow east Indian noshery on the Yonge Street strip is made up of the familiar fare found at the hundreds of Indian eateries around the GTA. But it does hold a few exceptions.
The house tandoori platter ($14.95) falls into the former category, large chunks of smoky pink-marinated chicken, some unidentified fish, a ground lamb kebab and a solitary skimpy shrimp on a bountiful bed of masala-spiked caramelized onion.
Another staple, Butter Chicken ($9.25), sees its same rich tomato cream sauce reappear virtually identically, along with a handful of frozen peas, in Matar Paneer ($8.50), although both have had the heat turned up to meltdown.
Although the menu insists that all veggie dishes are made with fresh veggies, most of what we try tastes frozen. They look it, too. Despite its appearance, Green Bean Curry turns out to be tasty al dente veg in a light though potent sauce studded with blistered tomato.
The ladyfingers employed in Bhendi Fry ($8.50) - that's okra to North Americans - seem to have been uniformly chopped at their joints, but at least they're not mushy, and caramelized onion adds a sultana-like sweetness to the dish.
Both vegetarian samosas ($2.85 for two), overstuffed with firm curried potato, peas 'n' carrot and the super minced chicken version ($3.25), come wrapped in pie-crust-flaky chickpea batter and are extra-sensational sided with the house's fiery tamarind ginger chutney ($1.75).
Even better, Chicken Pakora ($4.25 for four) finds long strips of sweet red pepper layered with boneless tandoori chicken, then coated in the same batter and deep-fried to crispy perfection.
Most mains come with a side of plain cardboard basmati, so make sure to upgrade to Ruchi's cumin seed and curry leaf-laced Jeera Rice ($2.50) or Chinese fried-style Garlic Rice ($2.99), generously littered with fresh coriander and raw green onion.