UDUPI PALACE (1460 Gerrard East, at Rhodes, 416-405-8189) Inexpensive southern Indian-style vegetarian grub in possibly the squeakiest-clean eatery in the city. Spicing is decidedly meek to appeal to all ages at this U.S. franchise, so bring the kids and the grandparents. Complete dinners for $12 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open daily noon to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Access: six steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
when the local media went after those so-called death-trap dining rooms, it was the businesses of neighbourhoods like Little India and Chinatown that suffered most. Was anyone really surprised some had mice in their basements? With that rationale, inspectors could look at the grease build-up under my stove and close me down permanently.Judging by the health department notices posted in the windows of the 18 India Town restaurants along Gerrard between Coxwell and Greenwood, 15 have passed inspection, another has a conditional pass and two aren't saying.
Those diners still feeling a bit squeamish about the cleanliness of local eateries should drop by Udupi Palace. The first Canadian outlet of a U.S. chain of southern Indian-style vegetarian restaurants -- others are in California, Maryland, New York and Chicago -- this white-on-white room is so spotless you could eat right off the white ceramic floor. Or the white vinyl chairs. Or the sterile, unadorned walls, if the food would stick to them.
Through open doors, you can see a gleaming stainless steel kitchen where an all-male staff dressed in jeans and matching golf shirts polish things that are already lustrous.
Udupi specializes in dosas, lacy crepe-like wraps made from fermented lentil flour that measure up to 24 inches in diameter and range from tissue-thin to flapjack-thick. There are 11 different types on the menu, as well as eight varieties of uthapam, sweet thick-centred rice-flour pancakes.
All, like the vellumesque paper dosa ($6.95), come with a tamely spiced veggie sambar -- lentils, carrots, peppers -- that's used as a dip, as well as pasty coconut relish and hellfire coriander-mint chutney.
Of them all, the tastiest is Special Rava Masala Dosa ($7.95), a green-chili-flecked crepe that's as holey as Swiss cheese.
Chili pakoras pack quite the punch, too: six battered and deep-fried yellow banana peppers stuffed with curried potato-and-pea masala. As enticing as they sound, cashew pakoras disappoint (both $3.75). Imagine dried-out falafel patties mixed with crushed nuts.
Several veggie curries are also available (all $8.95 and served with basmati rice and a grilled chapati), though most are variations on a theme.
Try telling the difference between Avial and vegetable Korma, two very similar dishes sprinkled with kalonji seeds and bathed in under-powered coconut gravy. They perk up considerably with a spoonful of coriander chutney.