Debu Saha has never had any luck with locations. First, Biryani House, his tiny Indo hole-in-the-wall on Roy's Square, grew so popular that he moved it into far posher digs in a fugly second-storey room knee-deep in shag carpet with a floor-to-ceiling wraparound panoramic view of the Wellesley subway station. The crowds didn't follow, expecting $5 thalis, not $45 six-course tasting menus. Saha closed up shop a year ago, although a somewhat more downscale Biryani House (25 Wellesley East, at Yonge, 416-929-9444) continues under the folks who used to own Saffron Tree.
The inventive French-trained chef has just resurfaced with Debu's Nouvelle Indian Cuisine (552 Mount Pleasant, at Belsize, 416-927-9340). His card is even grander than ever - char-grilled Ontario rack of lamb vindaloo ($27), say - but whether the tony strip, once a hotbed of culinary activity back in the 80s with the likes of Pronto but now a stretch of sleepy patisseries and genteel gelaterias, is the right fit remains to be seen.
Over on College west of Ossington, super little supper-club Karuchie has called it quits.
Despite initial rave reviews across the board - including a 5-N notice in these pages - owner-chef Chris Thorn (ex-Scaramouche and now ex-Karuchie) couldn't keep up the momentum.
"The summer was brutal, really brutal," says Thorn, who's not sure what he'll do next. "Everyone in the neighbourhood is taking a hit, it seems. I guess I was the first to run out of money."
Dig out your Che Guevara T-shirt this weekend and head over to Havana Cultura, Toronto's first annual Cuban arts fest. The four-day music 'n' booze event runs Thursday to Saturday (September 25 to 28) at several west-side venues, including the Gladstone (1214 Queen West, at Dufferin, 416-531-4635), the Beaconsfield (1154 Queen West, at Beaconsfield, 416-516-2550) and Cinnamon Girls (1170 Queen West, at Northcote, 416-531-7080), which all promise Cuban-inspired menus and cocktails. More information at havana-cultura.com/canada.