RED ROSE RESTAURANT (795 Bathurst at Bloor, 416-533-5477) Complete meals from $13 per person, including all taxes, tip and a $2.95 pint. Average main $8. Open seven days 11:30 am to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: N Rating: N
For many years I've passed the gloomy facade of the Red Rose and pondered its potential. I'm generally enamoured of small, cheap restaurants that can satisfy my appetite, but this place only feeds my hunger for more. The bloom is definitely off, as the saying goes. Loonie-sized pieces of spent naan litter the floor. Honest Ed's glares at us from across the street. A $2.95 draught takes 10 minutes to arrive and is consumed long before lunch is served.
A starter of six doughy vegetable pakoras ($3) toughened by the microwave doesn't augur well. A sweet tamarind dipping sauce helps with dryness, but we're suspicious of the unnaturally pink colour.
Saag Paneer ($5.99) and Bagen Bartha ($6.99) resemble two bowls of baby food, accompanied by a single piece of greasy fried poori ($1.50). The Saag Paneer is an abomination of creamed spinach, ghee and cubes of cheese with a chemically preserved flavour. Bagen Bartha, puréed roasted eggplant, holds little flavour and shimmers with cornstarch and grease.
From the vegetarian selection, we try the meat thali (choice of chicken, beef or goat, $8.49) - we don't know why these are listed as vegetarian - to get a sampling of the basic fare. Lentils, basmati rice, mixed vegetables, curried chicken, naan bread and rice pudding. Avoid the chicken, with its fat globules and tiny bones. Lentils are stewed to mush and overly salty, also with the telltale gleam of cornstarch. The curried veggies are boiled to death, and the naan looks and tastes like a President's Choice pita. Twenty-six dollars' worth of half-eaten mediocrity gets pushed aside as we cheer ourselves with another cheap pint.