CLOSED: Zomato Meetup at the Kathi Roll Express (Toronto)

Kathi roll express

Still under a year old, Zomato Canada has taken our market by storm, expanding quickly in North America with their takeover of Urbanspoon. Of course, many factors contribute to their success - having a dedicated team in each city and ensuring restaurant information is kept up-to-date with reoccurring staff visits, being some. 

They are also the only review site that attempts to build a relationship with the foodie community to ensure tons of quality content is being added to their site. After all, wouldn’t you prefer an opinion from someone who eats out a lot and makes the effort to provide details more than just “the food was delicious” or “food’s okay, but service sucks”?

One way of connecting with bloggers is through Zomato meet-ups. Small groups of bloggers are invited for a meal where we can meet staff members, connect with other writers and try a new restaurant. It’s an intimate event I look forward to and was recently invited to one at The Kathi Roll Express (“TKRE”).

To take advantage of Toronto’s limited summer weather, we started off on TKRE’s patio: a vibrant enclosed haven at the back of the restaurant. Sipping on cocktails it was an excellent opportunity to speak to the entire group, as once you sit down at a long table it’s difficult to converse with more than a handful of attendees.

Dehli cooler Kathi roll expressThe Delhi cooler ($6) is a crazy concoction made with vodka, mint, coriander, limca (a citrus soda), and garnished with chaat masala powder. There are spicy, tangy, savoury and sweet elements all mixed into one drink. Cumin, coriander, black pepper, chili powder and the sweet soda are all prominent flavours. The drink is an acquired taste and you have to be the mood for such a flavourful drink; for me it’s not one for sipping, as it feels like a meal in itself.

The theme of varied flavours continued with a plate of papri chat ($5.99). Sumit, owner of TKRE, explains the dish is generally served on food carts and eaten in the summer. I can see why this would be perfect for the hot weather as there’s tons of cooling sauces (yoghurt, mint and tamarind) and the crushed pieces of the fried dough wafer, diced potato and chickpeas makes it substantial without feeling heavy.

Chaat Kathi roll express

You can’t go to TKRE without trying their namesake kati rolls. A portable dish develop in Kolkata, India, it consists of a skewered protein wrapped with paratha bread. In watching the chefs make the dish, it first starts with a thin egg crepe. Then a semi-cooked paratha is layered on top and cooked together before being stuffed and rolled. 

That evening, we tried four of TKRE’s chef rolls (all $9.99):
  • Peri peri chicken tikka was my favourite with tender pieces of chicken slathered in a fiery sauce made from chili. Aside from the heat, there was also refreshing citrus and aromatic spices elements added to it.
  • Butter chicken tikka wasn’t overly saucy and therefore didn’t leak out of the wrap. If you can’t take very spicy foods, the butter chicken is a good option as its flavour comes from masala, garlic and a mild curry sauce rather than ground up chilies.
  • Shami kabab consists of a patty made from lentils, ground lamb, egg and spices. The lamb becomes lost with all the legumes but of all the kati rolls this one retains its temperature the best. I would have liked something else other than the caramelized onions, maybe bell peppers, to add contrast to the shami’s soft texture.
  • Paneer shaslik is a great option if you’re vegetarian or not in the mood for meat. The paneer (an Indian cheese) is cooked in the tandoori oven to give it a smoky crust. Bell peppers, onions and mint sauce is included to give it crunch, sweetness and moisture.
Kati roll

Most visitors will likely stick with TKRE’s kati rolls. But, that’s such a shame as their tandoori dishes are fantastic - in my opinion, even better than the rolls. The piping hot oven is right at the entrance allowing them to churn out delicious barbequed dishes.

The tandoori fish ($12.99) is beautiful, served on a hot plate so the aromatic spices permeate the air. The golden turmeric rice is a slightly saucy but still retains its distinct kernels and goes so well with the layer of onions on the bottom which caramelizes adding sweetness to the dish. The white fish, which I believe is tilapia, is moist and flavourful. The stunning dish is so well balanced in flavours: strong enough for interest but doesn’t overwhelm the fish.  

Without a doubt, the dish everyone wanted more of was the tandoori wings ($8.99 for 6 pieces), one was simply not enough! Sumit notes they are always made fresh, so takes about 20 minutes to cook. The chicken has a lovely fragrant crust and the meat inside is tender and flavourful.

Kathi roll express tandoori wing

For dessert I tried my first piece of milk cake ($2.99), which tastes like sweet compressed cous cous. I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t any starch in the dessert, rather it’s made from taking milk, sugar, ghee and spices and cooking it until it curdles to become the texture of cake.

Kathi roll express milk cake

Shots of mango lassi ($2.99; normally served in a larger cup) ended the meal. TKRE’s version has a strong mango flavour from the pulp it’s made with and the pinch of cardamom is what makes the lassi distinct from a smoothie. The Indian yoghurt makes it perfect for pairing with the spicy food.

Kathi roll express mango lassi

During the meet-up it was a great opportunity to learn more about Zomato. The idea came about when Deepinder Goyal, founder and CEO of Zomato, made a simple repository to store menus from local food courts for him and his co-workers. It expanded as people in surrounding areas starting hearing about it and requested access. Eventually, he quit his consulting career to start Zomato in India.  Seven years later, it has become a global company and continues to add to its foot print.

If only Goyal could attend the Zomato meet-up at TKRE. I’m sure he would be amazed that what started off as a helpful gesture is now uniting Toronto foodies on the other side of the world … all over quick-to-eat kati rolls that likely graced the menus in his first database. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The meal was complimentary. But, as noted in Gastro World's mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 692 Yonge Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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