Showing posts with label paneer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paneer. Show all posts

Adrak Yorkville (Toronto)

I secretly believe Toronto restaurants create a how-to guide for launching establishments in a particular area. In Yorkville, the décor budget cannot be spared for there needs to be an elegant wow factor to the dining room esthetics. Consequently, menus are priced higher-than-average to pay back the opulence. There can be music playing, but unless your restaurant turns into a late-night destination the decibel level should be kept lower.  And the service is attentive and professional, but never overly friendly with almost a slight snooty air. C’mon restaurateurs, am I right?

Walk into Adrak Yorkville and you’ll be transported into an exotic destination, settling into roomy comfortable booths that have an element of privacy despite the one long dining room layout. Beautiful esthetics – check!

You’ll pay a pretty penny for the meal, where an appetizer papad ki tokri, essentially an assortment of papadams and chutneys will cost $16. It’s a dish that’s sometimes given away freely at other places. At Adrak they provide three different crispy crackers to dip into finely chopped salsa, a spiced beet dip, and a fruity chutney. It’s something that arrives quickly to keep diners placated and awaken the taste buds.

Unlike my experience at their Richmond Hill counterpart, Adrak Yorkville doesn’t shy away from spice. The batter of their onion bhajia ($16) is a cacophony of flavours with different spices coming through as you bite through the crispy onion fritter ending with a heat that lingers on the tongue. The mint chutney doesn’t calm down the sting at all but acts as a delicious condiment for other dishes as well.

Such as the thecha paneer tikka ($22), an interesting creation where two discs of soft Indian cheese are tossed with spices, roasted, and filled with finely chopped nuts, creating a delicate bite with a bit of texture. While there is a smear of curry and green chili sauce topping the paneer, I found the mint chutney (from the bhadjia) adds a bright refreshing element that makes it even better.

For a more traditional take on paneer, the paneer khurchan ($28) keeps the cheese in large chunks so it’s soft within the savoury tomato sauce. It’s great for tucking into a piece of the garlic naan ($5 a piece; 2 pieces shown) that’s so fluffy with lightly blistered crispy edges.

Adrak’s pork vindaloo ($38) uses a unique preparation, slices of pork tenderloin that’s pan fried and drizzled with the slightly vinegary spicy sauce, rather than being braised in the vindaloo. So, while this dish is listed under the “curries” umbrella of the menu, it’s not saucy.

Consequently, something our waiter pointed out when we tried to order the naan, “But, what are you going to eat this with?” Um… the vindaloo and paneer khurchan, we pointed out. Which is when the final characteristic of the Yorkville handbook came out – a helpful but sometimes snooty feeling air.

Apparently, those two dishes would not be enough to warrant ordering naan. He then suggested a full explanation of the menu before we order. Truthfully, I was taken aback from his response, there were already so many titles and descriptions of the menu that surely it should be self explanatory? No, it’s not.

Yet, with some simple changes, it could work. For example, the “Adrak Signatures” dishes are not the typical chef recommendations, rather just more expensive and interesting takes on their appetizers. My suggestion: just call the section “Adrak Signature Starters” and the confusion is solved. And if the pork vindaloo is not a curry than move it to another section.

In the end, this exchange with their staff irked me. Sure, he was probably trying to be helpful and make sure we were aware of Adrak’s special take on dishes, but there was almost a condescending tone that came through – let me explain and order for you because you obviously you don’t know what you’re doing is how I felt the exchange transpired.

Which is precisely how we ended up ordering the murgh makhana ($29) or more commonly known as butter chicken. To be fair, it was delicious and one of our favourite mains of the night. The tandoor roasted chicken was left in in large pieces and the tomato-fenugreek sauce poured onto the dish table side. The sauce wasn’t too creamy, rather silky and full flavoured.

The sauce was delicious spooned over the awadhi gosht biryani ($36), where the rice was already abundantly spiced and moist. At Adrak, they cook the biryani under a pastry dome and is unveiled at the table, so a fragrant aroma erupts. While the cubes of marinated lamb were not gamey and tender, the vegetarian version of the biryani would have likely been better after ordering the murgh makhana.

Putting the order snafu aside, they were certainly attentive, and he even became pleasant to speak to as the meal went on and we exchanged conversations. Still, I’d offer one last suggestion to improve upon service: stop trying to force more food and drink on the diners. This pushiness throughout the meal is annoying.

Case in point, despite feeling we ordered enough food for four people (after the detailed explanation of the menu), he ended with a question akin to “what else are you going to get”? A better way to phrase the conversation, if they felt we were ordering too little, would be ending it with a phrase like, “Let’s start with this order, it may be a little light, but if you’d like anything else, we can add onto this later.”

Moreover, while I know the pandemic was an economic hit on restaurants and they’re trying to increase profit margins to make up for the slowdown, to constantly try to push another bottle of water or wine feels nitpicky. A better way to approach the situation we be, “We’ve finished the bottle. If you’d like another, please don’t hesitate to let us know.”

Besides, do you really want to fill everyone up with liquid and have them not order dessert? The margins on the dessert must be decent. Three spheres of kulfi come in at $21, and while they are dense and creamy, the flavours weren’t that distinctive, other than the pistachio that included tell tale signs of the nut.

I prefer the gajar ki mithi zalak ($21), which includes carrot kulfi as well as dollops of earthy rich carrot pudding and cookie & cake pieces to provide some interesting textures to go against the Indian ice cream.

If there is a how-to guide, I suggest it’s time for an updated edition. Keep the lovely décor and the higher price points - this glitziness is part of the Yorkville cache – but change the attitude. I’m not saying that the diner is always right and for the restaurant cannot offer suggestions, just deploy it with a lighter touch.   

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 138 Avenue Road

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

The Copper Chimney (Toronto) for delivery

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

On walks around the neighbourhood, we’ve seen The Copper Chimney on many occasions. It’s an Indian restaurant I vaguely recall reading about in the Toronto Star, when Amy Pataki noted it’s an above average choice in Toronto.

“One day we’ll try it.” I’ve always thought, and that one day finally came following a dinner elsewhere in the neighbourhood. As we were walking towards the patio of that restaurant, the air was filled with the most heavenly aroma of spices. We remembered that intoxicating smell and ordered delivery the very next day.

Fried appetizers like the mixed vegetable pakora ($5.50) are terrible for delivery. Pakoras I’ve had in the past have been fluffy fritters studded with shredded vegetables, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Copper Chimney’s are dry like food court falafel that have been left on the warmer all day. It’s such a shame, as I can see the large pieces of onions and carrots in the batter. It’s just so overdone (or perhaps fried during lunch and merely re-heated for dinner) that I had to wash it down with a drink.

To lower food waste, I salvaged the pakoras for brunch. Similar to making pot stickers, I put a cold pakora into a heated frying pan with some oil and water. Place a lid on it to allow the water to steam into the pakora and when the patty gets hot, remove the lid allowing the remaining water to evaporate and a crust to develop on the pakora again.

While it’s still a little dry, the finished patty is a lot better than before. In fact, I could decipher other vegetables used in the recipe: cauliflower, eggplant, and bits of a root vegetable. The individual spices also shine through more. If only the pakoras were fluffier and less cooked, I could see these being amazing.

Another overcooked dish was the lucknowi reshmi kebab ($14). Maybe tandoori is something that must be eaten at the restaurant, as Pataki’s review mentioned it being moist and delicious. What arrived at our house was covered in a tasty spice mixture (like a slightly spicy saffron), but so dry that it’s like eating cubes of chicken breast that has been reheated in a microwave and then cooled down again. Another gulp of drink to get this down.

The best part of the dish was the creamed coriander and mint chutney dipping sauce. It’s such a great refreshing bright yoghurt sauce that I tried it with everything in the meal. If you don’t get the kebab, it’s even worth ordering the condiment solely to put on other items.

Finally, the meal improved when I turned my attention to the saag paneer ($12), the spinach and onion puree so fresh and vibrant tasting, unlike so many other places where it’s rendered to a dark mush. Large cubes of soft Indian cheese are mixed throughout, these were thankfully left neutral and remained moist.

The saag goes wonderfully with basmati rice ($4) or garlic naan ($3.50), both sides arrive in huge portions (the naan two times larger than ones found in other restaurants). I just wished we ordered more curries to go with the grains.

Instead, I had to try their shrimp biryani ($17) and wasn’t disappointed. Despite it looking like another order of basmati when we opened the lid, get through the first layer and you’re greeted with a lovely fragrant rice that’s filled with flavours and a kick of heat that had me reaching for the raita. Here the shrimp were cooked nicely, still plump and tender despite trying this dish last.

In the end, I debated what mark to give The Copper Chimney as how well the dishes were prepared is so drastically different. If I had skipped the pakora and kebab and stuck with saucy curries, the experience would have been much better.

During this time where some restaurants are solely relying on takeout and delivery, I suggest trimming down menus to only include dishes that travel well. Not only will it simplify operations, but also ensures what makes it into a customer’s home are quality items you want associated with your restaurant. Stale pakoras and chicken jerky? Probably not something The Copper Chimney wants on their menu.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2050 Avenue Road
 Delivery: Uber and Doordash
Referral Discount Codes
 Support the blog by using my referral code
 UberEats: use eats-ju6ta to get $5 off a $15 order 
 DoorDash: click link to get $20 off

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: