Showing posts with label papad ki tokri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label papad ki tokri. 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

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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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