I moved to Toronto in the winter of 2010 and recall spending most of my mornings twiddling my thumbs in the cold of my apartment which sat perched on the second floor of a Victorian mansion in Parkdale. The recession was still biting people in the ass and when I wasn’t loitering through online job postings I was familiarizing myself with Toronto’s food scene via BlogTO and Toronto Life. This blog which had spent the previous three years documenting my galavant across the globe was soon to become a creative sandbox for discovering my new home.
I created a Restaurant To Do List with the city’s famed cheap eats at the top (Golden Turtle, Okonomi House, Country Style Hungarian) and more expensive must try’s at the bottom (Canoe, Scaramouch). I was paying my landlord over 800 dollars a month and didn’t actually have a job so cheap eats were the first treats I tackled. My restaurant to do list has been sitting on my phone for the last four years and changes regularly as I hear a new recommendation or scratch another off the list.
This past winter the New York Times featured a fantastic article entitled Toronto’s Ethnic Buffet. I read through the story with haste and a deep sentiment of pride as my home sweet home received the long overdue praise she deserved. In the story writer Francine Prose visits classic tourist spots such as China Town, Kensington Market and the St Lawrence Market but also ventures off the radar to Little India, a neighbourhood I am frankly unfamiliar with. It was funny then when I came across her tale of Lahore Tikka House as it had been on my to do list since I first moved to the city and some four years later still hadn’t found the time to plan an adventure to one of the city’s top Indian restaurants.
And so it was on one spontaneous evening my friend Cody and I found ourselves lurching along Carlton Street bound for Toronto’s east end. While we were both famished, we made sure to take the time to skip through Little India whose streets were filled with a distinctive curried perfume. Two colourful tuk tuk’s stand sitting in front of the restaurant, offering guests a photo op before spilling into a breezy dining room.
Lahore Tikka House specializes in North Indian + Pakistani cuisine featuring sizzling BBQ platters and fragrant curries. The experience is cheap and cheerful with guests drinking from plastic cups while scribbling their orders with colourful markers on petite white boards. The restaurant doubles in size thanks to a big white tent which has been pitched in the parking lot (and makes the experience all the more unforgettably campy).
I let our waitress at Lahore Tikka House know that it was our first visit to the restaurant and with that news her eyes twinkled with delight. We put our faith in her hands as over the next hour she whisked the restaurants favourite signature dishes under our noses. While sipping through imported Pakola and Vimto soda’s (the sweet factor will have your lips puckering) we ripped up charred naan which had just popped out of a clay oven. I dipped and dabbled in fragrant chana masala, creamy butter chicken and raita while nibbling through beef kabab, sizzling lamb chops and a mountain of chicken biryani.
Cody and I barely spoke for 10 minutes (other than oooh, ahhh, omgahhh). As we waddled out of Lahore Tikka House I couldn’t help but appreciate the saying “good things come to those who wait.”
Pakola and Vimto Soda
Salad with Raita Dressing
Lahori Beef Kabab
Sizzling Lamb Chops