The Best Pakistani Restaurants in Toronto
The best Pakistani restaurants in Toronto are well-known to Canada's growing Pakistani population, but their culinary offerings often play second-fiddle to marquee fare such as Thai, Italian, French or Japanese. You can't be the crown jewel of multiculturalism and not have Pakistani restaurants dotting your street, through, and in many neighbourhoods in and around Toronto, Pakistani ex-pats have set up shop to serve biryani, qorma, daal, chana masala, and the other staples of the South Asian diet, saving you the plane trip to Karachi.
The Pakistani community, which grows alongside other South Asian populations, exists in several locations in and around the city. Thorncliffe Park and neighbouring Flemingdon Park are great areas to seek out Pakistani food, as is Little India on Gerrard Street, along with the suburbs like Mississauga and Scarborough.
Given the cross-cultural pollination between India and Pakistan, the menus differ only slightly--dishes vary not due to the border, but based on geography (north/south of the subcontinent). In Canada especially, where many Indian restaurants offer halal versions of their dishes and many Pakistani establishments increase their vegetarian selection to accommodate a more traditionally Indian palate, variation in the two cuisines are few.
Here are my picks for the best Pakistani restaurants in Toronto.
Writing by Jeff Dupuis. Top photo by Jim U in the blogTO Flickr pool. Additional photos by Morris Lum and Tim Shore.
Iqbal Kebab and Sweet Centre, in Thorncliffe Park, has a wide variety of dishes and desserts native to South Asia, as well as a separate paan station that allows you to customize your order. There are two seating booths that offer some privacy, and a general dining area, but the carrying-your-food-to-your-table gives it a cafeteria feel. They also have a full halwa puri breakfast on weekends along with paya and nehari. The demand for halwa puri, however, is pretty high so make sure you arrive earlier in the day as they do occasionally run out. More »
Zauq in Mississauga is a newer extension of the renowned Silver Spoon in Scarborough that virtually transports you to its homebase near Tariq Road in Karachi. It has great seating that can accommodate reservations for a large party. To request a buffet-style-dine-in as part of the food arrangement, you are asked to have a minimum of 30 guests. Highly recommended are their wraps accompanied by the savoury tamarind chutney, beef-behari rolls and the chicken tikka rolls (both at $7.99), and their Hakka (South Asian, Chinese influenced dishes) menu just adds to the number of reasons why you should visit this restaurant again. More »
Lahore Tikka House is arguably the most famous Pakistani restaurant in Toronto. Located in Little India, it serves the standard Pakistani fare, with a wide selection of appetizers and entrees, but few sweets. Don't let the patio tables and mid-renovation ambience bother you. Although the food is served on Styrofoam plates, it's rich and savoury with reasonable spice levels for a first sojourn into Pakistani food. Your cardiologist may not be happy, but tearing away strips of naan and scooping up liberal portions of tarka daal among the pleasant crowd is delightful. Their tikkas are mild in spice but flavourful, however, the restaurant is not suitable for vegetarians as the vegetable dishes are not always fresh. The main drawback is the serving style of Lahore Tikka House; it may not be expensive, but for the price you're paying, a waiter ought to come to your table and take your order. More »
Shaheen is a popular restaurant in Flemingdon Park, near the Ontario Science Centre, presenting patrons with a more intimate dining experience. The restaurant delivers a good plate of biryani (with beef or chicken as the protein option) that is more aromatic than spicy. Their curries and vegetarian dishes are stronger picks over their barbecue fare. It is not the only South Asian restaurant in the neighbourhood but is usually bustling, a clear sign that the food will be fresh. More »
Bar B Q Tonite capitalizes on sharing the moniker with the famous Karachi restaurant. This restaurant has indoor as well as outdoor seating, though it doesn't necessarily have the best ambience as far as Pakistani restaurants in Mississauga go. The glass screen allows patrons a view to the kitchen so they can watch their food being prepared. It serves excellent barbecued meat (great Chargha that reminds you of "Food Street" in Lahore) though it's slightly pricier than most other restaurants of its type. It is one of the few places that features lamb Kat-a-Kat along with the chicken variety, and is well known for its Maghaz Masala. More »
La Sani Grill at Markham and Ellesmere is a much-favoured option with east-enders. Among the curry dishes, the steaming dishes of butter chicken are the most popular choice. They have a wide array of lunch specials at reasonable prices. The perfectly spiced grilled dishes are the best option though, in particular the tikka botis and reshmi kebabs. More »
Sahara, also in Mississauga, is a popular selection for hosting parties and events, with enough room to easily accommodate up to 40 people. It has a buffet selection as well as an a la carte menu. The buffet is a favourite with families on weekends, rather affordable at $14.99 per person (8.99 for kids under 8), and has quick food rotation, ensuring freshness. It has the best-known buffet for Pakistani food. The a la carte menu is not as cheap as the buffet but offers a great variety of flavour. Nehari is their specialty dish, and they use shank meat to ensure authentic taste. More »
Dishing spicy, flavourful food at deliciously cheap prices, Safa Tikka and Kabab House features a comfortable and clean seating space. Despite the abundance of restaurants serving Pakistani/Indian cuisine in the area, this restaurant allows for a more enjoyable dining experience. It tends to get especially busy during lunchtime so if you're ordering takeout be prepared to wait in line. More »
Tandoori Village, in the heart of the largest Pakistani community in Toronto, supplies a good selection of dishes, mostly Pakistani, but also including Middle-Eastern fare like shawarmas and falafel wraps. What really stands out, however, is their tandoor. Reminiscent of the naan shops in Pakistan, they have built the traditional tandoor (complete with the long metal skewers to extract fresh naans from the water-well-like oven). The very large naan, at $1.50, is truly outstanding and remains soft and fresh even after overnight refrigeration, making this the go-to place for naan in the GTA. More »