Curryish Tavern is a contemporary Indian restaurant on West Queen West that serves locally inspired Indian cuisine.
Although the concept began as a pandemic pop-up, its success and dedicated following led chef-owner Miheer Shete to open his first restaurant. Prior to this pivot, Shete was the chef de cuisine at Oliver & Bonacini’s Jump, where he developed his appreciation for seasonal Canadian ingredients.
“I always wanted to do something in Indian food,” shared Shete. “As I learned more about the city and became a better chef, I was able to refine the concept which I got to try on guests during the pandemic. I had the best time. After eight months of doing Curryish as a pop-up, I decided to bank on momentum and open my own restaurant.”
Shete's Curryish dishes are fresh interpretations of classic Indian fare. Using techniques from his European culinary training, it's less fusion and more of an evolution of southern Indian cuisine. Besides bursting with vibrant colours, the refined share-friendly courses also achieve a balance in flavours and textures.
The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare Pani Puri ($21), for example, fills squid ink-stained puffed puri shells with a mix of rich yellowfin tuna and sweet Ontario peach chutney spiked with chaat masala. Full of flavour, the street food-inspired bite is finished with a drizzle of pudina jaljeera (a loose sauce made from tamarind, mint, and cilantro).
Curried Stracciatella with Heirloom Tomato Salad ($21) leans directly into Shete's familiarity with Italian techniques. Coating stracciatella that the kitchen makes in-house with a ginger tadka dressing, the dish also features heirloom tomatoes and crispy homemade tapioca poppadom that have been kissed with a proprietary spice blend and mirch honey.
An interplay of balance and contrasts, there are the airy crisp chips plus the sweet and juicy tomatoes, but it’s the warming tadka – a mustard seed, curry leaves and cumin spice-infused oil – that take the creamy pools of fresh cheese curds to the next level.
Giving the traditional hot dish a twist, the Charred Eggplant Charta "Dip n Chip"” ($17) embraces Shete's devotion to seasonality. Dusted with pomegranate, toasted sesame seeds and a slick of chilli oil, the smoky garam masala-spiked dip is served with an assortment of seasonal vegetables – heirloom carrots, asparagus, celery, and radishes on my visit, as well as homemade plantain and taro chips.
Instead of something ordinary, Shete does the extraordinary with his interpretation of aloo gobi, a classic dish made of potatoes, cauliflower, spices, and herbs.
Joking that new dishes like the Aloo Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower Curry ($26) happen "when an Indian has cooked a lot of Italian food," the humble vegetarian side is transformed into a showstopping main. To give the cauliflower a meaty texture, the kitchen brines it overnight before steaming and roasting the vegetable.
This vegan-friendly main takes a wedge of the tamarind-glazed cauliflower and perches it proudly in a silky moat of coconut curry with spears of grilled romanesco and supple tadka-flavoured gnocchi.
The Coconut Vatan Stuffed Whole Branzino ($36) is also a stunner. Here, the butterflied fish is packed with fresh mint, cilantro, coconut filling before it’s grilled. To finish, the delicate fish is dressed with a bright turmeric-stained lemon butter sauce that's accented with curry leaves and mustard seeds.
The Ghee Confit Duck Leg and Foie Gras Curry ($39) uses Pote's Masalas spice blend (that comes from Shete's home state in India) to make the light and delicious Quebec foie gras-mounted Maharashtrian goda masala curry.
Ruffly kale and house-pickled grapes help cut through the richness of the refined dish. Not wanting to waste a drop of the unctuous curry, I mop it up with the restaurant's Montreal-Style Bagel Paratha ($6).
I'm not into super sugary foods, so the Screech Rum Soaked Gulab Jamun ($14) surprised me. In contrast to the traditional version of the dense and toothachingly sweet dessert, this tender baba au rum-inspired last course wasn't cloying but delightful.
Like a thirsty sponge, the cake's open crumb soaks up an aromatic cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise Newfoundland Screech-infused syrup. Topped with whipped mascarpone cream, delicate crushed rose petals, plus a spiced pistachio crumble, this isn't a dessert you'd want to share.
Those looking for smart pairings that complement Curryish Tavern's diverse flavours can take comfort in the all-Ontario wine list, local craft beer program, and cocktails that draw from the Indian pantry.
There's Gulabi Mood ($17) that's made using gin, vodka, tequila, and a house-made rose syrup. The bright fuchsia cocktail is floral and easy to drink.
Gold rum, lime juice and mint go into the Ginger Mojito ($15). Sweetened with jaggery (unrefined sugarcane), the highball has a spicy kick thanks to the generous amount of fresh ginger it contains.
Curryish Tavern's long exposed brick-clad room is divided into three areas including an airy front dining space that’s flanked by street side tables.
Artist Yesha Thakre was commissioned to create the captivating mural depicting a modern Indian woman, which can be likened to Shete's Toronto Indian cooking.
A long bar flushed with high bar stools dominates the central space. The area is given a breath of life with living wall accents.
At the rear, warm and cozy booth seating offers diners a full view of the open kitchen.