Gasa is an old school, one room, practically menuless restaurant serving Sri Lankan eats in a strip mall.
They’ve been open in one form or another since 1992, run by the same Shanmuganandam family the entire time. This Markham spot is now their only location.
The teensy space is constantly packed with a churning ebb and flow of customers the entire time I’m there. Entry and exit is afforded through one small door, steam tables crammed into a corner and boxes of hoppers lining shelves, cooking taking place in the back.
They’re known as the most popular kothu roti spot in the Sri Lankan community, and the savoury pancake-like items are made fresh by hand here.
Though there’s no menu that I can see, everyone seems to simply know what to order and I hear lots of styrofoam boxes coming out for $6.50.
Masala dosai ($3.99) is made with a dosai mix that’s been a specialty at Gasa for 25 years. It’s filled with a grilled potato mix, curry added on top as per customer’s request.
The crepe is a bit tough to tear apart with just a fork but that’s normal, and of course you can just go at this fragrant, comforting dish with your hands.
They’re most famous for their chili chicken kothu roti ($7.99), the fresh handmade roti chopped up and combined with chili chicken doused in spicy chicken gravy, onions, green chili and scrambled egg.
Mutton rolls ($1) are filled with mutton and potatoes, deep fried and coated in breadcrumbs for a basic, delicious and well-priced snack or side, from a menu of Tamil “short eats.”
It almost feels like a Sri Lankan taquito.
Chicken and mutton biryani ($6.50) tops coloured rice with your choice of any curry, their secret biryani sauce, and served with an egg and chicken leg. This dish is typically quite spicy but we get a little bit of a milder version, as you can adjust the heat level on dishes.
A sweet coconut pastry (70 cents) is a mix of jangri sugar and coconut wrapped in a rice flour shell and then steamed. The smooth outer rice flour shell almost makes this seem like a version of a mochi in some ways.
A cup of warm, milky chai accompanies the pastry nicely.
Over the past quarter century this place seems to have grown into a reliable stop for many. If they keep up the traditions and family values that are so strong here, surely business will continue for even longer.
One quick tip: those paying with cash seem to move through the line much quicker on a busy Friday night.