Indian Street Food Co.
Indian Street Food Co. has replaced Amaya the Indian Room on Bayview. It's a 50-seat canteen from Hemant Bhagwani that made headlines upon launch for its no tipping policy , a novel approach that has somewhat overshadowed the real reason you'll want to visit this place: the food.
Folk music is piped into a dining room decorated with colourful slats of wood and a collage of framed photos featuring Indian street markets and festivals. Portraits of Ghandi and Mother Teresa are painted on the walls and the "rules" of the restaurant are listed in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
The menu opens with two tasting menu options; one is a three course meal ($65 with wines, or $45 without) that starts with shareable apps and moves on to an impressive thali; the other option is a tapas style menu ($79/$59) offering a variety of small plates for the table.
To drink, there's the Murabba Mule ($12), an effervescent blend of ginger beer, vodka, thick mango pulp mixed with ground murabba that gives it an extra concentrated fruity flavour.
The restaurant aims to bring the vibrant culture of street markets to the table and in some cases takes the challenge quite literally. Trolleys are rolled over to guests for theatrical presentations of chaat or dosa prepared table-side to order.
From the a la carte menu, there's a Granola Bar ($9.90), but it's not the sweet snack food you might expect. This savoury chaat of jhalmuri is drizzled with tamarind sauce and topped with creamy sliced avocado and a scoop of lentil dumpling ice cream.
Chilled seafood bhel ($9.90) is next. This dish is an Indian take on ceviche featuring red snapper mixed with cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and crunchy lemon noodles. It's topped with green mango and sweet date chutney and proves itself an essential cooling component amongst the lineup of fiery foods.
The Pau Bhaji Fondue ($9.90) consists of spicy vegetable curry served with cubes of soft bread and fresh mint chutney. Skewering and dipping the bread in this manner makes it a little difficult to swipe up all the good stuff but I like how the presentation elevates such a humble dish.
Red Biryani (MP) served in a clay vessel is sealed with roti dough. It's cut open at the table so that when the dough is lifted back a pocket of steam escapes. The rice is a blend of grains specked with freekeh and quinoa hiding tender chunks meat, in this case, succulent lamb.
The Kerala Beef Chilli Fry Sandwich ($10.90) with mango slaw and chutney is another very western approach to a traditional dish. It's a messy, aggressively spicy sandwich, but it's really good and hearty. I'm happy to share it with so many other dishes already on the table but if I only had the capacity to eat one thing, this would be it.
Unlike many Indian establishments, the food here is light on cream and not as heavy. You might even find yourself with room for dessert like Kulfi on a Stick ($4.99), a creamy dense ice cream pop that soothes and satisfies all at once.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.