Vinushan Bakery is open for takeout and delivery. A maximum of three people are allowed inside at a time. Masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is at the counter.
Vinushan Bakery is a bare-bones takeout spot where heaping portions of $6 thali and other homemade Sri Lankan and Tamil food is best served in styrofoam.
The restaurant known mainly to the local frequenters of the area has sat, unassumingly, in the same small shopping plaza near Kennedy station for the past 21 years.
Vinushan Aingaran's parents (originally from Jaffna in Sri Lanka) opened this restaurant named in his honour when he was about five years old. Now 26, he helps his parents run things alongside younger sister Archanaa.
Having opened as a full dine-in restaurant originally, the humble interiors have seen a few changes in its time.
Nowadays, there isn't much more than a tall side table that would likely only fit about four stools and a hot-plate-like counter displaying fresh made savoury pastries, which customers can quickly order and go.
Mutton and spring rolls, patties, onion pakora and veggie samosa are among the large selection behind the counter. Plenty of lunchers go right for these ready-made options instead of ordering off the menu.
Fresh bread is made on-site and sold for about $2 per loaf. You'll find an all-white bread loaf, sandwich bread and roasted paan, a Sri Lankan bread perfect for breaking with your hands and eating with a curry.
Both mutton and chicken biryani (small: $7, large: $8) are also available on the fly. The rice just keeps coming until a mountain has been formed inside the takeout container.
The dish of fluffy fragrant rice also comes with a breaded chicken leg, boiled egg and fried eggplant curry.
Veggie thali (small: $5, large: $6) is another that you won't have to wait long for and a great bang for the buck. It gets a combo of four vegetarian curries. These change daily with a long bean and potatoes, kale and cabbage, eggplant, and a lentil curry available at the time of our visit.
Everything has a nice heat to it, that establishes itself at the first bite and remains consistent, without building, throughout the entire meal.
Urad dal and rice are ground in-house for the handmade dosa before being poured and formed into the thin and perfectly crispy pancakes.
Masala dosa ($5.50) is longer than a foot long and comes with the addition of masala made from potato, curry leaves and fenugreek, a herbaceous plant that's plenty sweet and nutty. Chutney and sambar go on the side.
The chicken curry ($5) is classic and heavily aromatic, delivering on the heat without overpowering.
String hoppers, or idiyappam, is a traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian specialty. And although the steamed rice noodles may look pretty straightforward, they're not sold everywhere.
That's either due to lack of required equipment, manpower (it takes two to three people to run the noodle press), or the more than 30-minute prep time needed to get them just right.
The stringy, thin noodles (25: $3.50, 50: $7) are best eaten with your hands using a handful of them to pinch a bit of grated coconut sambai for added flavour. Or you can pour some of the sodhi, a South Indian version of vegetable stew, over top.
A cup of black or masala tea ($1.50) sweetened with condensed milk is the perfect addition to a classic Sri Lankan meal.