Another holiday season get together, only this time for Indian. Located on the east side of Whyte Ave, just west of Luzzara, and across from Furusato, you’ll find the south location of Daawat Authentic East Indian Cuisine. A favourite of many locals, and one that receives plenty of good word on Twitter, Sarah and I headed down last week to meet up with LA and JD.
Growing up in a 5 o’clock supper household, I can safely say I was very hungry when we rolled in for our 7:30 reservation. Finding our dining partners already in place, we sat in the low, cushy booths and had a look around. It was packed. With the buffet in full swing, people were everywhere. Not bad if you want that sort of thing, but I’ve had enough experience now to know that picking off the menu at an Indian restaurant is the real deal breaker. Plus, with LA and JD not meat eaters, it was easier to pick through the selections and hopefully find some treasures.
With it being a regular stop for LA and JD, we let them control the food selections. Only a few minutes in and it was clear they were a little worried about what to pick for the larger group (hey everyone’s got their favourites), so Sarah and I grabbed the menu and looked for a few choices. Hey is that Chef Boyardee on the menu? I like that the menu was broken down into specialties; Rice Specializes, Veg Specialties, Chicken Specialties etc.. This allowed us to stay focused and made the ordering a lot easier. On that note, does anyone else get confused when you order Indian. Half of the descriptions sound the same, but the ingredients are in a slightly different order “chickpeas, tomatoes and cumin in a rich sauce…a rich tomato sauce with chickpeas and cumin.” So similar but so different.
For something to snack on while we waited for our food; Papadums – roasted crispy pancakes made from lentils, lightly spiced, served with dip. The papadums were good, more cracker-like than pancake, while the green dip was thin and hot. I wonder if I can get this sauce somewhere. With plenty of great conversation, it only seemed like moments had passed before we started to see our mains arrive. Saffron Rice – basmati rice cooked with saffron, Veg. Jalfazie – large chopped vegetables sauteed in herbs and spices, Chana Masala – chickpeas cooked with ground cumin, onions and tomatoes, Dal Maharani – whole black lentils cooked overnight with onions, tomatoes, butter and Indian spices, Kadai Paneer – homemade cheese cooked in a tomato based curry with green pepper and onions.
We also grabbed a few orders of Plain Naan – fresh leavened white bread baked in a clay oven, which they were kind enough to bring out over the meal as our server wanted to make sure we weren’t eating cold naan by the end. We debated over the heat levels, and eventually left it up to the staff to make the decision whether the dishes should come out medium or hot. As the plates arrived, you could see a red chili’s sitting in the mix, so there was a definite visual different. We soon found the Chana Masala and Dal Maharani at medium, with the Kadai Paneer and Veg. Jalfazie a notch up at hot. Not a bad mix.
I’d have to say the creamy Dal Maharani was probably my least favourite of the dishes, which still says a lot, as we happily consumed every dish. There is just something about a heavy sauce that, when compared with say, the Kadai Paneer, doesn’t work as well for me. As well, I don’t recommend eating any of the red chili’s. Let’s just say my head was like a sprinkler! Good thing we had the Veg Raita – homemade Yogurt mixed with crushed cucumbers and special blend of spices to cool me down! As we neared the end of our dishes, we decided to order more. I had to laugh at this point, as our server likened us to hungry hungry hippos.
We did see our first big gap in service at this point and I wonder if it had to do with staff clearing the buffet. I know it gets busy, but our refills of beverages and so forth seemed to drag a bit longer than any of us would have like. After some arm waving/flagging down, we were moving our food train in the forward direction again. Round two included another order of Saffron Rice, Naan, Dal Masoor – Red lentils mildly spiced, cooked in tomatoes, cumin seeds and onions and Bhindi Masala – Fresh okra cooked with tomatoes, potatoes and spices. The Dal Masoor was a nice change, and something I would order before the Dal Maharani, while the Bhindi Masala dish suffered from a heavy salted hand and had me sucking back glasses of water.
At the end of almost 3 hours, Sarah and I were both stuffed; with good food and great conversation. Not sure what to expect from an all out veggie meal, I can safely say it was wonderful. And as someone who has roots in Mill Woods, I can safely say that Daawat has won me over. Another great restaurant east of the tracks! Thanks LA & JD. I wish you the best this season. It was a pleasure.