Nina Dragicevic/Metro Toronto
Alka, left, and Poonam Dhir pose in their new “modern Indian” restaurant Indus Junction, on Queen West.
Address: 811 Queen St. W.
Lunch: Tues. to Fri., 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Tues. to Fri., 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Weekends: Indian brunch 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Dinner 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $85
It’s the weekend before Indus Junction has set their official launch but the restaurant already bustles with walk-ins off the street. The Dhir sisters hover over their guests, smiling as they collect empty plates. “What do you think?
How was it?”
The new “modern Indian” restaurant at Queen West is still carefully arranging its feathers before its launch (Editor’s note: It opened last week) — tweaking its menu, toying with new combinations, collecting feedback from the lucky first few.
Its interior already speaks to a minimalist modernity: Deep cinnamon-coloured walls surround rows of crisp white tabletops, while decorative accents are selective and few. This particular night’s prix fixe menu — a generous and varied collection for $25 — boasts a confidence with classic Indian fare and equal boldness with experimentation. This, says Poonam Dhir, the younger sister to Alka and half of the Indus Junction vision, reflects the “constant process” of an evolving cuisine.
“At first, the main dish was very traditional — chunks of tandoori chicken in the (fenugreek, tomato and cream) sauce,” she says, “but then we thought: Why not serve the entire chicken breast? And why not stuff it with spinach and cheese?”
Garnished with cherry tomatoes and bathed in the copper-coloured sauce, the spiced dish strikes you as completely Indian and yet entirely new. The accompanying lentil soup is a dark, thick interpretation of a classic, while the preceding appetizer was an innovative trio of cod morsels, topped with onion, cucumber and pepper and marinated in a yogurt cream. The finishing touch — a flourless chocolate cake topped with homemade vanilla-inspired Indian ice cream and a pert cherry sauce — brings a familiar flavour to western palates with an enticingly new cultural spin.
The entire impetus behind Indus Junction’s menu and atmosphere, says Poonam, was trying to make up for what she calls a lacklustre Indian dining experience in Toronto.
“We’ve always believed that food is more important than just getting a meal,” she says of the culinary tradition she experienced at home, “and we’ve always felt that that Indian food in Toronto was not up to par — for atmosphere, fresh ingredients and the whole dining experience. (Indus Junction) was a long time in the making. And I know it sounds corny, but I truly believe it was meant to happen.”