Meal at Lahore Tikka by Robyn Lee
At best, I can describe Lahore Tikka as a very large hole-in-the-wall — but don’t let that fool you. Located in the heart of Toronto’s Little India on Gerrard Street, this spice house is arguably one of the GTA’s best South Asian restaurants.
I had always been accustomed to eating at the traditional, family-owned Indian restaurants commonly found in pockets of Brampton and Mississauga, so when I tried out the cuisine in downtown Toronto, I was slightly disappointed. Most of the dishes were bland, watered down, and, well, didn’t taste Indian. And yes, that also includes most of the food found on Gerrard Street. So you can imagine my skepticism when a few friends decided to drag me out to this place I had never even heard of. You know what, though? I’m so glad I went!
From the moment you enter until the moment you leave, you’ll think that you’ve been teleported to a street-side fast food stall somewhere in a village on the subcontinent. There are lights and makeshift drapes everywhere, and, outside, they even have a model rickshaw! You can take photos and tell everyone that you’ve just come back from an exotic vacation. There is a portion of the restaurant that has been under renovation for as long as I can remember, and you will be given disposable plates and cutlery. The look is nitty-gritty, the menus are disposable sheets of paper, and you’ll be serenaded by Bollywood tracks while you eat.
Lahore Tikka by Andrea Williams
This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. If you’re looking for “authentic,” then this is as authentic as it gets. Once you get over the culture shock, you’ll quickly realize that the atmosphere is laid back and that the people are extremely friendly. Even with a large group, the service is almost always very quick and accurate.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. If you really want to enjoy your experience at Lahore Tikka, my strongest suggestion is to go with a large group of anywhere from five to ten people. Their dishes are meant to be shared, and the variety is what makes the meal satisfying. Also, be conscious of the fact that the food is oily and spicy, so unless you’re already used to this type of cuisine, don’t overdo it! They’ll always start you off with a complimentary salad and some marinated onions with a light coriander chutney, which is a refreshing start to the meal. Lahore Tikka is known for its freshly grilled kebabs, so be sure to order a plate of them; they are $2 per kebab, and you can choose between chicken, beef, and lamb. Even though I’m not a huge red meat fan, I do personally enjoy the beef and lamb kebabs most. They use fresh green chilies in the mix, so indicate to the waiter if you want it made mildly. They are large, so you can anticipate about two or three maximum per person.
Do keep in mind that this is a Muslim restaurant, so you will not be able to order alcohol. However, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to a boring glass of water or the usual Coke. They offer an imported drink from Pakistan called Pakola, which has a bit of a sherbet flavour and is very tasty. You can also try out my personal favourite — an icy, tall glass of mango lassi. This is a sweet, yogurt-based drink that is heavy but extremely complementary of the cuisine and a classic favourite of most South Asians.
For the main course, feel free to order a variety of dishes. The butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are both excellent choices, and the karahi chicken is also very good. A plate of garlic naan is a great side for the kebabs and the main course, but they are large, so you won’t want to order too many. Also, if you fill yourself up with naan, you won’t be able to try out their specialty — biryani! Biryani is a rice dish with a special blend of spices and meats, and it is incredibly rich and tasty. My suggestion is to mix up a bit of biryani with the gravy from the chicken dishes to wrap up your meal; this is typical amongst South Asians, but no worries if you prefer to keep your items separated.
Whenever I go with a large group, the average is usually no more than $22 per person. We all eat liberally, and we almost always have a big plate of leftovers to take home. There is a lot of bang for your buck and flavour for your taste buds at Lahore Tikka, making it a truly enjoyable experience. A personal suggestion of mine, though, is to be wary of making it one of the “regulars.” Undoubtedly, the food is extremely good, and the atmosphere is a lot of fun; however, it is extremely unhealthy for anything more than once in a blue moon. Keeping that in mind, I still urge you to check it out and really make the most of your visit to Little India.
1365 Gerrard Street
East Toronto, Ontario, M4L 1Z3