Introducing: Indian Street Food Co., Hemant Bhagwani’s new tip-free spot in Leaside
Name: Indian Street Food Co.
Contact: 1701 Bayview Ave., 416-322-3270, indianstreetfoodco.com, @IndianSFco
Previously: Amaya the Indian Room
Owner: Hemant Bhagwani (Amaya, Sindhi)
Chef: Sudhan Natarajan (street food station), Devinder Singh (tandoor) and Kamleshwar Prasad (hot range)
Indian street food, obviously. Bhagwani, who was born and raised in New Delhi, serves snacks and meals commonly found at Indian railway stations. Other dishes, like the grilled okra, are family recipes, while some—the chicken tikka sausage dog or fondue-style pau bhaji for example—are Bhagwani’s own playful creations.
Baigan (eggplant) fries served with chutney and a mustard yoghurt dip. $8.80.
Charcoal-grilled black-pepper tiger prawns, served in a tiffin box. $12.90.
Chicken tikka inspired by a street vendor that Bhagwani met while visiting Delhi’s Chor Bazaar. $13.20.
Mushroom and bhindi upma: creamy semolina with mushrooms and fried okra. $9.90.
Gosht dabalroti: cubes of Pullman bread topped with lamb curry and crunchy noodles. When Bhagwani and his sisters were young, this was their treatment for leftover curry. $9.90.
Thalis like the one above are served as part of the tasting menu.
Wine (80% of which is Canadian), house cocktails with Indian twists and Ontario craft beer (Amsterdam, Muskoka, Mill Street). Bhagwani says he would rather serve local brews instead of Kingfisher, because while that beer originated in India, it’s now made in the U.K.
Murabba Mule: vodka, mango murabba and house-made ginger beer. $12.
Delhi 6: whisky, rose hip shrub, lemon juice and egg white. And yes, it’s served in a lantern. $12.
Amaya’s polished and muted dining room has been transformed into a much more casual one with many talking points: colourful silk tablecloths, a couple of street-vendor carts, framed photos of Indian personalities and street scenes and a list of “rules” painted on one wall (no outside food, no topless sunbathing). One very real rule at the restaurant, however: no tipping. A 12 per cent admin fee is added to every bill which, along with another 10 per cent of revenue, is divided evenly among back- and front-of-house staff. Bhagwani is the first restaurateur in Toronto to institute this policy.
At the end of the meal, the bill is presented on one of those antique typewriters.