Where to Eat Indian Food in London, Ontario
Among the cluster of local Indian restaurants is Massey`s Fine Indian Cuisine on King Street in London beside the Only on King. On the occasions that I have visited Massey`s, the dining experience has been memorable. Massey`s strongly represent the category of chef/owner-operated restaurants. Chef Patson Massey and his wife and business partner, Anisha, seem to always be on hand while the restaurant is operating. Chef Massey shows his expertise with the combining and roasting of exotic spices, subtle and complex, bestowing and building flavors to great effect. Massey`s is just around the corner from two other noteworthy Indian restaurants: The faded Jewel of India and The Curry Garden which has recently relocated further south on Richmond Street.
Of course, no discussion of Indian food in this city would be complete without mentioning The Raja Fine Indian Cuisine on Clarence Street.
The Raja Fine Indian Cuisine : Honouring Tradition, Technique, and Flavours
By BRYAN LAVERY
Indian cuisine is a vast and sophisticated subject. India’s states and territories differ, cuisine-wise, as much if not more than the regional cuisines of other countries. Caste, culture, religious doctrine, geography, and climate have all played an immense role in preventing the emergence of a truly definitive national Indian cuisine. Despite the diversity, coalescing threads surface on closer inspection.
However, most of what we consider authentic Indian cuisine is a product of the British imperial influence, which resulted in a prolific Anglo-Indian restaurant cuisine that panders to the global masses.
I initially became familiar with this style of restaurant cooking while living in England on two separate occasions. Going out for an “Indian” or a “Curry” or getting an Indian “takeaway” was a national pastime. The idea of a curry is, in fact, a definition that the British imposed on India’s cookery to describe any spiced dish under the generic term “curry.” Historically, Indians referred to their individual dishes by very specific regional names.
Living in England, I was struck by the emergence of authentic regional Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants and the elevation of these unique cuisines to as elegant, sophisticated and refined as any other cuisine. Today, the Indian food industry in the United Kingdom accounts for two-thirds of all eating out, and is estimated to serves about 2.5 million customers every week.
The opportunity to eat fine “Indian” cuisine that honours tradition, technique and authentic flavours does not present itself often. The Raja serves upscale Indian cuisine in sophisticated and elegant surroundings by a knowledgeable, well-trained staff. The service is white linen, deferential and friendly.
After being seated, diners are offered crisp, crunchy poppadums served alongside a dazzling selection of vibrantly coloured condiments, ranging from sweet to sour to spicy, to get the taste buds tingling. The condiments include: gooseberry, coriander, tamarind, mango, yogurt and mint, and lime pickle.
There are also a number of exotic breads (naan, roti and paratha) on offer to accompany and complement various courses, all freshly baked in Raja’s tandoor (clay oven). The delicious Peshawari naan is crisp, hot and infused with almonds, dried apricots, raisins, flaked dried coconut, and whipping cream, and seems more like cake than bread.
Many dishes beg for overindulgence. Share the mixed platter with vegetable pakora, chicken tikka, sheek kabab, and onion bhajee, all served on a sizzling platter. Or pick a garden salad or soup course (the menu includes mulligatawny and lentil), then choose from chicken, beef, lamb, vegetarian, or seafood dishes, which run the gamut from mild to very spicy. From the ubiquitous Punjab-inspired butter chicken: boneless, marinated in yogurt and spices, cooked in the tandoor and redolent in creamy tomato gravy; to the hottest of dishes on the menu, vindaloo, made with your choice of lamb, beef, or chicken. Another house specialty is the unusual Bengal Duck, which is prepared with sweet chili sauce, coconut and almond, and has a decidedly complex hot and sweet taste.
At Raja, Rogan Josh is tender morsels of braised beef, slow-cooked with an aromatic spice mixture and yogurt. Yogurt is frequently used in Indian cuisine as a marinade to tenderize the meat. Rogan Josh derives its name from its rich appearance, which is generally a result of ground chilies or brightly coloured good-quality paprika combined with fresh tomatoes. Rogan Josh takes on a contemporary twist with lean lamb chunks, ghee, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and fresh cilantro.
The flawlessly prepared Pulao rice, aromatic basmati with onion, cumin and mild spices, ordered separately, is not an afterthought but an integral part of dinner. As well, vegetarian selections figure prominently here, as in all Indian cooking. There are nearly a dozen meticulously spiced vegetarian dishes on the extensive menu. Vegetable specialties include: Aloo Gobhi (potato and cauliflower), Chana Masala ( spicy chick peas), Sag Paneer (spinach with homemade cheese), Bharta (spiced roasted eggplant), and Daal Tarka (lentils in garlic). Vegan dishes are also available.
The menu features an intoxicating selection of fish and seafood dishes, such as King Prawn Jhalfrezi (stir-fried with fresh green chilies, tomatoes, green peppers, and fresh coriander, and finished with fresh ginger and garlic), fish (salmon), Masala, and King Prawn Sag.
The Raja has plenty of personality, and the dining room has character and sophistication with its marble floors, deep red painted walls and white accents. The service is deferential and rivals anything in the city.
428 Clarence St. (North of Dundas)
Lunch: Mon.–Sat. 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner: Mon.–Sat. 5 pm. – 10 pm
Sunday Closed (Open for Dinner on Mother's Day)