The Reveal – Leela By Amaya
Chef and owner Hemant Bhagwani (Amaya Group of restaurants, Indian Street Food Co.) “wants to take Indian food to the next level.”
Bringing the flavours of his homeland and showing them through “modern Canadian values,” the new restaurant whose name comes from the play Ram-Leela, features Indian street food (inspired by highway eateries), some lesser know dishes, as well as intriguing tasting menus.
Bhagwani’s creative menu includes flavours from all regions of India. Modern interpretations include Desi Tacos ($5.95-$7.95) using fenugreek flatbread (Methi Thepla) as the shell, Oxtail Vindaloo ($12.95), Coorg Pork Belly Masala ($11.95) and Paneer Lasagne ($10.95).
Dishes are served tapas style, so you can explore and experience many flavours at once.
Everything including the yogurt and paneer are made from scratch.
The piece de resistance is the elaborate Banana Leaf Tasting Menus featuring colonial Indian dishes, served in small bowls and aluminum thali. This is a playful take on the silver platter versions, popular when India was a British colony. The Chef Sudhan Tasting offers 15 dishes including meat ($39/pp), while the Chef Satyendra features 12 vegetarian dishes ($35/pp). Both are served with rice and naan.
Cocktails (all $9.75) boasting Indian flavours include Madras Gimlet, Bengal, Leela Caesar, Kachumbar Kooler, and Bollywood Gin Tonic.
Wines from around the globe are available by the glass ($6.75-$15) and bottle ($35.75-$65), as well as a selection of bottled beers ($6.50) and non-alcoholic bevvies including lassis.
Fixtures & Fittings
The exposed brick dining room, done in earthy spice tones, is simple and streamlined, outfitted with custom-made tables, chairs and banquettes.
Points of interest include industrial/rustic shelves made from reclaimed Ontario barn board, filled with Indian snacks and canned goods, and colourful mural along the back wall. If it looks somewhat fuzzy and out of focus, don’t worry, you’re not seeing things – this was done on purpose. “It’s more fun than a traditional painting,” says Bhagwani.
And no doubt you’ll appreciate all those outlets above the banquette to charge all your devices.
Back in the kitchen, a large clay tandoor oven from Australia cooks everything from naan to meat.
Off the Menu
Leela Caesar ($9.75) The Canadian cocktail gets a spicy, Indian-infusion by way of Walter Clamato, squeezed lime, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, tandoori shrimp, Worcestershire, Cholula hot pepper sauce, fleur de sel, black pepper, and finished with a lime-flavoured ice cube.
Rasam Shot ($3.95) Large plump shrimp poached in a savoury South Indian broth is a great winter warm-up.
Kale Pakora & Barley ($7.95) This superfood dish is as healthy as it is delicious.
Kale pakoras rest atop barley, jawar (white millet) and quinoa salad, dotted with diced carrot, diced cucumber, sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, and drizzle of mint chutney and spicy yogurt dressing.
The citrus-y dish offers lots of crunch and chew, and while hearty, the result is refreshing and light.
Roasted Cauliflower Chaat ($7.95) The signature dish gives cauliflower – this year’s kale – the spotlight. And instead of the usual iteration, Aloo Gobi, this tasty modern twist features puffed rice, green onions, pine nuts and chutneys.
Eggplant Fries ($7.95) Due to their popularity at Indian Street Food Co., these frites –sliced eggplant dusted with chickpea flour and served with a tangy mustard mayo – were brought over to the Junction. This time, however, they’re served in true Bhagwani-style in a tabletop wire bicycle.
It’s got to be one of the best ways to enjoy the nightshade, and at least this addiction’s somewhat healthy.
Butter Chicken ($12.95) You’ve never had butter chicken like this before. Not only more dramatic in presentation – a cloche is lifted and a tiny bowl of Japanese charcoal releases its smoke into the air – the charcoal infuses the chicken, adding an extra layer of flavour.
Tender, moist chicken breast cubes, topped with melon seeds and green chili, simmer in a rich, thick sauce made with fresh Ontario ripe tomatoes.
Fun fact: Bhagwani conceived the dish on the way to the Taj Mahal.
Truffle Ghee Kulcha ($4.75) Sure you could order regular naan ($2.50), but this gourmet version, stuffed with porcini and brushed with truffle ghee elevates the experience. Added bonus: kick of fiery spice.
Himalayan Pulao ($4.95) You’ll meet your fruit and vegetable quota for the day with this nutrient-dense rice. Studded with green beans, diced carrot, corn, pomegranate seeds and thick slices of large mushrooms, this fresh, comforting dish is as filling as any main.
30 seats available for dine-in. Takeout and delivery also available.
At the Stove: Main Chef Sudhan Natarajan, Tandoor Chef Sheikh Anwaruddin
Head Honchos: Hemant Bhagwani
FOH: Sakshi Humne
Map It: 3108 Dundas St. W. (in The Junction)
Lunch Fri, Sat & Sun- 12-3pm
Dinner Sun to Thurs- 5 -10pm
Fri & Sat 5pm to 10:30pm
Phone It In: (647) 559-9037
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