Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tikka Masala: so-so

I'm fairly sure that people are going to pelt me with stones (or tomatoes) for this one, because everyone's been raving about how fantastic the food at Tikka Masala (a stand in the food hall of Long Circular Mall) is. My boyfriend gets food from there a couple of times a week, and there was a good buzz about it on facebook. I'm a lover of Indian food - my mum makes really good curry and I lived in England for several years where 'an Indian' long ago overtook fish and chips as the most popular take-out food. So I made my way over to the mall a couple of weeks ago to check out this 'fantastic food'.

On first glimpse I was optimistic: really nice looking stand, great photographs of the food, good prices (everything seemed to be in the $30 range) and friendly service. On closer inspection, the menu combinations were a bit disappointing: no vegetable curries - this is a big problem for me as I get in a twitch if I eat a meal sans veggies. Only one real vegetarian option - very disappointing when you consider that Indian food is the one sure-fire cuisine for vegetarians. And then there are too many meat meat starch combos.

Anyways, I was there, and I love trying new places to eat, so I ordered tandoori chicken with aloo sag and naan bread. The food appeared quickly enough, was sealed with foil and I was given a small container of freshly sliced onions and coriander. All of this HAS to be good, I thought to myself as I wandered off to find a table at which I could eat.

And then... bitter disappointment. Overcooked, mushy potatoes, tasteless and non-descript chicken. They looked right. They just didn't taste right. Tandoori chicken has always been one of my favourite things, especially when it's cooked in a proper tandoor (a specially prepared clay oven). The combination of yogurt and citrus and then a million spices and the chargrilled meat makes for an exciting taste experience. In fact, to me, that's what makes all Indian curries good - the play of flavours exploding or melting into ones mouth at different points of the taste experience. But what I had at Tikka Masala that day was just kind of homogonised and (perish the thought!) bland.

The high point of that meal was the naan bread, which was delicious. And the little slices of onion mixed with fresh coriander was a nice touch in an altogether forgettable meal.

But hang on... because I needed to know if I was just unlucky that day, I went back yesterday. This time I ordered chicken korma and lamb rogan josh with naan. Again, delicious naan and slices of onion. This time the curries were a little better. But not substantially. In both cases there simply wasn't the intensity of flavour one expects from a good curry. I wondered if the cooks were chinxing on the spices to make them go further. Or maybe they were just adding too much liquid and not letting the food cook for long enough. Whatever the reason, both meals were disappointing, and although it's more expensive, I would sooner spend my money at that place in Shoppes of Maraval (is it called Tandoori Hut?) than Tikka Masala.


  1. I tried the food at Tikka Masala for the first time last week. My first criticism was yours: the lack of vegetable options. Anyway I had the chicken tikka masala, aloo sag and rice. (I didn't get any fresh onion and coriander, though.) Decent-sized portions for the price, and the tin-foil seal was a nice touch. I get home, tuck in, and...meh. Not bad, but nowhere as good as it could have been. I don't think Tandoori Hut is much better, though. Give me Rasam or Apsara any day (but not at those prices).

  2. I'm dying for you to come to Toronto so that I can take you on a culinary tour. There's the absolute best Indian place near my old 'hood. Doesn't look like much (used to be a dodgy fried chicken place), but the food is great. It's Banjara (north Indian) and owned by the same people, in the same little nondescript lot, Madras Masala (south Indian). You can order from both menus in either restaurant. We usually get a takeout feast and have enough food for days. These days I live nearer Little India, but I haven't explored the restos too much (Lahore Tikka House is a fun place in the summer and the food is good, but I prefer Banjara).
    (PS: I'll post my pancake recipes on your pancake page.)

  3. The place in Shoppes of Maraval is good - their food and their mango lahsi.

  4. Jonathan - agreed - Razam and Apsara are great, but wowsers, expensive! I think Tandoori Hut is a decent alternative if you're on a budget.

    Elspeth - never tried the lahsi. Going to give that a go next time I'm there.

  5. hello - can your friend in Toronto tell me where she is saying is the best Indian? Is it somewhere on Gerrard East? I would love to go when I am there from next month.



  6. Shivaun - what's the name of the restaurant? And where is it?

  7. Found another Tandoori Hut in Trincity Mall today. They have freshly squeezed juices (only had cane juice today). Had no mango lahsi because (according to the man) mango is out of season.