Calgary Hot Plate Restaurant – Calgary, AB

Calgary Hot Plate Restaurant
714-5075 Falconridge Blvd NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 590-1244

“Kebab and naan,” he says, “that’s all I ever get”.

Just that alone got me to agree to having a quick dinner at this little place in the heart of Calgary’s East Indian community.  Coming in from the bristling December winter cold, the aromas alone were a much needed welcome.  Order at the counter, scan the specials board along with the regular menu sheet.  Simple process and setup.  Sit down and wait…

Out comes the warm square bowl of Chicken Qorma – with some good sized chunks of breast meat braised slowly in a combination of spices to create a velvety yogurt curry.  A definitive spicy kick to this mixture, instantaneously you feel the heat rip across your tongue along with the intoxicating flavors.  The accompanying huge plate-sized rounds of freshly made naan at first seem like a little much, but soon you’re ripping them apart and wondering if you might run out.

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Naanbites – New Westminster, BC

805 Boyd Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 527-9997

As might be the case with many people raised in North America, one of my first forays as a child with Indian cuisine was through one of my school friends who came from a family with heritage from that part of the world.  I remember to this day on his eight birthday, being invited over to his home and being exposed to an array of brightly colored and incredibly spicy food that I’d never seen nor tasted before in my young life.  I think the few of us who were invited over all experienced the same shock at it all, that is until his mother remedied that by bringing out something from the kitchen that was milder tasting and had an ingredient that all kids love – chicken.

And so butter chicken will be and probably will remain a lasting dish when it comes to Indian food.  And despite its rather stereotypical image as a “safe” choice among the amazing variety you get in dining out in Indian restaurants, I see it chosen all too often.  And I’m guilt at times.  But more so when its at a lower end establishment, cause I know they can’t seriously mess this up.  Case in point, this little place I came across in Queensborough, called Naanbites.  Based on the name alone, I thought it might be some kind of place just making some creative/fusion bite sized snacks featuring naan bread.  Alas, I was wrong.

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Desi Dosa Madras – Surrey-Delta, BC

Desi Dosa House
8859 120th Street
Delta, BC
(604) 591-1591

I have recently committed to exploring Surrey to mine it of all its gastronomic goodness. To me, this is frontier territory. The distance from my home and my reluctance to drive on the highway have always been blockers to my exploration of this sprawling city. Surrey, of course, is the center of the Indian community here in the Metro Vancouver area. And like Richmond is to Chinese food, Surrey is dotted with true Indian gems. One such place is Desi Dosa Madras on the same strip mall as the more well known (and decidedly mediocre Desi Junction).

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Karma – London, UK

44 Blythe Road
London, UK
(020) 7602 9333
Open 7 days a week
Lunch: noon to 2:30pm / Dinner: 5:30pm to 11:30pm

What Comes Around, Goes Around.  Karma.

How fitting that a fine dining, Indian restaurant entrench itself in the posh neighborhood of West Kensington in London and more importantly, in the home country of the former colonizer of the ancient lands known as Mother India.  Striking out from the nearby buildings with its bold dark colored facade that stretches around a strip on Blythe Road, even the entrance to this lauded restaurant exudes a confident position entrenched right on the street corner.  My how times have changed.

For its hard not to notice the incredible influx of India cuisine and cooking in many aspects of UK life.  From fast food stands, hole-in-the-wall eateries all the way up to white table cloth establishments such as this place, the vast flavors, textures and rich aromas of Indian food has clearly been accepted by the locals and is now considered one of its appeals.  I’m sure you’ve all heard how much good Indian you can get in London nowadays.  Some even go as far as to say the best you can find outside of India.

Well, I had to discover this for myself…

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Handi Cuisine of India – Vancouver, BC

Handi Cuisine of India
4432 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738 3186

Dining solo has been a topic that’s come up from time to time in posts as well as in various comments.  Lately, when I’ve had to eat alone, I’ve tended to go the take away route.  Perhaps I’m being influenced by those who cringe at the thought of eating on their own, whereas in the past I had not been so self-conscious…

Handi Cuisine of India situated in the Dunbar neighbourhood (with another location in West Van) is a place I’d driven past many times over the years but had not yet gone inside to order.  It seemingly has a strong local following and reputed solid service, so my expectations were good.  Recently, I was finally able to find out for myself by dialing ahead and placing an order for pickup.

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Café Mumbai – Vancouver, BC

Café Mumbai
2893 West Broadway (@ Bayswater Street)
Vancouver, BC
(604) 737 2500

In my past travels through India, I have never been able to make it to the west coast mega-city of Mubami (ex-Bombay) much to my dismay. Though I am aware that it is the centre of the country’s business and entertainment institutions, and the metropolis attracts people from all over India to work and live.

Café Mumbai seemingly picked up on this, and claimed to cover the diverse range of cooking and styles of cuisine of the nation.  In an almost-direct rebuttal to the Indian-influenced creations at the city’s best known “Indian” restaurant Vij’s, Café Mumbai states they focus on tradition and there is “no confusion by fusion”.

To me, the dine-in menu seemed to be represented more by staples from the north such as samosas and tandoori, with a few smatterings of those from the south such as pakoras.  With owners originally from the western state of Gujarat, the menu also featured a good number of vegetarian choices.  Though not photographed, the Daal Makhni (black lentils cooked with onions and tomatoes) was unfortunately bland in flavour and disappointing.

Lacking a full out buffet as it common at many Indian restaurants in town, for lunch there are some set specials, including the pictured above non-veg mini meal that included two pieces of tandoori chicken, a choice of lamb curry or butter chicken, the day’s vegetable, rice and naan.  It was just fine, not outstanding nor horribly bad, and portion-wise good for a solo diner.  The butter chicken was a touch on the tart side, so for those who like it sweeter, keep this in mind.

Though in a high pedestrian traffic stretch of West Broadway, it seems Café Mumbai suffers from poor curb appeal.  This visit was on a Saturday lunch, and no other customers were there besides our table, though I could see through the front windows many people passing by and some stopping at the dark , heavy door but not entering.  From the outside looking in, the contrast from the brightness outside to the darkness indoors was striking, and perhaps adding to the lack of enticement to come in.

If it were me, I’d open up those windows and the door to allow more flow and air inside.  As well, if I were the lone manager/server who was there that day, I’d get rid of the spread out newspaper and not sit there at the front table while your diners are eating, as it didn’t seem that professional to me – after all this is a place of business and not your living room.

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Pita Star and The Curry and Kebab Grill – Vancouver, BC

Pita Star
146 East 3rd Ave
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-874-1524

Pita Star on Urbanspoon

I love getting tips about great places to eat…especially holes-in-the-wall. So when a friend called me the other day and said that he had a tip about a new Indian place from a reliable source, we jumped at the chance to try it out. The tip came from a friend of Indian descent, so this place must be solid…or so we thought. As it turns out, it was a food counter that is being run within Pita Star, a place I used to frequent when they served some of the best falafels in the city.


Pita Star is a storefront for a small-sized family run pita baking operation. You can get their bread at various grocery stores and supermarkets around town. I have purchased pita and Falafel sandwiches from here on in the past (I then make another stop at Swiss Bakery which is right across the street). I hadn’t been here in a while because they closed their storefront and focused on their wholesale business. It looks like that has changed.

A secondary operation called The Curry and Kebab Grill has taken over the food bar in front. (They also sell frozen Indian meals to go…which is interesting). We had a quick read of the chalkboard menu suspended over the counter. They have Curry and Rice specials for $5 and an assortment of Indian dishes.


We ordered a Butter Chicken and their Platter Combo 1. The Butter Chicken was…well…disappointing. It had the familiar neon-orange sauce found in food court-grade Butter Chicken. The sauce was much too sweet and lacked complexity.  The meat was very dry and flavourless…they had used chicken breast (probably a bulk Costco pack of boneless and skinless breast).


The Combo Platter was a selection of deep fried items which included Beef Kebab, Mogo (cassava), Nylon Bhajia (dollar potatoes) and Samosa. It also included a triplet of dipping sauces –  Tamarind, Coconut-Cilantro Chutney, and Green Chili Chutney.


The Samosa, Nylon Bhajia and Mogo were decent – fresh tasting and not at all oily despite being deep-fried. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. The Kebab tasted pre-fried, stale and dry.


My lunch companion picked up a frozen curry meal to go. He reported later that it was “decent.” It was packed into a vacuum sealed microwavable segmented container  resembling a TV dinner (remember those?)


Clearly, I had my expectations set too high. Perhaps if I wasn’t so picky, I would probably enjoy this food. This area which is at the edge of a light-industrial zone is a little thin of good eating (the truly amazing Argo Cafe is just around the corner, however) so this cafeteria probably fills the bill for many people working within walking distance.

A tip like the one I had most often leads to hidden gems…not this time, unfortunately…not for me anyway.


Pita Star on Urbanspoon