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Get Your Tikk On

If you, like me, have been to a few restaurants in your life that have quite nice decor, exorbitant price tags and profoundly mediocre food (Canoe, I’m looking directly at you) and you’ve had quite enough of that particular brand of pretentious bullshit, then have I got a treat for you. Specifically, I have got the exact, precise opposite of that grim gustatory menagerie just described.

On the recommendation of some members of the relevant cultural group, we went out for Indian food Sunday night down on Gerrard. “Not a place you bring your parents, or a first date”, we were told, “but if you want great Pakistani food it’s the only game in town.”

I found that advice very, very accurate.

Toronto people: be aware of the Lahore Tikka House. Specifically, you should be aware that while it has every appearance of being a dive (and I do mean every appearance; an analysis was made, criteria specified, lists of dive-qualifications made and each item thereon implemented and meticulously crossed off) that it is also full of bumpin’ indian techno music and fantastic food. I understand they’re building a new restaurant next door to move into next year, featuring such frills as not-office-trailer decor, not-lawn furniture, not-plastic cutlery and not-styrofoam plates but honestly, with food that good, who cares?

So if that sort of thing offends you then get takeout, you ponce. But if it doesn’t, then run, do not walk; this is some good eatin’, right here. Sit down, soak up the beat and the smell of the place and fix that indian food craving that’s been nagging you for the last little while.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, is what I’m getting at here. It is a dive that serves great food, qualities that pretty much instantly make it My Kind Of Place, but I think you’d like it too.

6 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Adam

    Ouch, scathing review of Canoe. What was so bad about it? I was there a few years ago and thought it was fantastic. For my money, they have the best desert in the entire city (the butter tart). Maybe I’m just a sucker for the pretentions.

  2. Mike Hoye

    There was nothing bad about it. Canoe wasn’t bad, not at all. But it was only okay, and for the kind of coin you drop at Canoe, “only okay” is an order of magnitude away from good enough. It is one-tenth of the way to acceptable. The decor was quite nice, the ambiance was quite nice and the view was of course spectacular, but as far as the food was concerned I expected that bar to be set quite a bit higher. As a “dining experience”, I suppose that it was pretty good, but as a restaurant it’s hard for me to overlook the fact that I was not impressed with the food.

    In fairness, though, I didn’t try the butter tart.

  3. Adam

    Okay, now that I’ve got the info I wanted I’ll admit my biases. My sister works for the company that owns Canoe. It *could* be the case that my experience there was clouded by the fact that we were getting the royal treatment as a result of the fact that we were “insiders”.

    That being said, I can relate. I’ve been to some of the nicer restaurants in the city, while not being given the royal treatment, and have had hideous experiences (Susur and Avalon representing two of the worst of the bunch). What it boils down to in many cases is getting lucky and catching the place when they’re “on” (as opposed to “off”). Then again, when you’re paying premium bucks for a meal, that’s not something you want to hear.

    I do somewhat disagree with your premise though – that the food at a restaurant like Canoe must be an order of magnitude better than say, a place like Kelseys (just an example). An order of magnitude is a pretty big deal! It’s not as though you’re paying an order of magnitude more for your meal either. It’s probably closer to 5x. Maybe that means it only has to be 5x better (in which case Canoe would be one fifth of the way there).

  4. Mike Hoye

    I realize that there are diminishing returns on your investment in the culinary experience, so let me say that while I don’t expect per-dollar comparable value (impossible, of course, because that’s not how taste and memory work) I at least want to walk out of a place like that feeling like it was worth it, that’s all.

    The worst nice-restaurant experience I’ve ever had, though, happened at Gio’s, the “big nose” restaurant in Toronto on Queen East. The food was good, if a little pricy, but the service was glacial, like my food was being cooked by the slow erosion of wind and rain. The place as noisy as hell and packed up like a high-school cafeteria. Which is OK, there’s a place for that, but we were surrounded on all sides by people who (quite literally, here) spent the whole night talking loudly about how much money they made, and just wouldn’t shut up. The sort of people you want to punch for no reason. “Look, buddy, I’m glad you were born rich, but you smell like cabbage and you dress like a blind man.” pow!

  5. Adam

    Very intruiging. I’d rank Gio’s as one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s attained that status mostly because it reminds me so much of restaurants in NYC and as a result, every time I go there I feel like I’m on a mini vacation. Of course, I’ve only ever sat up against the wall so the annoying chatter of others has largely been an non-issue.

    One super-cool thing about Gio’s is that if you call in advance you can request that they seat you in the old bank vault in the back. It’s a completely different dining experience in there (so quiet you feel somewhat awkward in that you can clearly hear all of the conversations of those around you). If you have a sizeable group though (8 or so), you could have the whole place to yourself and then it would be like a private party in a bank vault. What beats that?

    The also have a mardi-gras-style tradition for those in the bank vault. I won’t go into the details but needless to say, my privates aren’t featured on their wall.

  6. Mike Hoye

    Yeah, you’re the second person who’s told me that. If I can get my wife to consent to a second visit, I’ll give it a try.