REVIEW: Amaya Indian Room

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amaya The Indian Room
1701 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Phone: +1 (416) 322 3270

ATTIRE: Casual / Business Casual
PRICES: See Menu
$$/$$$ Affordable/Pricey
PAYMENT OPTIONS: Cash, Mastercard, Visa, Debit/POS

HOURS: 7 days a week 5PM-11PM

RESERVATIONS? yes via phone and Open Table; Walk-ins welcome
HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE? Kinda.. (washrooms are located downstairs)
GLUTEN FREE? Could be??

Quality of Food: 4.5/5
Service: 3.5/5
Originality: 3.5/5
Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Summer is in full bloom and for the GTA area it means a whole slew of summertime festivities, most of which include you guessed it.. FOOD. More specifically Toronto's annual Summerlicious which began July 6th and runs until the 22nd. What originally began in 2003 as a modest 35 restaurant event has now blossomed into 180 participating GTA dining establishments. Every participating venue creates a special three-course prix-fixe menu for this viral event to showcase their best creations from the kitchen. 

This review actually came up by total chance as I was on my way to work in the morning, . I began using this social meetup website just after I moved to Toronto. Being the new kid on the block from the county, I was finding it a little difficult to meet new people with similar interests in such a fast paced, on-the-go city. Meetup helped me find several social circle's with similar interest's to mine and I have met a  wide range of new friends; many of which I now interact with outside of Meetup. 

Anyways, back to my story, I received an email on my way to work  Friday morning from one of my Meetup groups; Joy of Eating, (if you can't tell, this is a foodie group :P) mentioning that there is a last minute opening for a Summerlicious meetup that evening. Thanks to the wonder's of modern technology, within minutes, I was slated in for the final spot to dine at Amaya Indian Room

Indian food and massages??
Now I have seen this bright orange elephant logo all over Toronto as the Amaya Empire (referrered to by many in T.O. as the 'King's of Curry') and was a bit skeptical at first as it almost appeared to be a national franchise. However, the Amaya group is solely based in Toronto and certainly makes its presence known with 2 full size restaurants (Indian Room and Bread Bar), over 6 express and food court locations as well as a gourmet sauce line; sold in specialty grocery stores and even a complete catering division. Needless to say, this orange elephant gets around but it scored a 26/30 from Zagat, so I'm anxious to see what this Indian cuisine heavyweight has to offer.

Upon my arrival I enter the East York establishment, I was politely greeted by an army of black clad Indian servers and I quickly found some other members of the meetup group in the corner of my eye since the cozy place seats about 40-45.  As I venture to my table, I take note of the very modern and elegant interior with a very bold colour palette of warm orange accent walls and red chairs (both of which simulate hunger which is always a good thing for a restaurant). This was all accented with several pictures of scenery and abstract photos of India which added a very nice touch, nothing crazy like a Bollywood musical. 

As the remaining members of the party were arriving I took a look at both the Summerlicous menu as well as the regular menu. To be honest, nothing on the Summerlicious menu really stood out and it just felt like it was slightly modified dishes from the regular menu with a smaller portion size. One thing that really left me perturbed was the server explicitly explained that the entire table had to make a decision of whether we wanted Summerlicious or regular menu, no mixing and matching was allowed. This stirred some debate of why they were adamant about this. I'm not sure if a reason was explained but we made it easy and all decided to order off the regular menu. 

Jazzed up Indian street food 
For myself I began with the savory chaat. I'm still a neophyte in Indian cuisine but my take on this dish was kind of a bread/wafer/potato salad, only the flavour profile slapped me right in the face with its vibrancy and acidity getting that lip pucker you get after eating a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Soon after I dove into this dish, the others at the table told me that chaat is a well known street food in India and is often served in paper cones for more portability. Savory, tarte and a hint of spice with the coolness of the yogurt really took my palette for a spin. 

For my main, I played it safe and went with a staple in Indian cookery, butter chicken! Traditionally named Murgh Makhani, butter chicken is made by taking tandoori chicken (chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon juice and an array of spices resulting in its iconic red hue and then cooked in a clay tandoor oven) and stewing it in pureed tomatoes, cream and fried fenugreek (herb commonly used in Indian cuisine). This healthy portioned bowl of butter chicken made its entrance with a plate of fresh, warm and delicious order of garlic na'an (flatbread cooked in a tandoor oven).  The butter chicken itself was very tasty; creamy, and full of flavour with the richly spiced tandoori chicken. I immediately began attacking the bowl of delicious sauce with my garlic na'an, soaking up as much saucy goodness as I could with every bite. 

dum means cooked in low heat

Lamb Vindaloo
Accompanied with this splendid dish, I also got to sample some lamb vindaloo (one of India's spiciest curry's)  and dum chicken biriyani (basmati rice that is cooked with several spices over low heat). The vindaloo as its reputation proceeds itself did indeed pack quite a punch though I only had a couple bites of it, and the biriyani had a comfort food feel to it. Kind of gave me the kitchen sink, 1 pot meal deal. Though the flavours are textbook Indian, the layout of the dish reminded me of this loaded sticky rice my mom makes with Chinese sausage, scallions, and Chinese mushrooms. Something you just stop when you eat it and just say "mmmm..."

We opted to skip desserts at Amaya since it was so hot out and ice cream or gelato would of been a nice finish to a bold and spice driven meal.

My final thoughts of Amaya are for the most part positive. Ironically set on going for a Summerlicious meal, I am glad that I ordered off the regular menu. Price's were a bit higher, but in return we received hefty portions perfect for sharing and indulging in a excellently executed Indian family style meal. Even though this is my first time here, judging by the number of locations Amaya holds in the GTA, I can bank that the food is consistently this good. Encountered a bit of a communication block with the ordering, but I would recommend this place to anyone who wants to dine in an inviting and pleasant atmosphere with a eye popping and mouth pleasing (and/or possibly burning depending on what you order) experience! JAI HO! 

Amaya the Indian Room on Urbanspoon


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