Wednesday, June 16, 2010

East India Company Pub & Eatery - 349 York Avenue

Monday, June 14th - Lunch

I have to cop to my bias right off the top - I love East India Company, and have since I was 17 and a friend kindly introduced me to this wonderful Winnipeg mainstay. If you're unfamiliar with Indian food and you're curious, East India Company's buffet is the ideal newbie experience for you. It's a virtually risk-free way to acquaint yourself with some Indian classics which, unless you are dead inside or something, will soon become beloved favourites.

My work friends and I eat there more regularly than is best for our chequing accounts, but of the restaurants within lunching distance of our workplace, it's our favourite. My friend J has Celiac disease, which severely limits her options when it comes to dining out, and East India Company is one of the few restaurants in the neighbourhood which provides reliably gluten-free dishes.

Lucky for us, East India Company also provides food and service of the highest quality, and an atmosphere so welcoming that you feel as though you've been invited into the home of a friend. Go to the restaurant more than once and the Mehras, the lovely family who have owned and operated East India Company for over 30 years, will remember you and treat you like a close friend.

On this particular Monday afternoon, the three of us arrived in the midst of the lunch rush and were seated immediately. We ordered our drinks, and L and I elected to split a cheese naan. East India Company offers a selection of naan bread to go with your meal - plain, garlic, or cheese. I recommend all three, but the cheese is my favourite. The naan is made to order and comes to your table piping hot and so tender and flavourful that I am salivating as I type this. Hand to God.

All three of us predictably selected the lunch buffet. The lunch buffet's offerings are fewer than the dinner buffet, but all the essentials are present.

I loaded my plate down with basmati rice (fragrant and cooked to steaming perfection!) then added one of my favourite dishes at East India Company, the chana masala. Chana masala is chickpeas cooked in a sauce of onions, chiles, and classic Indian spices like turmeric and coriander. The chana masala at East India Company has a nice dark sauce, and is saucier in general than the chana masala offered by other restaurants.

Moving down the line, I added a couple pakora (crispy spinach and onion fritters) and samosas. These samosas aren't just dough pockets crammed with curried potatoes and peas, like some places offer. East India Company's samosas are small, and rich on the cumin and cilantro. The filling is cooked just right - no mushy potatoes and peas all over the place.

On to the entrées: I piled my plate high with aloo gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower flavoured with turmeric and curry) and murg bahar (or murg bakhani; better known in North America as butter chicken.) Their aloo gobhi is fabulous, and I don't think I even need to touch on the butter chicken. It's legendary. Best in Winnipeg, without question. End of story.

The thing I love best about East India Company is that each of their dishes is a little bit different every time I go, but they are always fantastic. It's like your mom or your grandma's best stew recipe. It's not identical every time, but it's always hers, and it's always so good. It proves that the food at East India Company is made by thinking, feeling people who put their heart into what they create. That is an approach to food that I can always get behind.

My bill came to $25.39 including taxes & tip. Like I said - not a budget lunch by a long shot. But if you're going to splurge, splurge here. It's worthwhile.

Five cardamom seeds out of five.

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