Country 040 – India (Sweet India)

: 7126 Airport Road, Mississauga

Remember when I was saying that a nicer-looking restaurant and a clientele that doesn’t match its ethnicity were both tell-tale signs that a place like this might not be all that great?  Well, here’s a definite exception to that rule: Sweet India is both very nicely designed and, when I went at least, around halfway full of people who looked like they’d fit in comfortably with the cast of Friends.

It was also one of the best meals I’ve had since starting this blog.

The restaurant is laid out like any number of food court joints; they’ve got food in warming trays, and you can pick what you want.  I went with the vegetarian thali, which comes with your choice of three different dishes, raita (a cold yogurt-based cucumber salad), rice, and a basket of naan bread.

I think it’s hard to tell from the picture what an obscene amount of food that is, but seriously: look at the fork and knife for scale.  The plate is about the size of a cafeteria tray, and it was crammed with food.  Not to mention the basket full of naan, and the generous serving of dessert.

Suffice it to say, after eating all that I was ready to lie down and go into a food coma.  And for less than ten bucks, it’s a pretty amazing deal.

The three dishes in the top row of that tray are: aloo baingan, a flavourful mixture of eggplant and potato; chana masala, a chickpea curry; and aloo methi, a potato dish cooked with methi leaves (also known as fenugreek).

It was all really good, though with its fragrant intensity, the aloo baingan was clearly the star of the show.  It was a flavour bomb in the best way possible.  It helps that the accompanying ultra-fresh naan was superb; it was the perfect combo of lightly crispy outside and chewy inside.

The dessert was moong ka halwa, a creamy, pudding-like dish made mostly from lentils.  Indian desserts tend to be a bit of an acquired taste, and I was so full at that point that I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t like it so I could take one bite and throw the rest out.  But it was so good.  So of course I had to eat the whole thing, food coma be damned.

If I had one small complaint, it would be that while everything was fairly spicy, it does feel like the spice level has been toned down to accommodate the aforementioned Friends-like clientele.  A bit more of a fiery kick would have been nice, but everything was so amazingly tasty that it really didn’t matter.

Country 004 – Trinidad and Tobago (Leela’s Roti & Doubles)

Location: 900 Rathburn Road West, Unit 1, Mississauga

Well, that was disappointing.

I’ve never tried a double before (a doubles?  Does it have to have the S?), and I’d certainly heard good things about Leela’s.  Trying something new?  At a reasonably acclaimed restaurant?  Yeah, I was excited.

And the place was packed — so packed that I couldn’t even eat in the restaurant (I ate in the car, which is always fun).

If nothing else, it’s crazy cheap.  I got a double ($1.25), an aloo pie ($1.50), and a bottle of Trinidadian soda ($2.00), and the whole thing came up to just over five bucks.  And it was a fairly substantial amount of food, I should note.

I tried the double first.  A double, for the uninitiated, is essentially a chickpea curry sandwich made with a special type of fried bread.

It was actually pretty bad.  It probably didn’t help that it had obviously been sitting around for quite a while, giving the bread a mushy, unpleasantly sodden texture that was really unappealing.

The filling is essentially bland curry mush. It’s just kind of there, without any real personality: a gentle, ineffectual poke to your tastebuds.  Nothing about it pops.

It also had an unpleasant undertone that I can’t quite put my finger on. The closest thing I can compare it to is particularly ripe boiled cabbage. That flavour wasn’t too strong, fortunately, but it was definitely there, and it was definitely off-putting — to me, at least. I think it’s safe to assume that, in the process of updating this blog, I’ll be eating dishes that would be classified as acquired tastes. So I don’t know if this was just a bad version of a double, or a taste I simply haven’t acquired.

The aloo pie was clearly the superior of the two items. Featuring a spiced potato filling surrounded by a crispy fried pastry shell, it was nothing particularly mind-blowing, but it was tasty at least.

The filling is essentially like a smoother, less dense version of what’s in a samosa.  It tasted okay, but again, it was kind of bland.  It was spicy, at least, which helped give it some personality.

The fried pastry shell had a crispy exterior and a pleasantly chewy bite, but it also tasted very strongly of stale oil.

So no… not a fan.  But if you’re looking to get full on very little money, then sure, come here with a few bucks in your pocket and go nuts.  Just don’t expect anything that great.

Leela's Roti and Doubles - the menu board Leela's Roti and Doubles - double and aloo pie