Every time Mack’s Dad rolls into town solo, usually en route to a conference somewhere, it means we’re in store for dinner at an Indian restaurant. Mack’s Mom lacks an affinity for curries, so Martin takes advantage of any opportunity he can to satisfy his cravings (it is similar to Mack’s love of Greek).
Last Thursday, Mack and I suggested that we give Guru a try. Origin India had been our go-to place for previous occasions, but we’ve been meaning to head over to Chef Deependra Singh’s restaurant for quite some time, and this was the perfect excuse. We were also told Guru had a good gluten-free menu, which was needed for one in our party as well.
Located between 100 Avenue and 170 Street, Guru is highly visible to traffic, but in some ways, this is also a drawback. We were seated by a window, which would normally be ideal for access to natural light and green, but all I had in my line of sight was a constant stream of cars. For that reason, a table in the heart of Guru is more desirable.
The interior is tasteful, with dark wood throughout with some glass accents. A small bar and private room round out the dining area, and the kitchen offers a windowed peek into the work of the naan artist.
Buffets aren’t offered at Guru, which in some ways was freeing because of our knee-jerk tendency to choose buffets by default. This way, we had to be more selective about what dishes we wanted to try. Mack and I missed the initial spiel from the server, but he apparently recommended that each of us order our own dish. This surprised me a bit, because apart from buffets, I usually correlate Indian food with family-style service.
This wasn’t the first time I would be a little taken aback by the server. Though I wouldn’t consider Guru a fine dining establishment on the same level as Hardware Grill, I would still hold it to a standard higher than casual upscale eateries like Earls or Joey’s. As a result, the informal demeanour of the server was unanticipated – his mention of using the samosas to pick up girls at Moxie’s, or “spending all his money at bars and having nothing to show for it”. Some may have found his candid nature refreshing, but I thought it was out of place, and cheapened the experience somewhat.
That said, we thoroughly enjoyed the food. The butter chicken samosas (4 for $12) were hot and crispy, the flaky shells enhanced by a sweet tamarind sauce. The chicken could have been a touch more moist, but it was impressive just how much meat they packed in each samosa. Mack loved these, and commented that he’d return just for the samosas.
Butter chicken samosas
Entrees ranged in price from $18-24 (rice and naan separate), so I figured the servings would be quite large. When the bowls arrived, it didn’t quite meet those expectations. After struggling to finish the dish, however, I realized it was quite deceiving, especially for such rich, flavour-packed curries.
The paneer butter masala ($18) essentially substituted the dense Indian cheese for chicken, so Mack and I got the best of both worlds – his favourite sauce, my favourite protein. We were told the heat level would be a three on a scale of ten, but for me it was probably closer to a one. The fish moilee ($24) was a nice surprise, tender fish in a coconut-based sauce. This was particularly tasty paired with the saffron rice and coconut naan.
Paneer butter masala
There were other nods of approval around the table – Martin and Thom ordered the Guru Rajasthani lamb curry ($21), Shane the chicken vindaloo ($19) and Kim the butter chicken ($19).
At the end of our meal Chef Singh did come to check on us, which was a nice touch. And though we now have two good options where we can gather the next time Martin is in town, I have to say I’d lean towards returning to Origin India. Guru would be a close second on that list, especially if we were craving those butter chicken samosas.
17021 – 100 Avenue