Vibrant, Delicious Indian Flavour – Winterlicious at Amaya’s Bread Bar

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Simaltaneouly fresh and vibrant with a quiet, sophisticated ambience, Amaya’s Bread Bar is a beautiful Indian restaurant with delicious flavourful food, arranged and cooked with painstaking attention to detail and presentation, and gorgeous decor to boot.  Sections of walls are covered in brick and stone, lush cushioned seats surround dining tables carefully arranged with plates, napkins, and drinking glasses, and bold pops of orange and fuchsia contrast the pristine white of shiny floor tiles and long communal tables.  You walk in, take one look around and know you’re in for a special, memorable dining experience. 

I’ve been looking forward to Winterlicious for weeks now, months even, and I was really excited to go through the list of restaurants participating in the price fixe event to find something unique, something that would be worth the extra buck.  I wanted to be picky, not just with the price (as I was only looking at lunch menus in the $15 price point this time around) but also with the food being offered in the menus.  Amaya’s Bread Bar, located at 3305 Yonge St. north of Lawrence Ave, fit the bill with a wonderful menu comprised of familiar Indian comfort foods and sophisticated twists on other nibbles.

While my sweetie Richard ordered the malai chicken tikka to start off, I began my meal with a set of four swiss chard pakoras as appetizer: crispy, spicy battered vegetable fritters with chopped swiss chard (a leafy green vegetable with large ribbed leaves) and caraway seeds strewn throughout, and seasoned with green chillies and cumin.  Funny enough, I had only learned of swiss chard several weeks beforehand in my Food & Wine magazine and was delighted to try some in a vegetable fritter!  The batter was deliciously crispy, with a slight salty spiciness to it that made me want to devour a whole platter of them.  I mopped up the drizzle of sauce real good and lamented that I could not have another three plates.  The presentation was beautiful for both our appetizers, especially Richard’s which was served with a small, diced salad of carrots and beets.

After our dishes were cleared and our water glasses refilled, I eagerly anticipated my chosen main: one of my favourite Indian meat dishes (and one of the most common, to my knowledge), butter chicken, swimming in all its succulent and creamy, buttery tomato pureed glory.  Butter chicken was one of the first things I ate when I first tried Indian food almost 3 years ago and I instantly fell in love with it.  The smooth, creaminess of the sauce made me wiggle with happiness and the chicken is so good because it’s so soft and tender, without that awful disgusting rubbery texture that chicken has when it hasn’t been marinated or cooked well.  

I’ve had butter chicken at a few different places (Indian Flavour on campus and Samosa King Embassy restaurant in Scarborough most notably, both of which I will blog about in the near future) and although it’s a staple in Indian and Persian restaurants, each one has their own unique interpretation, with slight differences in heat (i.e. spiciness), smoothness in sauce, and texture of meat.  Amaya’s Bread Bar did not disappoint and I was greeted with an adorable pot of butter chicken in creamy sauce garnished with a sprig of cilantro.  Oh!  And our rice was brought to us in what I could only describe as a copper bucket.  It was beautiful and all sorts of awesome and the rice itself was delicious; light, airy, and fluffy.  I refer to my meal as the pot of butter chicken gold and my copper bucket pail of yummy rice.  It was just so cute and unique.

And no meal is complete without sweets, so to end off a fabulous dining experience I had myself the carrot toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and was I ever delighted with this sweet morsel of dessert.  It was served in the most adorable vase-like bowl with the teeniest little spoon.  My vanilla bean dotted ice cream was scooped into a perfect sphere and placed on top of some super warm carrot, gingery mash.  The dessert took me by surprise and the phrase “big things come in small packages” totally applies here.  The carrot pudding had a very interesting texture.  It was not pudding in the same sense as custard, yet it wasn’t a crisp or a smooth whip like mashed potatoes.  It was freshly grated carrot bits mixed in a juicy, gingery liquid with a soft yet crunchy texture.  And the pairing of it with the vanilla ice cream was hot and cold, juicy and melty, smooth and crunchy.  Amazing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Winterlicious meal and I’m so glad I came.  Although those who have very hearty appetites may look elsewhere with huuuge portions, the attention to detail here is obvious and the flavours here are fabulous.  You can truly taste the quality in the food and it is both wholesome and comforting, and trendy and different at the same time.  The service is great (I think I had my water glass refilled about 4 or 5 times!), the atmosphere is wonderfully peaceful and serene, and if you’re a photo nut like I am, it is a feast for the eyes and camera lens.  A Winterlicious meal well done indeed.

*****

Amaya’s Bread Bar is located at 3305 Yonge St. north of Lawrence Ave. E.  It is several blocks north of the Lawrence subway station off the Yonge-University-Spadina line, on the east side of Yonge where Glenforest Rd. begins.  Amaya’s Bread Bar is also the sister restaurant to Amaya the Indian Room.  Winterlicious in Toronto goes until February 10th (this Thursday), so feel free to share your recent Winterlicious experiences and musings in the comments section!

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