Ji Rethinks Indian Cuisine for a Truly Toronto Table – Pub Fare Meets Indian Flair at this New Hybrid Resto

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery interval=”3″ images=”13089,13093,13094,13095,13096,13097″ img_size=”650″ css_animation=”fadeIn”][vc_column_text]Bearing witness to the masterful union of cuisine, décor, ideals, and events, all under one roof is a special experience indeed, and this is exactly what you’ll be treated to when you visit Ji at 760 St. Clair Avenue West. Derek Valleau and Harsh Chawla along with Chef Kirti Singh bring all the delectable wonder of Pukka, their previous culinary venture, to a vibrant and exciting new concept in Ji.

Derek and Harsh know that Indian food can be polarizing but they are determined to bring the beauty and fun of REAL Indian cuisine to a wider audience. They’ve witnessed a resurgence of excellent Indian dining in New York City and believe that Toronto is ready for an Indian food renaissance as well. They wanted to create a more relaxed atmosphere at Ji than the elegant ambiance that graces Pukka. They’ve certainly achieved this. Ji feels like the kind of place that you can pop by any night of the week to toss back a couple of cocktails and order some traditional Canadian food … yes Canadian food,— but with an Indian twist.

Talk about a union of cultures, how about Mac & Cheese merging with Butter Chicken in their Macaroni Makhani? That old Pavlovian response hit me hard the instant I saw this dish of cheesy deliciousness. It’s served meatless, but chicken lollipops are available as a popular add-on for those who crave it. Or how about Brisket Poutine? This delectable mound of masala fries is topped with paneer and pulled beef curry … oh yes they did!

The atmosphere at Ji also reflects an eclectic mash-up of ethnicities with vibrant colours adorning both the furnishings and the artwork. I cannot state loudly enough how delighted I was when I first clamped eyes on the bright blue banquettes! As for the artwork, it features many pieces worth noting such as the restored vintage posters, 1920’s magazine covers as well as several works from the owner’s personal collections. Another entertaining twist, not to be ignored, is Ji’s take on the classic Canadian pub; three large, flat screens playing  “Bollywood” movies — unless of course “the big game” is on. All this gorgeous energy simply adds to the upscale pub vibe (becoming more popular of late) that has been deftly cultivated here.

I can’t write about Ji without discussing Derek and Harsh’s commitment to quality. They’ve treated their clientele at Pukka to nothing but the best food and most honourable and accommodating service, and it seems they will not consider offering anything less to the new faces they’re starting to see at Ji. Their goal is to keep the quality high with only grade ‘A’ produce, meats from Roast and fresh daily fish choices. The concept is to make Indian food more approachable while still keeping the prices pub-style appealing.

This is neither fusion nor street food but rather a hybrid menu served up in a fast, casual setting. In keeping with their culturally criss-crossed format, Ji’s owners have thoughtfully designed the beer program with an international selection of brews including some Canadian craft beers, a fun and unique cocktail menu and wines all sold by either the glass, 1/2 litre or bottle.

As the many tantalizing dishes came out for me to photograph (and sample of course!) I commented on how easily their menu lends itself to sharing. “Although not originally planned, it was a happy and unexpected discovery!” claimed Derek. This food is fun! It’s designed to explore and discover; to share over cocktails. When you visit Ji you’ll discover new dimensions of your palate and new ways to push the boundaries of your conception of Indian cuisine.


Stacia Carlton is a culinary school grad and food writer. Find her at www.bestillandeat.com where she obsesses about all things food.

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