Anyone who lives close to Humber North campus knows how tough it is to find new places to eat. Options are limited at school and in the nearby area you can only really pick between fast food chains, a pricey Mandarin or the Woodbine Mall food court.
But just a short walk north of campus is the cure for all your culinary woes.
Indian restaurant Shahi Mahal doesn’t make the best first impression nestled in a quiet corner at the Finch and Highway 27 intersection. When I visited around noon on a weekday I wasn’t entirely sure if it was even open or not. There were no visible lights and only a solitary car parked out front.
But once you step inside the spacious and slightly sparse restaurant is oddly inviting. Soothing Indian music and dimmed lighting conveys an intimate yet casual setting. Fish aquariums add a touch of unusual style. If you’ve reached your limit with the overcrowded campus eateries and cafeterias, this is the place to go.
The menu has all the Indian cuisine classics, from samosas to Butter chicken to a wide array of Tandoori dishes. Prices are affordable, with the majority of the entrees falling within the $9-$14 range.
Although Shahi Mahal no longer offers a lunch buffet, it more than makes up for it by serving quality over quantity. Everything I sampled was fresh and aromatically invigorating. Shahi Mahal also offers deliciously filling complimentary naan bread during lunch service.
To start, samosas are a crispy treat served with a small side of chickpea Chana masala, as well as a tangy tamarind sauce for dipping. The caraway seed-specked basmati rice was slightly pricey at $4.25 a serving, but splitting with a friend will give each of you more than satisfying portions.
Vegetarians will enjoy the sumptuously creamy (and surprisingly light) Matter paneer, a rich combination of green pea, cottage cheese and spinach. Alongside the paneer, lentil-based Dhal and countless other vegetarian dishes is a selection of spicy and savory meat curries that will please any carnivore in your group.
Beef, chicken, shrimp, fish and goat are all available in various flavours and sauces. My lunch companion attempted a goat curry with a sweet vindaloo sauce. Glowing praise abounded for what is traditionally a “tough” meat to get right.
For beer connoisseurs willing to try something a little different, Shahi Mahal provides Cheetah Beer, an Ontario brew specifically designed for spicy cuisines, on tap, as well as Kingfisher, an Indian lager.
The dessert options will sate diners who want a sugary change-up from the spicy entrees and appetizers. Gulab jamun, a dish of fried milk cheese balls soaked in a sweet syrup, is lighter and more flavourful than the description suggests. Ras malai, a pistachio-infused pudding, and conventional ice cream flavours are also available.
If you’re intrigued and want to give it a try, Shahi Mahal is located at 25 Woodbine Downs Blvd. The restaurant offers catering services and hosts private functions. You can order online and find their hours of operation at www.shahimahal.ca. Closed Tuesdays.