Best of Toronto: Butter chicken
The butter chicken at Hemant Bhagwani's Indian Street Food Co.
Image: Libby Roach
A well-known dish that is satisfyingly rich with a complex approach of layering earthy spices, the best butter chicken in Toronto is a highly debatable and rather personal subject. With a range of recipes and ethnic regions being channeled, it’s a pretty tough assignment picking the very best in this butter-soaked city.
While recipes may vary and methods may differ, the best butter chicken in Toronto combines the trifecta of flavour; sweet, salt and savoury- detectable notes of aromatic spices, with loose ties to the original recipe, said to have hailed from the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India.
One thing holds true, even the worst takeaway is still better than a buffet. Grab a seat, a fold of naan, and read on about Toronto’s Best Butter Chicken.
1. Indian Street Food Co.
A newcomer of sorts, owner Hemant Bhagwani opened Indian Street Food after closing down Amaya and traveling through India sourcing a new recipe and inspiration for this new restaurant. His butter chicken ($13.20) is sensational; the texture of the sauce is spot on, likely due to the imported ground Stanislaus tomatoes that he uses to concoct the sauce. Topped with toasted melon seeds for crunch, his version contains no cream or butter, and is sweetened with silky butterscotch all balanced out by the diced green chillies that speckle the sauce.
Indian Street Food Co., 1701 Bayview Ave., 416-322-3270
Karan Kalia’s Etobicoke eatery has been a destination for inspired Indian cuisine since receiving some (well deserved) glowing press. Her version of butter chicken ($15.95) uses grilled meat, making it tender and juicy, and the rich butter based makhani gravy is addictive and well spiced. Book ahead for a table at this busy spot — they fill up fast.
Tich Modern Indian Cuisine, 2314 Lakeshore Blvd. W., 647-349-8424
3. Copper Chimney
There are no ketchup-y undertones at this Avenue Road institution, holding court on this busy block near the 401. Jokh Rana has been overseeing the kitchen here for the past five years, injecting an otherwise somewhat bland strip of North York with some culinary options beyond fingers and fries. Butter Chicken ($9.95) here is made with boneless chunks of tandoori chicken, with a generous amount of silky sauce to be mopped up with the tasty naan bread. Takeout is swift and encouraged — the room is outdated and in need of an overhaul.
The Copper Chimney, 2050 Avenue Rd., 647-436-2538
Those looking to inject a little spice beyond just the plates in front of them should convene at the romantically themed and slightly sensual Kamasutra on Bayview near Davisville. Chef Balwant Rathour has helmed this kitchen since 2004 (with a brief pause for a few years in the middle working at two other kitchens). His butter chicken ($15.95) is their number one seller with a traditional adaptation on the classic, with fragrant fenugreek mingling with tomatoes and light cream for a memorable finish.
Kamasutra Indian Restaurant and Wine Bar, 1522 Bayview Ave., 416-489-4899
(Image: Libby Roach)
The Butter Chicken ($19.40) at Pukka scores points for the prettiest presentation, with a steel pot vessel served alongside a mason jar of rice, which also thankfully keeps your meal warm while you’re tucking in. Mennonite raised farm fresh chicken (from nearby Roast butcher shop) is tender and properly seasoned with a ‘secret’ ingredient — owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau are tight lipped on the spices that make up the dish, only offering that it’s not just your usual garam masala or fenugreek that make it so tasty.
Pukka, 778 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-342-1906
6. Curry Twist
Moghlai style Indian food is the mantra here at this Junction area restaurant. Anant Singh is both chef and owner and cooks with Ayurveda practice in mind, an ancient holistic approach to health that he channels into each of his dishes. His butter vhicken ($12.95) stars Tandoori roast chicken with a rich sauce made of fresh tomatoes as well as toasted cashews, adding a depth of texture to the sauce as well as a kick of sweetness.
Curry Twist Restaurant, 3034 Dundas St. W., 416-769-5460
(Image: Libby roach)
Scoring major creativity points, Alfie Nats’ version of Butter Chicken is celebrated in many forms here at his Indian fusion style restaurant on Yonge just south of Empress (with a second express location having just opened on Avenue Road). Halal meat is reserved for each of the variations, like the diet busting butter chicken poutine ($9) or the butter chicken pizza ($8). Stick to the original, the makhni style butter chicken ($12) is finished off with a swirl of cream making the dish supremely smooth and authentic.
Nawab Fusion Grill, 5009 Yonge St., 416-221-4255