First Look: The Kathi Roll Express, a new Indian street food restaurant on Yonge


Spicy coriander-mint sauce gets drizzled onto a chicken tikka kathi roll (Images: Caroline Aksich)

After moving to Toronto from his native Delhi, Sumit Kohli noted Hogtown’s dearth of Indian street food options. “Toronto has so many sit-down Indian restaurants,” he says, “but it’s missing some of the staple foods that people eat daily back in India.”

So Kohli left his desk job — he spent 12 years working in the corporate world — with the aim of giving Toronto a taste of what it’s been missing. He hopes that The Kathi Roll Express (TKRE), which opened earlier this month, will sate both university students and those nostalgic for Indian street food (along with anyone else adventurous enough to forgo falafel).

The menu features dishes from across the subcontinent, including kathi rolls from Kolkata, Mumbai-style sandwiches and Delhi-style coffee. There are even some international fusion options such as the Mexican-style tikka masala roll ($6) and a Szechwan-style kung pao chicken roll ($6).

The kathi rolls, from which the restaurant takes its name, are made with house-made parathas (Indian flatbreads) that are fried on a cast-iron griddle known as a tawa. Freshly beaten egg is poured onto the piping hot tawa, and then the paratha is laid on top of the egg, allowing the egg to adhere to the flatbread. Once the egg is grilled onto the paratha, it’s ready to be filled with anything from lamb kebabs ($8) to chicken tikka ($6). Vegetarian options (sans egg) are also available, such as the Lahori-style channa roll ($5). Kathi rolls are finished with mint-coriander sauce and lime-and-vinegar cured onions.

Rather than boarding the food truck fad, Kohli has decided to keep his endeavour stationary. His decor choices have, however, been inspired by the street food aesthetic. Vibrant hand-painted tables depict vintage adverts, while the checkout counter (behind which is an open kitchen) is done up to resemble a shipping container.

Other whimsical touches include a chandelier made from multi-coloured milk crates, as well as a number of painted murals. The mural on the back wall resembles the rear of an Indian truck, so that when people exit to sit on the 20-seat patio, it looks like they’re climbing into the truck’s belly.

The Kathi Roll Express, 692 Yonge St., 647-748-8573

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