Naveen Seth launched Chaska, in Mississauga, Ont., as a tribute to the spicy street food he ate growing up in India.
And Chaska does indeed bring to life an authentic Indian street food experience. Highlighting the spacious, industrial-chic room is a whimsical food-truck look realized through vibrant painted truck art (including a full food truck-like façade) and a busy open kitchen.
Naveen and the Chaska team spent several years perfecting a menu that’s short but focused. This is Indian street food fit for a king.
Bhel chaat brings puffed rice, tiny, crispy wheat strands, tomato, potato, onion and spicy/sweet ’n’ sour chutneys. The combination is mesmerizing. Bhalla papdi chaat sees feather-light lentil dumplings accessorized with yogurt, crisp wafers, yogurt, chickpeas, potatoes and mint and tamarind chutneys.
Spooned onto the soft buttered rolls, a stew of minced vegetables in vibrantly spiced tomato curry is sensational.
For mains, the menu lets diners mix and match vegetarian or non-vegetarian items of choice, either on a rice bowl (white or brown basmati) or salad bowl, or as a kathi roll (tucked inside rolled-up paratha flatbread).
Lamb tikka and curry are topped with kachumber (salad of diced tomatoes, onions and cucumbers) and set atop nutty brown basmati. Fish tikka, expertly cooked in the tandoor until it’s smoky and tender, perches on romaine lettuce leaves dressed with a vibrant yogurt/mint/coriander dressing.
Kathi rolls come with or without egg and could feature moist chicken tikka or terrific grilled minced-lamb kebab.
Chawa chawal is spicy slow-cooked chickpeas served with more of that crunchy, refreshing kachumber salad, atop basmati rice.
Desserts are anything but an afterthought. The kitchen makes its own kulfi, India’s creamier, more sophisticated version of ice cream (the pistachio is terrific). On a more inventive note, Naveen created tiny pastry triangles, served warm and scented with nutmeg and cinnamon, to be served with rabdi, ultra-thickened condensed milk studded with pistachios. The two are a match made in heaven.
Accommodating up to 75, Chaska is available, on Sundays, to host private events. The restaurant also caters onsite corporate meetings and events for up to 400 people, and offers onsite cooking and a Chaska-branded portable tent.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.