I returned once again to Nirvana restaurant, in Mississauga, Ont., for its consistently excellent northern Indian fare.
Just when I thought I couldn’t find a cauliflower dish I like as much as Nirvana’s aloo gobhi (sauced in an subtly spiced gravy and mixed with chunks of tender potato), along comes the sweet and sour cauliflower. The veggie nuggets are swathed in a crunchy, greaseless batter coated in a sophisticated sauce that’s sour and not-too-sweet. Seconds, please.
Other veggies are predictably fine: Nirvana dal (an assortment of lentils simmered to richness overnight with aromatic spices), and silky smooth roasted eggplant jazzed with green peas, onions, tomatoes and green chilies.
Tender strips of fish sit in a rich masala sauce, while moist pieces of chicken sing with a yogurt marinade alive with fresh mint and cilantro in a knockout hariyali prep. Lamb chops are expertly cooked in the tandoor and swim in a thick, assertively flavoured sauce. Cumin and coriander perfume a rich salsa of onions, green peppers and tomatoes that adorns springy kadhai shrimp.
An inventive treatment of paneer involves those cubes of mild cottage cheese afloat in a cashew cream garnished with fresh ginger and coriander.
We finish with kulfi (India’s version of ice cream, only denser, richer and better), one flavoured with deeply aromatic coconut and another with nutty pistachio.
Throughout the evening, polished, professional staff, overseen by attentive general manager Karan Bajwa, orchestrate the genial and efficient service.
A glassed-in tandoor kitchen highlights a spacious, high-ceilinged room. The restaurant, which seats 220 people, is available for group buyout. A private room seats 40. Nirvana also offers meeting and event catering (featuring a portable, charcoal-fired tandoor oven) for up to 1,000 people.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued almost 1,000 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.