Other than gobbling up poutine, my only other food related goal while visiting Toronto was to try as many different kinds of food as I possibly could, especially the cuisine from a variety of cultures and ethnicity’s. Indian food is all over Toronto, but for whatever reason roti took off in Toronto like tikka masala did in the other 9/10ths of the world. This boggles my mind because here in Los Angeles I have only known roti as a sort of Indian tortilla. As I understand roti, it’s a flat, thin, round bread and sometimes I see it at the Farmer’s Market and eateries thinly stuffed, quesadilla-style with items like spinach. I like it toasted with raita. Anyway – you can understand my curiosity as to how this traditional snack/side dish got so hugely popular in Toronto that entire restaurants are dedicated to it.
Bacchus Roti is situated around the corner from where I was staying in Toronto and came highly recommended by the Internet as well as my hosts. The day before I was set to try it out, I popped into the restaurant to see if they had a to-go menu I could look at and get an idea of what I might order. The only menu in their modest facility was a blackboard fixated on the wall. Patrons order at the counter and can either get their roti to go or they can eat in the posh, post-modern designed dining area.
Though there was no to-go menus, I spied “shrimp curry roti” on the blackboard menu and as I walked out I took a leisure glance at the diners. Behemoth looking square tortilla things were being torn at with knives and forks – giving me a clear image but still mentally dumbfounded idea on the Canadian interpretation of roti. OK. It’s an Indian burrito? Yes, my friends told me, like an Indian burrito.
I returned to Bacchus the next day, ready to gorge on the roti-burrito-monstrosity. It was a humid day and I had many errands to attend to, so I’d need a meal to keep me going but not knock me out cold. I was already prepared to only eat half of what I ordered and take the rest back home before starting out my big day. It was the same menu from the previous day (as near as I could tell) and shrimp curry & potato roti still sounded good, so I ordered that (medium on the spice scale) along with a glass of tap water. I’m gestured at to have a seat.
This is what is brought to me:
The exterior has a crepe-like texture, very delicate and savory. The shrimp was plentiful and tender but that is where my good opinion stops. The potatoes were so overcooked they’re positively mush and the curry was so overwhelming there was no other discernible flavor. This is the most heartbreaking because Indian food should be a freaking Bollywood movie happening to your taste buds; they are all about the spice (and I don’t mean “heat” I mean “flavor”). There was just nothing but curried mush. I would have loved if there were a vegetable or two thrown in and the seasoning had been better managed.
Also, my water never showed up.
I took half of this back to my friends place where I let them have free range over the leftovers. It could have been the humidity, but the roti left a heavy, gross feeling in my stomach all day long and it wasn’t until I forced myself to eat some dinner (delivered sushi) at my friend Spice’s apartment that I felt better again.
Would I eat at Bacchus Roti Shop again? No. Though I’d love to say it was all Bacchus, I did try another Indian related dish (coconut curry dosa) at a totally separate restaurant later that week and found it inedible as well. It was the overuse of curry and not enough variety of spices that I’m used to eating. As my friend Zuzu was able to eat both the other half of the roti and this curry dosa dish, I am theorizing that it is a regional palate difference more than inadequate cooking (though those mushy potatoes were really sad).