The Great Torontoist Challenge: Samosa Edition
Photo by portfolium.
Samosas—those centuries-old puffy tetrahedrons continue to sweep up Toronto in their potatoey wave of popularity. Though available pretty much anywhere you look—”Memories of Punjab,” anyone?—we decided to stretch out our search, from the Junction, to Little India, and a couple of places in between. So find yourself a comfy pillow, throw some Anoushka Shankar on your gramophone, and read on as we find out just who will come out as Toronto’s true Samosa Shahensha.
- Gandhi Cuisine. Tiny in stature, this standout on the Indian resto-scene serves up not only samosas from their Queen and Bathurst location, but also some of the absolute best roti in Toronto.
- Lahore Tikka House. Specializing in Halal Pakistani cuisine, Little India’s Lahore Tikka is, despite existing in what appears to be a permanent state of renovation, always busy, and boasts a patio area. Sunny!
- Sultan of Samosas. The Sultan—who we envision sporting a jaunty fez—truly pushes the boundaries of samosa-dom, with not only the standard veggie and beef, but also tandoori chicken and mutton with “traditional West Indies flair.” When not concocting new samosa stylings, the Sultan is known to indulge in the poetic; a worthy pursuit, to be sure.
- North of Bombay. As per their website, “Our restaurant, North of Bombay is the only Indian restaurant in the city…We serve the Indian Cuisine in the city, so we are known for the Indain Resturant by our customer as we have gained a high profit as a customer satisfaction.” We’ll leave it at that.
Sultan of Samosas’ samosa.
- Appearance. Does it look like a samosa, or could it be confused with, say, a spanakopita, or a goat? Does it look greasy? Is it a good size?
- Ratio. How much shell to filling? Is it balanced, or it just a singular pea encased in four inches of dough?
- Filling. High quality, with a variety of ingredients? Fresh? Appropriate samosa-y flavour?
- Accoutrements. Does it come with chutneys or sauces? Do they enhance, or drown out, the experience?
Sultan of Samosas ($8.25 per dozen); Lahore Tikka ($0.99 each); Gandhi Cuisine ($1.50 each); North of Bombay ($3.95 for two).
- Appearance. TIE. North of Bombay and Gandhi Cuisine—19.5/25. These contestants, both unquestionably samosas, were on the larger side, with excellent levels of blistering.
- Ratio. Gandhi Cuisine—21/25. Our judging panel had much love for this super stuffed samosa.
- Filling. North of Bombay—21/25. Oh, the caraway!
- Accoutrements. Gandhi Cuisine—18.5/25. Thick, sweet mango chutney was full of notable, real fruit flavour.
Lahore Tikka House’s samosa.
This, in many ways, is an upset. Sultan of Samosas is a Torontoist favourite; their exciting and fancy flavours, available in three different sizes, are always a welcome addition to any potluckery. Bedazzled by the tandoori chicken and the spinach and cheese, we simply never bothered to try their veggie offering—until now. Small, with a nice brown colour that could, in some light, appear a bit greasy due to heavy frying, Sultan’s veggie samosa’s crust was a tad tough and wasn’t exactly bursting at the seams with filling. As is the Sultan style, this samosa was not just taters and peas, with everything from green beans, to “mystery leaves,” being found inside. Despite rather bold ingredient inclusion, the flavour was described by our panel as being “super potatoey,” “a bit bland,” and “too much like Campbell’s Vegetable Soup.” Their accoutrements—three sauces on offer including a tamarind, a mango and a spicy green—were pleasing in flavour, but were so runny that they almost need to be injected directly into the pastry itself to be effective. This vegetable samosa will leave you wanting more, but for their imaginative and unconventional take on this tasty Indo-snack, the Sultan of Samosas is still, without question, worthy of perusal.
The “good-looking isosceles,” that is Lahore Tikka’s vegetable samosa, slides, or rather angles, into third. Like his brethren from Sultan, the Lahore samosa was quite small, but had a flaky appearance that invited biting. While the flakiness was key, this contestant didn’t fare as well in terms of ratio, with a higher level of encasement, in spots quite thick, than our other entries. Still, Lahore managed to not be overwhelmingly pastried, and the filling was a veritable vegetable medley, lapping the Sultan by including carrots, corn, as well as the usual peas and tubers. The veg’o’plenty was complemented by a reasonable level of spice and the accoutrement, a thin red sauce which was reminiscent of Frank’s Red Hot—a nice BBQ taste, to be sure, but in no way a chutney—made for an experience that was on a whole satisfying, but really nothing too remarkable.
North of Bombay’s samosa.
As per their aforementioned website, North of Bombay seems to be under the rather delusional belief that they are the only Indian restaurant “in the city.” Perhaps by “city” they mean the Junction? Either way, they make a pretty mean samosa—toasty brown and bulky, this was the only contestant to sport a full “samosa handle,” that edging of pastry created to facilitate hand-to-mouth navigation. While in theory an asset, the handle on North of Bombay’s samosa simply added to what was a rather heavy, cakey, shell, that seemed to call out “hello! I’m a pastry!” in a way that none of the other contestants, whom we assume to be mute, did. The stand-out of this samosa is also, in our opinion, the most important part—the filling. Plenty of it, with big chunks of potato, North of Bombay’s filling included caraway, as well as other mystery Indian hobo-spices, to create a flavour experience that was spicy, authentic, and all around fantastic. We’d recommend restraint with North of Bombay’s accompanying sauce, however, to ensure that the lovely samosa flavourings aren’t drowned out.
Gandhi Cuisine’s samosa.
Oh, sweet Gandhi Cuisine, we knew you wouldn’t fail us. Torontoist must admit that until this point our Gandhi excursions had been completely roti-focussed, but we have found a new reason to continue our love affair. Chubby pyramids of perfectly blistered shells, these samosas also possess a touch of the handle while maintaining kick-ass filling levels, with the ratio estimated to be at 80-20, if not more, in favour of the innards. Though perhaps a bit too heavy on the tater (peas please!), the filling had good spice and was, essentially, a solid mess of deliciousness. Topped off with the only of our contestants to put the chunk back in chutney, Gandhi Cuisine’s samosas are sized to fill you up and flavoured to satiate. Patrons be warned, these things go fast, and have since ventured into Indo-Polkaroo status for Torontoist, who have been disappointed each consequent visit to Gandhi’s by a smile, a shrug, and a “sorry, we’re out!”
Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.