It’s been over a year since the North York Indian stalwart Cuisine of India closed its doors. Now, the once-beloved restaurant is reopening in midtown with a revamped vision, transplanting its trademark menu into a somewhat hipper new ’hood, with grab-and-go options and an unfussy ambiance.
When it first opened in 1990, Cuisine of Indian was a bright star in the city’s Indian firmament for much of the decade, popular with theatregoers from the nearby Toronto Centre for the Arts. But uneven food quality and deferred maintenance led to a customer decline. The building was eventually slated for demolition for a new development, explains chef-owner Shishir Sharma. “Who would want to spend the money?” (Ironically, that demolition has yet to happen.)
For Cuisine’s second coming, Sharma teamed up with new partners, including deli-franchise veteran Ravi Raina, to update the concept in trendier new digs. Now called a “small contemporary boutique” at Yonge and Davisville, the restaurant aims to provide somewhat faster food than the old white tablecloth affair, with 24 casual eat-in seats (think bare tables and streamlined fixtures) and a push for delivery, takeout and even prepared foods.
Playful decor features the brand’s catering company hallmark, the peacock, and speaks to its young, new neighbours. “People work long hours. When they come home, why should they have to go to the kitchen?” says Sharma. The menu will resurrect much of the restaurant’s original offerings. Fans can look forward to a comeback from signature dishes such as Goan lamb vindaloo and creamy tomato-chicken lababdar, along with tandoori sizzlers like chicken reshmi kebabs, jumbo tiger shrimp, alai chicken tikka and leg of tandoori chicken. “People still remember us,” says Sharma, who has been fielding calls from eager patrons about tonight’s reopening (Sharma has been running a concurrent catering business under the same name for years).
Can a breezy, modernized concept recapture some of Cuisine’s former glory? Says Raina: “People should come and look, have a visit and decide.”
Cuisine of India, 1992 Yonge St.,416-440-1220, cuisineofindia.org.