Express Indien, a hybrid European bakery-Indian restaurant in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce
Going west into NDG, I entered east gastronomically. First, Eastern Europe, at a counter filled with spinach knishes, rugelach and chocolate rum balls, then I sat down to Southeast Asia with curries and flatbreads. All in the same restaurant.
Yagel Bagel, a Jewish bakery for seven years, has morphed to include Express Indien. About eight months ago, the owner’s husband (who had worked for 20 years at Bombay Palace downtown) started to cook Indian food here, creating a hybrid European bakery-Indian restaurant much like D.A.D.’s Bagels on Sherbrooke.
When I went with two friends, a young girl and her mom, plenty of people wandered in for takeout. We played hangman on the white paper table covers and admired the spangled cloths on the wall as we waited for our meal.
Onion bhaji were of a soft variety, a bit oily, but fresh. A cocktail lamb seekh came spicy as requested, in a thick tomatoey sauce.
My nine-year-old companion, not long out of the "plain pasta only please" phase, ordered the showiest dish. Salmon tikka arrived on a sizzling iron platter, with onions slowly caramelizing. "This salmon is super exotic tasting, but it’s still good," she declared. As her horizons were broadened by the tender chunks of salmon, her neurons were sheathed in omega-3s from the fish.
An unusual chicken tikka kadai had a tomato paste funk rounded out with masala and topped with pungent dried coriander seed. The creamed black lentils, called dahl makhni, were deeply flavoured and satisfying.
Baigan bharta – eggplant with tomato – was sweetish and sour in a way I relished. A mushroom, pea and cashew nut curry had the right ratio of each, no stinting on the creamy cashews. Many dishes were freshly topped with chopped tomatoes.
We spurned naan for onion kulcha, a spongy round bread generously studded with cooked onion. But even better was the irresistible mint laccha paratha. The round, twisty whole wheat flatbread was just oily and salty enough, chewy and covered with dry mint. I ate way beyond my needs with that bread, and would do so again in a heartbeat.
At the meal’s finish, we preferred the sweet rosy ras malai over the gulab jamun. Even the hitherto tentative youngster enjoyed the boiled milk dessert sprinkled with pistachio. Old Eastern flavours were novel to her new Western taste buds, but she warmed to them as surely as the neighbourhood has to Express Indien.
6579 Somerled, 514-489-5250
Meal for two: $35-$40