Where to eat? We didn't make the wise choice of taking along a bike lock (that we had keys to, anyways. duh!), so we avoided dining in the busy area around Joyce station. Actually, we were planning on riding onwards to a Commercial Drive patio, but once I saw the hill on Slocan and heard the loud rumblings from my tummy, I decided to stay close.
After an unsuccessful attempt to eat at Chili Pepper House up the street, we peddled onwards to Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan in the Collingwood area.
Apparently it has been at this location before as "Original Good Morning Paan", but had been renamed Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan five years ago.
Even though it was the middle of the afternoon - two to three o' clock, the place was packed and at times, there were small line ups at the door. We were lucky to get a seat, although we got to experience what Caucasian people must feel like in a Chinese restaurant! It didn't help that we were sweaty and underdressed for a meal, but we were hungry!
The restaurant has free underground parking in the back, and a take-out counter and take-out waiting area in the back. They a selection of Indian and African dishes, as well as a collection of African art.
After asking some nice patrons and waitresses for their suggestions, we opted for the butter chicken and a lamb biryani. It felt like it took forever to come! Then we noticed that there was a sign near the door proclaiming, "you can't rush good food."
...I wished I had seen that when we came in! To be fair, it wasn't because we were the "odd ones out". I noticed that several tables that had come in around the same time we had were also staring around listlessly, not only for their food, but also trying to catch the attention of waitresses.
When the food came though, it was hot and delicious. The portions were great - we had leftovers! The lamb biryani had huge chunks of tender meat and the long grain rice was cooked with saffron, much like a Persian-style dish that we'd had before. Unfortunately, I found the lamb a bit too gamey for my tastes, but M had no problem consuming a huge quantity of it.
The butter chicken was a little different tasting than what we expected, but there was plenty of garam masala and sauce to be soaked up with the accompanying garlic naan. Out of the two, the butter chicken was my preferred choice, although I'd go back to Jambo Grill strictly for their naan.
We had a choice of butter naan, garlic naan, or spicy naan. Originally, M chose the spicy naan, but the waitress cautioned that it was pretty spicy. I'm glad he chose the garlic naan - I almost gave up trying to take a photograph, it smelt so good - fresh, hot, and fluffy!
When the restaurant became less busy, one of the waitresses stopped by and chatted for a bit. She was really friendly and explained what I had been seeing people order at the take-out / paan window. While we'd been waiting for our food, I'd seen the staff wrapping a collection of sauces, syrups and granular bits in leaves. The packets were wrapped in foil and given to patrons to enjoy at their tables, or to take to go.
According to the waitress, and a menu at Jambo Grill, it was paan - a betel leaf (or two) stuffed with syrup, rosewater, anise, coconut, cardamom, and lime paste. Paan is meant to freshen the breath and aid in digestion.
I was full, but I wanted to try it anyways. I had an idea of what it would taste like - auyurvedic in nature, it probably resembled those candied fennel seeds in other Indian restaurants - or so I thought.
Let me tell you, so that you do not decide to be different and try paan. It was pretty foul. There is no other way to put it. I had an inkling of how much I'd like it, and so had taken it to enjoy on the way home, and save the agony of trying to chew it in the restaurant. The concoction was crunchy, sappy, and slightly crisp. But the overall concensus was that it tasted like getting your mouth washed out with soap.
I was a good kid when I was little, and never had my mouth washed out with soap, but what did I ever do to deserve the lingering soapy flavour in my mouth for the entire evening?! Ahh, the things I do for this blog.
As a side note, the paan did cleanse my mouth of the garlicky curries and lamb that I'd just consumed. But it replaced it with soap! :)
I do want to try other entrees at Jambo Grill - notably the Jungle Ribs that a couple people recommended. There was also a meal including tandoori chicken, kebabs, and ribs, along with salad, fries and raita. Put Jambo Grill down on your list of Indian / African restaurants to visit!
3219 Kingsway [map]
P: (604) 433-5060