Ji That Was Tasty

It’s easy to be an armchair critic…not so easy to run a restaurant. Trends are fickle, and every restaurateur must be a bold risk-taker.

So, when Concession Road closed last year, owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau had to think fast; they had to replace it with something new; something different. Their neighbouring restaurant, Pukka, the Indian inspired wine bar with a flavour-forward menu, is ever popular. We’ve enjoyed many meals there pairing versatile wines and exotic dishes with inventive flavour combinations. In keeping with the same cuisine, Chawla and Valleau set out to make a casual gastro-pub with an Indian twist: Ji Restaurant.

Like Pukka, Ji is not an Indian restaurant, but is inspired by Indian flavours, and is clearly the creation of those with a passion for Indian cuisine.

Bright, with an accessible atmosphere, Ji breaks from the monotony of neighbourhood gastro-pubs that offer the same old, same old. With cocktails like the tamarind margarita, spiced mojito, and the Chai Flip, kind of like a whiskey sour with an essence of India, we settle in front of the large screen TVs for game time. Ordering sharing plates from a menu that doesn’t take itself too seriously is an exercise in “Let’s try this.” Naanchos, a portmanteau of nachos and naan bread, are crisp and generously layered with minced lamb, kachumber, avocado, raita and cheddar. Poutine of tender brisket, crunchy masala fries and paneer is lavished with savoury pulled beef curry. Sweet potato chaat with yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney is a refreshing and tangy blend of textures. Who needs chicken wings when we’ve got Delhi-style chicken lollipops and green chutney with a kick? It’s the usual, prepared unusually. And we leave no crumb behind.

Even popular traditional dishes like mac’n’cheese are given extra flare with a makhani sauce typical of butter chicken. Our foot long lamb sausage with pickled onion and cheddar is the perfect accessory to game night. Of course, we can order traditional dishes like the juicy and succulent grilled beef burger with Gruyere, or bowls of korma, roganjosh, tikka masala and daily fish with lemon scented basmati rice. The aim here is fusion of traditional menu items with a broader palette of flavour. For dessert, the kulfi on a stick is Indian style ice cream as flavourful as it is playful.

Ji is a term of respect in Hindi. For something different, Ji Restaurant is a fun bet, and we respect and enjoy the risk and creativity of Chawla and Valleau in a city of too often “same menu, different place.”

Ji Restaurant, 760 St. Clair Ave West, 416-792-5550

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