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Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Thursday, May 19, 2011

After five years of renovations, Lahore Tikka House shows off its new digs this weekend

Lahore Tikka House is legendary in Toronto for two things: mouth-watering Pakistani food and being in a permanent state of renovation. 

For at least five years, this former KFC at 1365 Gerrard Street East has been under construction. The main dining space has been a series of trailers cobbled together, and in the summer, a pitched tent in the parking lot was used for outdoor dining. 

But in the last few weeks, the trailers were removed and the dining space and front entrance are now in the main building. This is the building where the bathrooms are, and it's been used as a dining hall in recent years when the restaurant is busy. Starting this weekend, Lahore Tikka House will serve food in a tent on the site of the old trailers. 
The latest incarnation of the Tikka house, with a tent where the trailers were. 
A new rickshaw was shipped in from Bangladesh.
While the new digs are definitely classier, some patrons felt sad to see the trailer go. Owner Alnoor Sayani, a Ugandan immigrant of Pakistani descent, tells the story of a elderly female customer who had tears in eyes when she saw the trailers were gone: she used to come to the restaurant with her husband, who has since passed away, and she would often come back and sit at their favourite table. 

Another family that comes in several times a week came to the new space with their four year old daughter. But she wasn't fooled. "I wanna go to Lahore Tikka House," she told her father. But when she tried the food and realized it was the same, she relaxed.  


The manager Yasar Mirza with owner Alnoor Sayani
While the bigger space lacks the intimacy of the old trailers, its colourful decor gives it a festive atmosphere. Manager Yasar Mirza, who has worked at Lahore Tikka House for ten years, says the space was designed to look like tents that are commonly pitched along the street in Pakistan to accomodate large weddings. "We want people to feel like they're in Pakistan when they walk in," he says. "I don't really miss Pakistan since I moved to Canada because I'm always here."

Yasar inside the new tent.
So how does he feel now that the renovations are finally over? "We're still working on it actually," explains Yasar. "We'll be done by the end of the summer hopefully." 

Next on the to-do-list is to get the second floor dining space ready and to knock out the narrow hallway between two parts of the kitchen so diners can see all the food being prepared. "I'm not tired of the renovations," says Alnoor. "It keeps things exciting. It's good to have the restaurant constantly changing, as long as the food isn't changing."
The kitchen, where several thousand naan bread are prepared daily, is visible from the dining hall.
Mmmm, spicy lentils.
Lahore Tikka's magical butter chicken.
Indeed, the food was marvelous as always. These perfectly spiced dishes are best enjoyed on plastic plates and followed with a pistachio kulfi ice cream popsicle. 

Photos in this post by Dana Lacey.

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5 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see the new digs. This place is the closest that I have been to Pakistan.

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  2. SOOOOO GREASY.... got takeout one time and the bag had a puddle of oil at the bottom of it, disgusting!

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  3. I wish I could eat here but I must maintain my boycott of LTH.

    I live in the neighbourhood and LTH let's just say you wouldn't want to live anywhere near this place. They've been known to treat its neighbours poorly...

    However it remains a popular place, especially for non-locals who drive in.

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  4. Alnoor Sayani, remarkable Toronto business man. Deep sympathies to his three sons, Ayaz, Adam, Ayaan as well as his spouse. Lahore Tikka House has turned out to be wonderful legacy for all.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I heard the sad news about his passing. If you haven't seen it, here's the story from the Toronto Star:

      http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2013/11/08/lahore_tikka_house_founder_dies.html

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