Waterfalls Indian Tapas Bar & Grill
303 Augusta Ave.
Augusta Avenue is growing up and becoming a foodie destination. Take a walk north from Dundas or south from College and you’ll find an array of charming dining spots. Here’s one not to miss.
On a cool evening in August, we decide it’s time for a new experience – Indian Tapas! Inhabiting the former Xpace art gallery, Waterfalls Indian Tapas Bar & Grill is a place where owner Rasie Mahendran and his team welcome locals and tourists alike to enjoy his East Indian hospitality.
It’s a Friday evening, and live jazz is featured from 7:30 to 11pm. The dining room is spacious, with high ceilings and huge wrought iron / crystal chandeliers. Elegant dark wood and dancing shadows of candle-lit tables create a cozy atmosphere. The restaurant’s signature (an illuminated waterfall) is a focal point.
The bar menu is festive and very urban chic, with at least 10 martinis and the same number of Mojito specialty cocktails ($9). Favourites include concoctions made with watermelon or apple essence.
The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced. House wines by the glass ($6.75) and half litre are the most affordable. I prefer a cold beer with Indian fare, as does Rayne, so we order an Indian classic – Kingfisher ($5) – and a Canadian-brewed Cheetah dark.
The dinner menu offers a wide range of options, including classics from various international cuisines such as pizza, Caesar salad and escargot, plus fusion dishes such as the best-seller Tandoori fettuccine ($12).
When I ask Rasie about the globe-trotting menu, he chuckles and admits there’s “something for everyone,” which does offer a solution when one in the dining party is not in the mood for Indian!
But my dining companion, Rayne, and I most definitely are in the mood for the exotic spices, aromas and warmth of India, so we focus our attention on creating a superb picnic.
A traditional meal in India is shared family style, and encompasses a wide variety of tastes and textures. Rasie recently told me that the idea of “small tastes” or “tapas” (borrowed from the popular Spanish mini-bite style) allows patrons to enjoy many exotic flavours in combination, and the small portions encourage adventurous foodies to try new dishes.
Our server, Josh, is accommodating and answers all of our questions patiently.
We start off with the Waterfalls Vegetarian Combo Platter ($9) which includes three items. Deeply golden and crispy, these vegetable pakoras, onion bhajia and samosas taste like the vegetables they are made from, not hidden in a heavy batter. I liked all three, but the onion bhajias are exceptional.
Turmeric and Cumin-Infused Grilled Calamari ($10) is another winner. Perfectly cooked and well presented, these ancient spices make this dish sing.
One could choose to simply make an entire meal from the appetizer section of this menu. Waterfalls Special Tapas ($10) features pan-seared jumbo shrimp, scallops and smoked salmon. Both chicken ($7) and shrimp Tikka ($9), as well as vegetarian dishes such as Yellow Lentil and Vegetable Soup ($4), and Chana and Dhal ($10), are but a few of the many ways to start your feast.
We notice that the Waterfalls Special Mussels are popular with neighbouring diners, and ask Chef Nandakishore Rangan to explain how these Madras style mussels are prepared. He says the mussels are steamed in a broth created from sautéed mustard seeds, cumin, coconut, curry leaves and fennel. Sounds divine! Regulars come here just for this dish.
Waterfalls Curried Delights ($14) give diners a chance to pick two dishes from a list of five curried specialties. We unanimously choose the Kerala Fish Curry, and ask the waiter to recommend a second choice made dairy-free. After a quick consult with the kitchen, Josh returns to tell us the chefs can create a non-dairy version of the Madras chicken. The Kerala Fish Curry turns out to be tender and delicately flavoured, and scores a 10-out-of-10 nestled in its spicy tamarind-laced coconut-infused sauce. And the dairy-free Madras chicken comes adorned with an aromatic spice combination from Southern India. It’s lip-smacking good. This combo also comes with crispy pappadum, flaky rice, tart, mixed pickle, and a dollop of cooling raita.
We also order some traditional accompaniments: Chana Masala (chickpeas), Aloo Saag (potato-spinach) and Mushroom Kurma ($10 each). I am impressed with the Chana Masala made from dried chickpeas soaked overnight then lightly cooked to the perfect consistency and tossed in a mixture of onion, tomato, cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric and garam masala. The chickpeas in Chana Masala can be lost in the sauce, but Waterfalls elevates this legume to a new level. We also appreciate the slight bitter notes in the Aloo Saag. And being the mushroom fan that I am, I thoroughly enjoy the creamy textures and earthy notes of the Mushroom Kurma.
Waterfalls boasts an authentic tandoor oven, which yields mouth-watering baked breads and meats. We are pleased with the naan ($2), perhaps some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s light but chewy, and the blistered goodness is perfect for sopping up savoury sauces. Specialty naan breads such as garlic, rosemary or the queen Kashmiri are very popular ($3). The Kashmiri naan features cranberries and a combination of dried fruits, roasted cashews and coconut. Not to be missed.
Classic Indian dishes dominate the mains with a variety of curries including vegetarian, fish, lamb or beef. As well, there are traditional chicken dishes from every corner of the sub-continent. Each provides a sample of Waterfall’s herb and spice-rich cuisine. Vibrant colours abound, accompanied by perfectly executed crunchy vegetables.
Dinner for two ranges from $40 to $120. The entire team, including Chef Nanda Kishore, Chef Suboth Singh, owner Rasie Mahendran, and serving staff will welcome you with good cheer and great ideas for your own aromatic feast.
Open every day for lunch and dinner. Available for private parties, catering and take out.