When I found myself out Brampton way recently, I decided to try Brar's
, an Indian buffet I’d heard good things about. As Indian is my favourite type of food and I’ve tried lots of restaurants serving this cuisine, my bar is set pretty high. I was not disappointed. The buffet was packed with flavourful and authentic vegetarian
dishes (no North American standards like butter chicken here) and the take-away sweets counter dispels the myth that Indians don’t do dessert.
The bland suburbia environs and non-descript strip mall exterior of Brar’s don’t hint at the bold flavours to be discovered inside. The décor is modern and fairly stylish, but could be found at any mid-priced establishment. But you don’t come here for a romantic candlelight dinner or a boutique ambiance. The authentic Indian is the name of the game here, and they hit the mark.
If the quality of an ethnic restaurant can be judged by the number of people of that background eating there, then Brar’s earns five stars. I was the only non-Indian in the establishment on the Saturday evening I dropped by for dinner.
The paper placemat listed some interesting drinks which are purchased separate from the buffet, including masala chai tea (black tea mixed with sweetener, milk, and such spices like ginger and cardamom) and mango lassi (either salted or sweet). Not wanting to mess with a good thing, I went for the sweet mango lassi, and it was the thick, filling fruit-and-yoghurt smoothie I’ve come to expect.
I headed up to the start of the buffet which was the soup and salad section. Besides the dal soup, I found most of the offerings to be too generic (tomato soup and pasta salad) to suit my hankering. However, the advantage is that, along with a token pizza section, this section could placate a picky eater if you’re coming on a family or group outing.
However, I quickly moved on to the chaats, or savoury snacks. These included the usual mini samosas as well as the less common dahi vada (a potato and lentil doughnut deep fried and then soaked in yoghurt) and pani poori (crispy, airy bread).
The selection of about 14 main dishes, the curries, change regularly so each time you go you could find something new. These dishes were served with rice and a basketful of piping-hot, buttery paratha bread. To accommodate different eating preferences, there are always a few vegan items and a few jain items (eaten by monastics, and contain no garlic or onion). Some of my favourite currie items on the night I went were malai kofta (deep friend balls of paneer and veggies served in a thin tomato curry sauce), baingan bhartha (mashed eggplant in a tomato curry), karela masala (deep fried sliced gourd), and some favourites like channa masala, mutter and palak paneers, and dal mukhani.
There was a counter serving hakka food (from an area of India with Chinese influences). The standout here was the chilli paneer, which combined Chinese sweet and sour sauce with crispy veggies and Indian paneer cheese.
In addition to the buffet items self-serve from conventional hot trays, there is also a “live” counter where white-coated chefs work over flat griddles creating items like paneer tikka and my favourite Brar’s item, the pao bhaji (potatoes, onion, carrots, and peas, in thick, yellow curry sauce with amazing Indian flavours).
A small dessert area had the expected gulab jamun (like timbits in a syrup) as well as gajrealla (a carrot pudding), and dhodha burfi (a solid square made of pureed cashews and dried fruit). However, I had passed the take-out dessert bar on my way in so I didn’t fill up at the buffet, knowing that I’d be buying some sweets to go later.
In terms of the table service, it was a little scattered. It seemed like no one server was assigned to a particular area; they just milled about at random. You had to do your best to flag down someone on their way by to get a beverage or to pay your bill. However, once you had someone’s attention, the servers are polite and friendly.
Between the entrance and the hostess desk, there is a long, multi-level display fridge of dozens of Indian sweets (most in individual squares or rolls). They were all beautiful, very colourful, and tempting, deliciously sweet with marzipan, milk, cashews, and almonds, and dried fruit such as dates. Some, like the kaju roll (a centre of pistachio surrounded in a marzipan coating), were quite intricate and resembled sweet sushi with a round cross section of different layers. Besides the individual sale items, there were self-serve freezers of packaged sweets sold by the dozen.
With an accessible location near where the 407 and the 410 meet (just north of the airport), Brar’s is worth a stop next time you’re driving along the northwest edge of the GTA. The buffet is open every day of the week for lunch and dinner. Adults are $12.99 for lunch and $18.99 for dinner, while kids are $8.99 any time – and kids under 3 eat free. No need for reservations.