First Look: Indian Rice Factory’s Chai Bar, a new grab-and-go extension to a decades-old Annex restaurant
By Anna Silman
Chicken curry with lentils, salad and a papadum (Images: Anna Silman)
Last month, the 43-year-old Annex stalwart Indian Rice Factory quietly started making inroads into new culinary territory with the opening of its Chai Bar café. Opened in a converted wooden barn steps away from the main restaurant, the café operates as a grab-and-go extension of Indian Rice Factory, offering Indian chai, coffee, pastries and a compact lunch menu.
Using coffee beans from Reunion Island, Chai Bar serves up caffeinated standards such as espresso ($2.50) and macchiato ($2.75), but the real draw is the Indian spiced tea, also known as masala chai ($4). The tea is prepared in front of the customer, with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, coriander and cloves ground to order with a traditional mortar and pestle.
For those seeking a more refreshing libation, there is also a range of iced teas available ($3-$3.50).
“It's a very typical coffee shop experience from India, and that’s what I wanted to give people,” says owner Aman Patel, who runs the Indian Rice Factory with his wife, Deepa.
Along with beverages, a host of café-style treats are on offer, including pastries by Dufflet ($3.50), ice-cream ($3), Parle-G cookies (three for $1), and locally-made Indian cake rusks ($1), which are like Indian biscotti, Aman explains.
The café also represents Indian Rice Factory’s first foray into lunch, available from noon to 2 p.m. The offerings are essentially simplified versions of dinner menu favourites, and are prepared by the same team of chefs responsible for the latter.
Customers can choose a vegetarian or non-vegetarian main course, both of which vary from day to day and are served with a lentil dish, papadums, basmati rice and a small tomato-cucumber salad. Lunch costs $9 for a take-out “lunch bag” or $10 for a sit-down meal. For something lighter, pakoras are also available (four for $4.50).
And thanks to these changes, patrons will for the first time have all-day access to the Indian Rice Factory’s radiant 40-seat back garden and patio — and one of the Annex’s best-kept secrets — which had previously only been accessible for dinner guests.
“We had this beautiful patio and we wanted to share it with everyone,” Aman says.
Walking into the back, it’s easy to see why the Patels felt this secret was worth sharing. Sipping on an herbal iced-tea underneath the shade of magnolia trees, we feel like we’ve stepped in to another world. With a Japanese-inspired koi pond, a miniature waterfall and vines creeping over the walls, the Indian Rice factory's back patio is a lush oasis that seems miles away from the hustle and bustle of Dupont.
“I want people to walk in and think, ‘oh, where have we come in to?’” Aman says.
Indian Rice Factory, 414 Dupont Street, 416-961-3472