Restaurant Review: Adrak – When overly enthusiastic service detracts from the overall experience
|138 Avenue Road
|Dinner for two with drinks
Located on Avenue Road just south of Davenport Street, Adrak embodies elegance and sophistication with its modern Indian cuisine. Recently recognized by the Michelin Guide, it doesn’t clamour for attention—rather, it invites those with a discerning palate to embark on a journey of rich and intricate Indian flavours.
As you step into Adrak, you’re immediately enveloped in an ambiance that pays a tender homage to India’s rich cultural heritage with a contemporary flair. The space, bathed in soft light, casts enchanting patterns on the walls, creating an atmosphere that feels like an intimate secret shared among friends. Here, amidst the hustle and bustle of Toronto, Adrak offers a serene oasis, a pause from the outside world, inviting guests to savour every bite.
My guest and I commence our culinary journey with a variety dishes selected with the help of our server. The Thecha Paneer Tikka ($28) arrives as a bold narrative of textures and flavours. The robustness of Indian cheese meets the crunch of spiced peanut and the zing of green chili sauce. The tamarind spread beneath adds a tangy undertone, turning each bite into a layered experience of smoky, spicy, and sweet. A wonderful way to begin a delicious journey.
Next up is the Patrani Macchi ($52), a steamed Chilean seabass fillet enrobed in a banana leaf that, once unveiled, releases a symphony of cilantro, mint, and coconut aromas. Bathed in a South Indian fish sauce, is a testament to the chef’s skill in weaving complex flavours into a seamless tapestry, each forkful a discovery of nuanced marinade and tender flesh. There is nothing to critique here, and I would return for this dish alone.
For a more traditional dish, the Murgh Tandoori ($35), is a harmonious duet of chicken breast and leg. While the vibrant green chutney adds a zing of flavour and the laccha onions add a desirable textural contrast, the dish falls a touch shy of its potential. The chicken, although commendably tender, lacks a certain depth of the smokiness that one anticipates in a dish with tandoori roots. This subtle shortfall in the infusion of the grill’s charred essence suggests either a light hand in spice marination or a hesitance at the flames. In addition, while the presentation is visually appealing, it risks straying towards the pedestrian, yearning for an innovative twist or a burst of colour to elevate it beyond the conventional.
The Murgh Makhani($32), offers a comforting embrace with its tandoor-roasted chicken enveloped in a creamy tomato-fenugreek sauce. This dish is a dialogue between the tang of tomatoes and the earthy depth of fenugreek, each spoonful a testament to the comforting power of well-crafted sauce.
The culinary voyage sails further south with the Alleppey Jhinga ($40), a homage to Kerala’s coastal heritage. Prawns, caressed by the tang of raw mango and the creaminess of coconut milk, are spiced with a handpicked selection of coastal spices, narrating a tale of the sea that is both vibrant and soothing. A simple yet indispensable accompaniment, the Basmati Rice at $10, serves as the quiet backdrop against which these vivid flavours shine.
Dessert at Adrak is remarkably innovative, particularly the Cocochoco Rasmalai Cheesecake ($23). This dessert is a layered concoction of coconut crémeux and chocolate hazelnut crunch, topped with a whisper of coconut snow. The citrus gel and cardamom ice cream add the final flourish, a blend of textures and flavours that linger long after the last bite.
With the Gajar Ki Mithi Zalak, creativity takes center stage with a quartet of carrot desserts, each variant—pudding, radbi, kulfi, and sponge—offering a different exploration of texture and sweetness, a playful yet refined end to the meal.
One thing that’s unique about Adrak is that it’s not shy in positioning itself as a restaurant for adults, a decision that, while enhancing the dining experience for many, may exclude families with young children. Yet, this choice is a testament to Adrak’s confidence in its narrative—a narrative that invites the diner to immerse in a sensory experience that is as rich and complex as the culture it represents.
The service at Adrak, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, can at times diminish the overall dining experience. The staff, in their eagerness to provide attentive service, can become overly present, encroaching upon the personal space and interrupting conversations with an almost metronomic frequency. This overzealous approach, though rooted in the desire to excel, often disrupts the natural ebb and flow of an enjoyable dining experience.
The art of hospitality lies in the subtle dance of being available without being invasive, a balance that Adrak’s service has not yet fully mastered. The hope is for the staff to find a more graceful rhythm that complements, rather than competes with, the exquisite food and tranquil atmosphere that Adrak strives to offer.
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.