Charisma of India

Neighbourhood: Wolseley
Address:
83 Sherbrook St
Phone: 222-7878
Entrées: $9-$15

A big bouquet of exotic spices perfumes the air inside Charisma of India, teasing diners with the dishes  soon to come.

With few exceptions, Indian cuisine is a dance of spices. A dash of cumin, cardamom and cinnamon are expertly combined into remarkably delectable yet undissectible concoctions that confound and delight diners.

At Charisma that is certainly the case.

By the cash register, 20-odd spices are on display and visually demystify some of the magic cooked up in the kitchen. Only one, red chile peppers, creates searing-hot flavour.

The owners of the West Broadway-area restaurant, Mitesh and Hasmita Trivedi, have flagged a couple of dishes on the menu as very hot. Everything else falls comfortably into the mild to moderate range.

The varied, affordable and  ever-changing buffet—served at lunch and dinner—draws crowds to the 110-seat restaurant.

Menu service is also available and handled by eager and knowledgeable servers.

The current menu is a far cry from Charisma’s origins as a pizza and chicken joint, which opened in 2001. After repeated customer requests, it became an Indian restaurant in 2003.

Today the menu contains a fine balance of meat and vegetarian dishes. As is the custom,  beef and pork aren’t served for religious reasons, but the menu includes plenty of chicken, shrimp, lamb and goat.

Start with papadum, a crisp cracker spiced with biting black pepper, cumin, and salt.

The deep-fried pacodas (also known more commonly as pakoras) are vegetable fritters made with potatoes, cauliflower and onion, and served with two dipping sauces—spicy tomato and sweet and sour.

For mild tastes, order the butter chicken. Charisma’s version is buttery rich, slightly sweet and delicately tomato-flavoured. The same sauce is served on the vegetarian shahi paneer, a mild Indian cheese resembling ricotta.

Navratan korma, a mild vegetarian dish of cauliflower, corn and French beans is served in a creamy turmeric sauce.

For gentle heat, dig into chickpea curry, a slow-simmered, tomato-based stew with bay leaves, ginger, garlic and a dash of chilli.

The heat intensifies dramatically in the scorching hot vindaloo. The burning  fire of chiles is ever-present in the goat version. For the goat wary: fear not. The meat is reminiscent of lamb or beef. The fire doesn’t extinguish the tomato and garlic notes in this rich and meaty dish. Except for the spices, most ingredients are locally sourced.

Meals are served with basmati rice. Fluffy white naan bread is a highlight of any visit to an Indian restaurant, but Charisma’s  home-style roti made with whole wheat flour was a complex and layered accompaniment, perfect for sopping up the sauces.

On some nights, the exotic dining experience goes beyond the food. Belly dancers perform the second and fourth Saturday of every month.

Charisma is open Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm and Sun 4 pm-10 pm.