Indian Cuisine by the Lake in Port Credit
Indian cuisine, for the most part, falls under the mid-scale casual dining umbrella. The average chain resto (such as Bombay Bhel) runs diners approximately $30 for an appetizer, two curries, rice and naan (after tax, excluding drinks). Not an expensive night out, but not McDonald's either.
But while the popular, heavily spiced Asian cuisine works well as an affordable dining experience, it can be upscale. It can be date-worthy, exotic and romantic. In fact, it would be nice to see more Indian restos following in the footsteps of slightly more shi-shi Toronto resto Amaya. It would be even nicer to see an atmospheric resto in Port Credit.
Going by Indian Cuisine by the Lake's website, the relatively new establishment -- it opened its doors this past May -- looks like it might fit the bill.
The site proclaims the casual restaurant, nestled in a perfect and bustling location (right on Lakeshore, west of Hurontario and east of Mississauga Road), is ideal for either a causal or romantic night out. Boasting that diners can observe "Master Chefs at work in an open concept kitchen," the resto's owners seem to insist the restaurant is somehow unique in its artistry and atmosphere.
Indian Cuisine by the Lake is indeed by the lake, but don't expect it to be on it. You cannot see the lake from the patio. You can't even see it from the nearby No Frills parking lot (where you should park if you visit). The resto is more casual than romantic, offering a nice patio but supremely lackluster dining room equipped with three or four tables, a giant counter, and small buffet. When you walk in, the colourful artwork and pungent smell of hot spices is dwarfed by the whirring fan and long, take-out style counter. It feels more quick-lunch-on-a-Friday-with-coworkers than hot-date-by-the-waterfront-with-your-sexy-partner. You can sit and order off the menu, but the restaurant simply doesn't feel like a sit-down establishment.
On the upside, the food is good. While the samosas ($3.50) are a little under-spiced and taste like they came from Loblaws, the menu is extensive. Diners can peruse the small but varied buffet or order Pakoras ($7-$8), Chana Masala ($9), Aloo Gobi Masala ($10), Butter Chicken ($13), Methi Curry ($14) and more. While the Aloo Gobi Masala was infused with a little too much ginger, the Methi Curry Chicken was wonderful -- tender, savory and liberally spiced.
The tandoori selection is also fun to peruse, with Afghan Chicken Tikka ($12), Haryali Chicken Tikka ($12-- a wonderful bright green dish that gets its colour from its green pepper, chive, cilantro and broccoli marinade), Paneer Tikka ($12) and more.
The Naan -- Plain or Garlic -- is perfectly soft and savory, but the basmati rice portion is a little small for two to share. Since the restaurant caters to a large take-out crowd, it offers some fitting specialties, such as the Curry in a Hurry (a curry from the buffet, a side salad and rice or naan for $6) and By the Lake Wraps (such as Chicken Tikka Wrap, Seekh Kebab Wrap and Vegetable Wrap, all for $6).
As for the dine-in prices, two curries with samosas and a rice and naan came to a little over $35 after tax and tip. While the price is fair for the amount of food, it's hard to swallow when you see a take-out counter and plastic chairs all around you.
So, if you're looking for a romantic night of Indian dining, you won't find it in Indian Cuisine by the Lake. What you will find is a nice selection on the menu and a nice, walkable neighbourhood to enjoy after dinner. Opt for the patio if you want to linger over drinks. The dining room atmosphere isn't ideal for romance.