Indra’s Curry House is a family-owned and operated business serving up authentic Indian cuisine.
Born in Punjab, located in India’s Northwestern state, the restaurant’s namesake Indra Dhami moved to England as a toddler where she was raised.
She eventually settled in northern Ontario, putting down roots in North Bay.
Indra’s Curry House is not the family’s first restaurant in the Gateway City.
“My husband used to own a British pub and that’s where it all started. We had the King’s Head on Premier Road and Lakeshore Drive,” explained Dhami.
“Initially we started doing Indian food to test the water, so we had Indian on the menu at a British Pub. It took off more than the British food, and it just developed from that.”
Response to the cuisine was so positive, the business expanded to a larger location to keep up with demand.
There came a point when the owners turned their focus on growing another family business.
“Indian food is so labour intensive and it doesn’t get the recognition that it should for the amount of labour that goes into everything. Even my pastries are made from scratch,” Dhami pointed out.
“But I just kept on getting people asking me ‘Are you ever going to cook again?’ And I think my ego got the better of me to be absolutely honest,” Dhami grinned.
“So the plan was that it was going to be take-out only, and I’ve been here 17 years now.”
Son Ravan Dhami works alongside his mother Indra in the kitchen, creating authentic Indian dishes from recipes passed down through the generations.
“Our product is unique and there is a lot of care that goes into it. Usually, I find our new customers are customers that have tried it within a family setting or party setting, and we get lots of people like that, who come in and say they were at a party and tried our food and they start becoming regular customers,” Ravan proudly shared.
Both mother and son say people may be hesitant to try Indian food at first, based on the misconception that all Indian food is spicy.
“Contrary to what people think, Indian food is not hot and spicy. You can have it as mild as you want, or as hot as you want. Most Indians don’t really eat super hot food. That is kind of a bit of a myth,” said Dhami who went on to describe Indian cuisine.
“It is very flavoursome. And if you’re having it for the first time, the thing that we always recommend is, chicken korma because it is a bit milder flavour-wise, not too intense. And then we have the naan bread which you break and dip with that, and some rice. That is what we always recommend,” shared the elder Dhami.
Naan is described as Indian-leavened flatbread.
“We have a tandoor which is a clay oven. You roll it (dough) out and stick it on the side of the clay and then it puffs up as traditional leavened bread in India. There are all sorts of bread but that is the most popular one,” Dhami stated.
The Curry House offers an extensive Indian menu. Chicken korma and butter chicken are recommended for those trying Indian food for the first time.
Chicken korma is boneless chicken breast cooked in a creamy curry sauce.
The butter chicken is tender pieces of chicken simmered in a rich creamy sauce.
“The chicken korma is less intense than the butter chicken. And then there are lots of vegetarian options as well because with Indian food you wouldn’t miss the meat. There are so many options of vegetables, vegetarian dishes which is anything from lentil curry to cauliflower potatoes, mixed vegetable curries,” Dhami explained.
“Everything on the menu is gluten-free, except for naan bread and samosas.”
There are two options for samosas.
Vegetable samosas are a crunchy pastry filled with spiced potatoes and peas served with mango chutney.
Meat samosas are a crunchy pastry filled with spiced ground beef and peas, also served with mango chutney.
The owners take pride in preparing their food fresh every day.
“Our food is super fresh, and we use the finest ingredients. I don’t like using anything inferior because it affects your food. If we wouldn’t eat it, we wouldn’t even think about serving it. I think that is what has been the success of this place, it is always served fresh,” said Dhami.
“It is extremely healthy. You’re getting vitamins and nutrients that are all good for you. It is very, very popular.”
Ravan explains how their food stays fresh.
“We cook in small batches so that way it does stay fresh. When a lot of places try to cut corners by making their food in bulk, you can taste that in the end result,” Ravan observed.
And it is that attention to detail, quality and consistency that keeps customers coming back.
“We have customers who have been with us since day one. And honestly, we have the best customers. I cannot say enough about them, and that is actually what feeds my soul. That is what keeps us going because they come in and they are so appreciative and so thankful. And they thank you every time, and that is what keeps you going,” said Dhami proudly.
Customers come from near and far.
“During the summer we get a lot of tourists, and the other thing is it seems to be a pit stop for a lot of people. People make a detour to North Bay so they can pick up our food. That has been happening ever since I opened,” Dhami stated.
“People will time it so they arrive on a Tuesday instead of a Monday because I am closed on Monday. It makes you feel good. They come prepared with their insulated bags. I get it (food) going to Timmins, I get it going to Sudbury, I get it going to Toronto, Ottawa, and Huntsville. Some people make it a tradition to stop in and get their food for the week before heading to the cottage.”
The restaurant offers many options including food from the tandoor (clay oven), different breads, Canadian food, biryani rice dishes, Indra’s specials and desserts.
Included on the menu is aloo gobi which is cauliflower and potatoes stir-fried with onions, green peppers, tomatoes and coriander.
Chana masala is made with chickpeas done in a curried sauce with green peppers, tomatoes, onions and coriander.
Customers have made tarka daal, a puree of lentils cooked with spices, garlic, onions and coriander another popular dish.
“I would describe it as a pea soup but 10 million times better. Even babies can have that it is that mild,” Dhami grinned.
Even the rice is flavourful. Basmati rice is a long-grain rice.
Indra’s Curry House is currently open five days a week from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. closed Sundays and Mondays.
Next month the restaurant will open for lunch.
“In April, I’m going to open a few days to do simpler food like Indian-infused food like wraps, and stuff that’s quick to go. So different than our dinner menu, but quick in and out, still fresh flavoursome food,” said Ravan.
“We are foodies. We just love food so much. We live for food. Everything is what are we going to eat next,?” laughed Dhami.
Located at 454 Main Street East across from GoodLife Fitness, Indra’s is available for take-out or delivery.
For more information go to www.indrascurryhouse.ca