It’s unlikely cuisine – Parsi – in an unexpected place – Ajax. Its owners boast that Copper Chimney likely offers the only Parsi cuisine in North America.
Owner Meharnosh Daruwala and executive chef Zubin Aria, both Parsi, opened the kitchen in April, 2007, borrowing the name of a successful fine-dining chain in India. They spend upwards of four hours daily concocting the curries and gravies of Parsi cuisine, described as a subtle mix of Gujarati and Iranian.
“Indian food is not something you just do in a jiff,” says Aria, who brings more than 20 years’ experience and recipes adapted from his mother and grandmother. “It’s very ethnic, authentic and personal.”
In the dining room, deep blue walls stamped with a parade of gleaming elephants create a serene setting. The restaurant also offers a back-set bar and buffet offering a 25-plus item lunch for $9.99 ($12.99 on weekends).
ON THE PLATE: Bombay spices and pickles are brought in from a Gujarat town. Unwrapping a giant banana leaf reveals a buttery white pomfret fish, flown in from the Indian Ocean for patra ni machi ($12.99), gently smeared in a soft chutney paste of mint, ground coconut, cilantro, green chili, cumin and sugar cane vinegar.
Of the rich and well-spiced goat options, packed in copper and stainless steel bowls called kadai, salli boti ($12.99) is the most tender. It’s a sensual, traditional wedding ragout cooked with apricots, dates and whole cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, topped with crispy potato straw. Goat dhansak ($15.99), considered the signature Parsi dish, stews in a smooth amber sauce of lentils flavoured with ginger and garlic.
Balti nosh is equally pleasing: tandoori jhinga ($16.99) appetizer features fat, blackened shrimp that arrive still smoking, while succulent button mushrooms and cubed pressed cheese floats in an addictive tomato gravy of khumb paneer masala ($9.99).
Top-notch yogurt lassis ($3.50) tame several screechingly hot dishes.
SECOND HELPINGS: Smoky Indian breads baked to order practically hover over the basket, they’re so fresh and fluffy, especially the pudina kulcha ($2.50) flavoured with mint.
Impossibly juicy chicken-on-bone fills out the marghi no pulao dar ($13.99), a layered rice platter with crushed cashews and lentil dal. The Parsi answer to fried chicken uses egg to poof out golden batter in margi na farcha ($9.99).
TAKE A PASS: Only the daring should try the cauldron of fire that is kolmi na curry chawal ($18.99), in which full-bodied shrimp yelp in a brilliant blend of hot Kashmiri chilies.
AT YOUR SERVICE: Several courteous servers offer recommendations and friendly ribbing. No water glass goes unfilled; hot dishes are whisked out steaming. Leftovers are expertly packed.
EXTRAS: Wafer-thin coned pappadums arrive with tiny pots of homemade sweet and sour tamarind and mint chutneys, served with silver spoons.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers: $9.99 to $16.99. Mains: $6.99 to $18.99.
BOTTOM LINE: Charming servers and tranquil decor combine with rare and spirited fare.
Original review here