In Downtown Toronto, finding a decent roti isn’t the easiest task ever. With the combination of higher rents, overhead costs, lower Trini populations (unlike the suburbs) and more food variety, it’s tough to keep your head above water. Danforth Roti Shop reminds me of “higher end” roti shops in Trinidad … in that there is cheap fluorescent lighting, hand written signs, yellowed advertisments and maps.
Unlike more roti shops in Toronto, they don’t have a visible kitchen. This to me is a bit of a pet peeve, since I like to see what people are doing with my roti. In fact, Trinis in general like to see what is being done with their food – blame a culture of Indian and African superstition – there are many superstitions around black magic and food, but that is another article.
As usual for more details on the overall criteria and scale, please see this post.
The general details : There are a number of vegetarian options but ask what is fresh for the day. They have a rather large menu, which is a good sign, but I always question the freshness of the food, since there doesn’t seem to be a huge level of foot traffic. The customer service was pleasant, and once they served us, the counter staff didn’t linger on the front – this I like, since it is typical of what you would get in Trinidad. People lingering around you, construes eavesdropping. They also provided knives and forks – I’m not impressed by this, since roti is hand food – but my partner was impressed – hence it rates a mention. While there is a table and a counter to eat at, this is primarily a take out establishment, like most roti shops in Toronto.
1. Roti: (37/45 points)
On our visit, we found that the roti skin was freshly made and more importantly, tasted like it was freshly made. Unlike other places, it didn’t reek of unwrapped plastic or other foreign scents. The roti skin was huge and allowed typical eating i.e. opening out the roti skin and breaking off pieces from the outside to sop up the tasty curry inside.
Overall the roti was larger than average, decently made split peas inside, cooked evenly and quite thin. The only main issue was that the roti was served at a lukewarm temperature. Also notice the “Banana Solo”, a Trini soft drink – always a good sign for any roti shop.
2. Curry: (38/55 points)
We sampled two chicken rotis and it was decent. Our visits were around lunch time on a weekend. As for the curried chicken/potato, both were decent and tasty. The curried potatoes were decent with a balanced taste, consistency, however it was extremely bland to both reviewers and there was too much geera (cumin) in the curry mixture. Geera is essential in the curry powder mixture as it gives that warm, nutty flavour and aroma.
The curried chicken was also quite average, in that it had a balanced taste, hints of fresh seasoning (Culantro/Chadon Beni), good color and consistency, and the same complaint about the curry was being “raw” on the meat, hinting that the curry powder itself wasn’t cooked enough prior to the chicken being introduced or that there was just too much curry powder in the mix. Another peeve is that both curries were lukewarm after being served which is a major negative. There is no Trinidadian that would like a warm or cold curry with roti, so why serve it to the public. Overall, it was a decent curry.
3. Condiments: (7/20 points)
Trinidadian food is all about the condiments. The reason that doubles aren’t as good in Toronto, is simply because no doubles shop in Toronto will have 5 or more different chutneys (Hot Mango, Sweet Mango, Tamarind, Pommecythere, Chadon Beni aka Green sauce, Kutchela, etc) on demand.
Danforth’s has kutchela and pepper sauce for roti, but they don’t offer it unless you know about it and ask for it. Obviously, if a roti shop sells doubles/pholourie, then they will usually have some type of chutney, but without offering it as standard fare, then it is useless. So in that manner, they lose points even though they have more condiments than the average Toronto Roti Shop
4. Overall: (20/20 points)
The overall presentation of the rotis that we got at Danforth’s was good. They serve a huge, well filled roti with a decent curry and decent meat. It is also a downtown establishment that charges a very fair price for a decent roti, unlike other downtown locations.
Hence a composite score of all factor, standardized to a score out of 100%
A score of 79% for a roti is a good score but the score is a bit skewed lower because they didn’t offer the condiments as standard. Overall, for a downtown location, this is much better than I would expect. So it is definitely a recommendation if you’re looking for a decent roti, that will fill a small country with decent curry. Would I go out of my way for Danforth’s Roti … probably not. However as it is downtown and convenient, I would definitely go back to try other things on their menu and probable another roti.