What's the vibe?
Ji is a casual Indian restaurant from the same owners as Pukka, a restaurant offering more upscale Indian fare just a few doors down on St. Clair. Diners enter through the bar area, which is anchored by an eye-catching yellow-panelled bar lined with red swivel stools. On the left, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs playing muted Bollywood movies hang over a row of wooden tables.
The dining area to the right is even more playful, decorated with powder blue banquettes, dangling Edison lights, and vintage posters. Distressed wood wainscoting runs along the wall through the two sections of the restaurant, tying them together. A soundtrack of 1980s classics creates a relaxed, nostalgic vibe, and even on a Tuesday night, the tables are full and the atmosphere is buzzing.
What to drink?
Many of Ji’s cocktails draw inspiration from the menu’s Indian flavours, including the Shikanji Twist, made with vodka, cumin, mint, lemon, and pink Himalayan salt. Tamarind chutney gives the tequila-based Tamarind Margarita a distinctively sour bite. Non-alcoholic drinks like the mango lassi and a trio of Indian sodas also pay homage to the restaurant’s theme.
While there are only two beers on tap – Beau’s Lug Tread and West Avenue Cider – a selection of around 20 different craft tall cans and bottles give beer-drinkers plenty of options. Wines are available by the glass, the half-litre, and the bottle, with four whites, four reds, and a Spanish cava to choose from.
What to eat?
Ji’s menu is built around the idea of bringing an Indian twist to typical pub foods. This concept is exemplified by dishes like the Naanchos, crispy pieces of naan layered with lamb keema, kachumber, raita, and cheddar; and the Brisket Poutine topped with paneer and pulled beef curry. The fusion theme continues with the restaurant's selection of 'Buns', which feature fixings like chicken and chutney or lamb keema piled on flat breads or hot dog-style buns. The menu is rounded out by well-prepared versions of more traditional dishes, such as the Chicken Tikka Masala.
The dishes manage to strike that delicate balance between pleasing diners who like their Indian food spicy without alienating those who prefer milder fare. The Navratan Korma, for example, has rich, complex flavours but doesn’t leave you reaching for the water every five seconds.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $70
760 St. Clair Avenue West; 416 792 5550; helloji.ca