The Tiffin Box is a South Indian Dosa bar/takeaway that has 2 locations. The first location opened in July 2014 at 938 Bathurst St. (just north of Bloor) in The Annex neighbourhood. The newest location just opened up less than three months ago on 678 College St. (College & Beatrice) in Little Italy.
The name “The Tiffin Box” refers to a lunch carrier used in South Asia often by bicycle couriers to deliver food to people. The image of one is used as their logo. I think it looks great!
The original location’s décor (shown below) is simple and small, having seats for about 12, so if it’s busy be prepared for take out! It’s got a few tables that will seat about 8, and a ledge up front that should sit about 4 people on stools. It’s a clean and simple decor, and works very well. If you eat in, food is served on traditional metal plate known as a “thali”. The kitchen is an open concept, which I always appreciate.
The College Street location (shown below) has a different décor, one that fits the modern and hip vibe found in many College Street restaurants. There are no tables, but there are two wide ledges that seat about 8 comfortably on new high chairs. The location is much smaller than the Bathurst location, but the kitchen is so much sleeker and larger here. It also has a digital copy of the menu on TV screens.
2 Vegetarian Samosas (2 for $2) — potatoes and peas with a burst of spices, wrapped in pastry
The filling was solid, what’d you’d expect out of a vegetarian samosa. The dip was an excellent sweet and spicy flavour.
This was basically battered onion strings. They had a strong lemon taste served with a sweet and sour tamarind dip that complemented the tartness of the bhaji very well. This was great!
Mulligatawny Soup ($5.50 for large) — a blend of vegetables, lentils and spices with coconut milk and rice
Mulligatawny is an Indian soup whose name translated from Tamil is “pepper-water”. I assure you, it tastes a lot better than its’ direct translation. It’s served with rice in the bowl (I enjoyed the texture!) and also some fresh chopped cilantro. I’m a big soup guy, and this full-flavoured soup did not disappoint.
Combination Thali ($12 for meat combo + $1 for Buttered Chicken) — butternut squash, buttered chicken, and dhaal w/ basmati rice, raita & salad
A thali is a combination platter with which you can choose your toppings, served over rice and includes raita (a side dish traditionally made of cucumber, yogurt, and mint) and salad. I really enjoyed the butternut squash, it was simple, yet sweet and delicious. The buttered chicken was not as sweet as I was used to (I think I’m used to the Northern Indian version, which is richer) but that wasn’t a bad thing. It had great flavour and was a little tangy. The dhaal was alright, but I think in general isn’t my cup of tea. I find lentils in their full form to be kind of overwhelming. I much prefer them blended, so that’s on me! The raita was refreshing and the salad was simple yet excellent. I absolutely love onions in any salad.
Butternut squash – 9.5/10
Buttered chicken – 8.5/10
Dhaal – 7.5/10
Raita and salad – 9/10
Chicken Curry Dosa (ranges from $6-$9) — savory rice flour crêpes made with black Indian beans (urud dhal) naturally fermented, sprinkled with ghee and served with coconut & tomato onion chutney, served with your choice of filling (you can ask to have the dosa made vegan)
This item is what I believe to be The Tiffin Box’s specialty. If you’ve ever had a Jamaican-style Roti, it’s basically that, but the exterior is what’s known as a dosa. A dosa is a thin crêpe-like pancake (of Tamil Nadu origin and popular in Southern India) made with fermented batter that has a wonderfully lightly crisp yet soft exterior. It’s a great texture to have and was very fun to eat. I asked the owner Vin about how to tackle it, and he explained the process where you open the dosa, and rip off a piece of it and pick up the interior filling with the dosa piece. It was very similar to how you’d eat Indian curries with naan or eating Ethopian food using the injera bread. The curry was delicious, and the side chutneys were awesome. There was also a container with what I think was pickled okra that was superb too. In addition, the dosa is made fresh right in front of you and I think that gives it an extra edge in taste and experience.
Here’s the exterior:
The interior of the dosa:
Lamb Curry ($12) — juicy Ontario lamb prepared in a savory aromatic herb and spice sauce, served with basmati rice and raita
This was a slightly disappointing dish. I don’t know if that’s because I asked for it extra spicy and had it tasting like it had no heat or maybe the dish is supposed to be like that? I was told that South Indian food is generally not very spicy, so that would make sense. The lamb meat itself was great in taste and texture, but the curry could have used some kick to push it over, as it tasted a little plain.
Avayil ($9) — A blend of julienne cut vegetables mixed with shredded coconut folded in cumin and yogurt mixture, served on basmati rice
This was a nice mix of vegetables and while the curry flavour was decent, again I felt could have used some heat. Not bad though!
Rasmalai ($3.00) — A traditional Indian dairy dessert
This is basically a flattened muffin ball sitting in cream. It’s delicious!
Salted Lassi ($3.50)
I’ve had mango lassis before but never the salted variety… which means… I had to try it! I was warned by Vin that this was not a drink that was for everyone, which really made me interested in trying it! I’m a fan of savoury drinks like Mott’s Clamato and V8. I also expected this to taste somewhat like Ayran, a salted yogurt drink. Well, let me tell you, this was a VERY unique drink. Even though it’s basically very similar to Ayran but with extra spices involed, like cumin, ginger, turmeric and more. I like the call this drink “the gift that keeps on giving”. My first taste was pretty shocking, but as I finished it, it really grew on me.
Sweet Lassi ($3.50)
This is a nice sweet yogurt drink.
Mango Lassi ($3.50)
This is for fans of mango drink and yogurt. It’s a great mix of sweetness with the natural tartness of yogurt. Refreshing.
Overall, The Tiffin Box is a wonderful addition to the lineup of cool restaurants on College St. in Little Italy and the original location on Bathurst is no slouch either. If you like South Indian food, or even Indian food in general, you’ll likely enjoy the food from The Tiffin Box. The butternut squash is to die for, and I know I’m looking forward to trying it in their wonderful dosa! Check them out the next time you’re in Little Italy or in The Annex.