Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A pint and a good plate of curry

"It's all about curry, beer and music." That's how Vincent Pollard, the charming barman at Stella at 1261 Bloor West, describes his establishment. It's no surprise that he's from England, a country enamoured with all three. 

Pollard handles the music and beer, while back in the kitchen, his business partner, Bangladeshi immigrant Ronti Hosen, tends to the curry in the kitchen. 

Stella is a bar in the newly cool Bloordale area that attracts a reggae and indie music-loving set in their 20s and 30s.  Just a year ago, Stella was yet another divey sports bar attracting ne'er-do-wells on the sketchy Landsdowne strip. 

But Pollard, who was then just an occasional customer, was gradually enticed to run events at the bar in exchange for regular doses of Ronti's curry. Pollard liked the social atmosphere so much that he quit his job as a web designer a couple of months ago to run the bar with Ronti full time. 

And the curry? For $8 to $10, you can pick between beef, shrimp and okra, butter chicken or fish. All the choices are good and quite distinct, but the fish is the must-have dish here. 

As a Bangladeshi curry, it's less saucy than its Indian counterpart. The turbot is made with freshly crushed coriander and cooked with tamarind, ginger and garlic, tomato and onion. The result is a wonderfully smooth and tasty meal with much more flavour than a typical fish curry. (However, Spice City readers be warned, if you like it hot, you'll need 'superspice' your order by asking for a little more kick.) 

Before the transformation of Stella, Ronti (above) spent his days doing food prep for fancy restaurants like Scaramouche, while own bar served nothing but chicken wings. But after seeing Landsdowne begin to shed its sketchiness in the last year or two, he decided to bring his passion for cooking to his own establishment. He hopes one day to open a Bangladeshi restaurant, something that would be welcome in Toronto, as many Bangladeshis serve Indian food in their establishments rather than their own cuisine.

Ronti just returned from a four month stint in Bangladesh, where he gleaned culinary secrets from his kin. He had immigrated to Canada as a teenager, so he only started cooking after he came here. "When I was back in Bangladesh, I got recipes for curries and dahl from my mom, my grandma, my relatives, anyone in town who was a good cook," he says. Ronti even spent a couple of weeks there working helping make food for large 500-people events. "I wanted to know the real Bangladesh flavour." 

Stella is at 1261 Bloor Street West.; Tel: 416 655 7142. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 6pm til 1am; Thursday to Saturday 6pm til 2am; Sunday 6pm til midnight. 

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  1. wicked - go vince! :) - Scott/Brisbane

  2. This place is incredible. Can't recommend it enough.

  3. I've been reading lots of stuff about this place lately ... I'll have to check it out.

  4. Excellent food and DJs.