Ismaila Alfa: Before we get to the restaurant, can you tell me more about rice row?
Suresh Doss: Rice row, as I’ve heard it referenced by locals, it’s an evolving patch of the Danforth starting just east of Pape. From Donlands, and east from there. Just as you leave Greektown with the sign above your head, you’re entering this really interesting part of the city where cultures are seemingly intertwining and evolving. And there is this repetitive motif of rice dishes presented in a variety of ways.
Ismaila Alfa: Tell me more.
Suresh Doss: There are a handful of Pakistani restaurants, Latin American restaurants, Ethiopian restaurants. So you will see rice that is presented alongside stewed meat or vegetables. In many cases, you will see rice that has been cooked with the protein and spice like Biryani, for example. There’s more rice here than any other street in Toronto. And when you cross Main Street, you’re welcomed into Little Bangladesh, which is this community that has been growing for the last 12 years or so with convenience stores and restaurants.
So Danforth [Avenue] and Danforth [Road], which is where you will find Adda, [is] tucked in this small plaza. A friend of mine introduced me to this restaurant over the winter months. It’s run by Mohammed Rashid and Urmie Ahmed. Mohamed is a seasoned restaurateur and Urmee was a well-recognized cook in the local community in Crescent Town. Their restaurant sits at the literal edge of the Danforth. In my opinion, here, you will find Bengali cooking like nowhere else in the city.
Ismaila Alfa: So take us through some of your favorite things to eat there.
Suresh Doss: So everything Urmee does, along with our team of cooks, takes a lot of time. And you can really taste it in the cooking because everything is made from scratch. I would suggest you and I start off with some snacks. So Urmee makes this incredible daal poori where she takes flatbread and she stuffs it with the spice lentil mixture and then it’s deep fried. The pooris are about the size of your palm, about the size of a tortilla. They’re just a wonderful snack. It’s kind of just tears really nicely and you have that spice that kind of blooms out. It’s a great way to start the meal. I’ve been getting it every time I visit there.
There’s also a potato version called aloo poori. Then there’s fuchka, also known as pani puri. So you’re presented with these hallowed semolina shells, which is then topped with pieces of spiced potatoes and chickpeas. You take this tamarind water and you pour it into the shell until it’s full and then you delicately just pick it up, top the entire thing in your mouth. It is quite literally this explosion of sweet, salty and savory with hits of crunch and it’s quite cooling.
Ismaila Alfa: It sounds like this is pushing me right to the line of sensory overload.
Suresh Doss: And a great way to kind of really wake up your appetite, wake up your senses.
At the core, Adda is really Urmee’s love letter to rice and all the different Bengali preparations of it. There is this wonderful dish called the Biye Barir Chicken Roast, where chicken is marinated in yogurt for hours and then slow-cooked with spices and served with rice.
It is the kind of dish that you would find at weddings back in India and Bangladesh. It’s a real celebration dish that requires a deft hand and a lot of experience. Similarly, there’s a second dish here, the star really, called Kachi Biryani. It’s a very popular dish.
Ismaila Alfa: Doesn’t every family have a meal like that where everyone knows it’s a big deal when it actually gets made and you all wait for it?
Yeah, my mom makes this like once a year in the summertime if I’m lucky. There’s a lot of work that goes into the dish. As [Mohammed Rashid] describes it, it’s marinated overnight and it takes four hours to cook the dish with the dough that kind of feels the top to keep everything kind of contained, kind of like a pressure cooker.
Ismaila: Yes, how do we put a wrap on this meal?
We’re going next door to try a dessert. I can’t talk about Adda without mentioning the cubicle sized sweets shop next door. It’s called Pitha Ghor; a husband and wife team have been making about 30 different types of “mithai” or Indian sweets. They also started off by cooking for the community, and everything is made from scratch, with no pre-made mixes. You will find sweets like gulab jamun here — milk solids that are fried and soaked in a syrup.
My top two for you to try are; the Kalu Jamun — these paneer dumplings are made with khoa and saffron. They’re absolutely delicious. And then there are the laddoos, sweet balls made usually from gram flour, but here they are also made with khoa. They’re softer and more cake like than your typical laddoos. It’s a remix that I think is superior to the classic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.