I didn’t fully appreciate the, frankly destabilising, power of nostalgia, until I walked into the much-hyped Karahi Boys restaurant. Before social distancing rearranged life as we know it, I had the chance to venture out to their Scarborough location. And let’s just say, this gush has been a long time coming.
Admittedly, it feels a bit redundant to harp on about the ambiance of an eatery, when nobody can visit it. But, I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to praise an experimental business venture. Especially, when a global pandemic is wreaking havoc for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Tell The World I’m Coming Home…
See, here’s the thing; serving good, desi food to the GTA’s South Asian community is a recipe for success. But, there is something else that exalts an eatery above others.
In the words of a queen, “Home is something very peculiar. There is a yearning in it, you know? Something special, hopeful, mystical, restful.” – Toni Morrison.
And what evokes memories of home, better than scent, touch, texture and taste?
My first foray into Karahi Boys brimmed with all of this, and more. Close to midnight, on a busy weekday, back when the streets of Toronto still moved with life. Accompanied by extended family, I took in all that this place offered. It was a playful myriad. The decor, balancing bright yellow truck-art with understated cutlery, was well-curated and contemporary. But the food left a trailing scent of nostalgia in the air.
When I visited it again recently, the light of day put so much into perspective. I accompanied my mother, and younger sister to the same location, just before the clampdown worsened. And I think I’ve identified what makes them special.
It isn’t just the merger of delectable, hearty food, with trendy furniture that draws you in. Rather, it is the promise of reliving a perhaps untouchable memory; made perfect by the passage of time.
The menu on offer is a succulent collection of Pakistani cuisine’s greatest hits.
The titular karahis are of course essential tasting. Prepared using traditional recipes, and apparently, specially imported karahis from Pakistan. Which, if you don’t know, is a cooking vessel similar to a wok, but less curved and with a heavier base.
A half serving of their KBoys chicken karahi is enough for three. For the full effect, you of course have to try it with their rather exuberant naans. Putting all flatbreads to shame, these ghee stroked babies are two-foot long, and come with their own pedestal.
Like I said; exalted.
But, true Karachiites never settle for the basics. (Although, I’m not sure if I can claim that title. I grew up running between Hyderabad and Karachi, you know). And so we didn’t. Opting for a serving of their Aashiki chicken seekh kebabs. Side note; the name alone is worth a visit. In fact, I could say that about everything on the menu.
And we also ordered a plate of fries; because who wouldn’t?
Paying It Forward
At just under CAD 50, Karahi Boys served as a moderately priced treat for my family. And given the choice, I’d definitely go there again. But such are the times that we live in, that I can’t be sure of when that will be.
When the dust settles, you always have to take note of what the damage is. And, I’m hoping that while we support each other in our own circles, we are also able to empathise.
Restaurants like Karahi Boys were the trendy spots for our chance social gatherings. But, they also represent the infectious energy of the entrepreneurial spirit. And it will help everyone to realise that their livelihoods have been impacted in a most uncertain way.