June 17, 2019

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Restaurants more than a flash in the paan

Winnipeg's Royal Paan locations offer great mix of street-style Indian food

Opinion

A franchise that started in Mississauga, Ont., in 2001, Royal Paan offers a fast-casual approach to Indian cuisine, concentrating on small, snacky items, including the kind of hand-held street food you might get from a vendor in Mumbai. Additionally, the menu is entirely vegetarian.

The two Winnipeg locations — a St. Vital venue that’s been around since 2017 and a newer spot on McPhillips Street — are open from late breakfast to late night.

They offer dishes like dosa — a rice-flour batter cooked paper-thin and crisp — and uttapam — flat rounds of fermented dough that are a little soft and spongy on top and slightly crisped on the bottom.

There’s a milk bar for lassi, shakes and creamy treats, and you can also get paan — little betel-leaf packets that are used as pick-me-ups or after-dinner refreshers.

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A franchise that started in Mississauga, Ont., in 2001, Royal Paan offers a fast-casual approach to Indian cuisine, concentrating on small, snacky items, including the kind of hand-held street food you might get from a vendor in Mumbai. Additionally, the menu is entirely vegetarian.

Restaurant Review

Royal Paan, located at 2419 McPhillips St., offers many varieties of Indian and Chinese comfort food.</p>

Royal Paan, located at 2419 McPhillips St., offers many varieties of Indian and Chinese comfort food.

Royal Paan
2419 McPhillips St.; 204-416-7226
166 Meadowood Dr.; 204-615-4040
royalpaan.com

Royal Paan
2419 McPhillips St.; 204-416-7226
166 Meadowood Dr.; 204-615-4040
royalpaan.com

Go for: vegetarian Indian street food
Best bet: the tasty dahi kachori puri
Dosa: $9-12; paan: $2-2.50

Monday: 1-11 p.m.; Tuesday-Sunday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

★★★

 

Star power

★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended

The two Winnipeg locations — a St. Vital venue that’s been around since 2017 and a newer spot on McPhillips Street — are open from late breakfast to late night.

They offer dishes like dosa — a rice-flour batter cooked paper-thin and crisp — and uttapam — flat rounds of fermented dough that are a little soft and spongy on top and slightly crisped on the bottom.

There’s a milk bar for lassi, shakes and creamy treats, and you can also get paan — little betel-leaf packets that are used as pick-me-ups or after-dinner refreshers.

Chaat bar items include savoury snacks like dal kachori puri. These crisp, delicate, hollow spheres of puffed fried dough are served with sweet tamarind sauce, hot coriander chutney and yogurt, making for messy little explosions of complex spices and complementary textures.

A plate of Masala Dosa, served with lentil soup and an assortment of dips.</p>

A plate of Masala Dosa, served with lentil soup and an assortment of dips.

The massive-looking but ultra-thin dosa are wrapped around fillings that range from potato masala — a little under-seasoned — to a less traditional dessert-themed chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Uttapam toppings include chilis, onions and garlic as well as a pizza-like fusion with mozzarella cheese. The version with lightly charred tomatoes and coriander is very nice.

Chole bhutare includes tasty discs of fried dough blistered up into crispness and a bowl of fat chickpeas cooked in an aromatic, tomatoey sauce, along with a tiny bit of mixed pickle.

A bowl of Hakka Noodles.

A bowl of Hakka Noodles.

The medu vada, little rings of fried dough, are piping hot and crisp on the outside — they had clearly just come out of the oil — but could have been softer inside.

Masala fries are covered with the tamarind sauce and coriander chutney that garnish many of Royal Paan’s dishes, as well as the funky spices of chat masala. This makes for great flavour but — and this is an issue I also have with poutine — the sauces leave the fries a bit soggy.

Royal Falooda is a popular treat.

Royal Falooda is a popular treat.

The mango lassi is fruit-forward with a good yogurt tang, and a blackberry milkshake is light and frothy and topped with shaved almonds. Milky, rose-inflected Kashmiri chai has a gorgeous pink hue and is finished with ground pistachio and almonds.

Royal Paan, as the name suggests, also offers paan, which is widely chewed in Southeast Asia as a digestive aid and stimulant. Betel leaves are loaded with chopped areca nut and — in the case of the milan mitha option — date paste, rose petals, coconut, and sugar-coated fennel seeds, all folded into a triangle. The taste is almost indescribable — sweet and perfumey but also a little liquoricy, a little mentholated and a little edgy.

Both of Royal Paan’s modestly sized locations rely on a red, black and white colour scheme. The older St. Vital location is showing some wear and tear, while the McPhillips location, open only a few months, is still fresh and new.

A plate of Dahi Kachori Puri.</p>

A plate of Dahi Kachori Puri.

There isn’t a lot of info on the in-house menus, and those not familiar with Indian street-food cuisine might want to look at the online menu, which gives more background on some of the dishes.

Royal Paan does offer table service, but it’s pretty rudimentary. The overall vibe is fast-casual — this is a franchise devoted to street food, after all — but things can slow right down when there’s a crowd.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

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