Always eager to try out new Indian restaurants, my husband, Bryce, and I ventured to Panj Taara Bar and Grill on a sunny, Tuesday evening.
Located on King Street East, across from Sportsworld Crossing, Panj Taara opened in October 2021. With more than 16 years of experience in cooking, owner Harpal Aullakh decided to open a restaurant in Kitchener when he and his family moved to Waterloo Region.
His wife, Simar Kaur Aullakh, also cooks at Panj Taara and their two children occasionally pop in to hang out and help on weekends.
“My family has been in Canada since 2006 and, after living in Montreal and Brampton, we came to Kitchener. We love this area and it’s been a great experience since we’ve been here. We didn’t know anybody when we moved here and now we have family and friends.”
Casual and modest in both decor and ambience, Panj Taara has about a dozen tables and a small bar area with stool seating. They offer a broad menu, ranging from Hakka-style items to many tandoori-baked and northern Indian dishes. With Aullakh’s long history working in restaurants, he knew which items would be popular when creating a menu.
“Butter chicken, goat curry, dal makhani, our Chinese dishes — these are what customers like.”
Those newer to Indian food may need to inquire about preparation and ingredients as descriptions of menu items are limited. As we browsed, we noticed a fairly steady stream of takeout orders by a mid-20s crowd. Nice to see on a week night.
We started with an appetizer of Veg Manchurian ($14), deep-fried dumplings made of chopped cabbage, carrot, onion, cauliflower, spices, chickpea flour and cornstarch, in a thick, slightly sweet, soy-based sauce. Flavored intensely with chili, garlic and ginger, and flecked with green onions and cilantro, this dish offered up an ample level of heat for even my fire-craving tastebuds. I suggest a sweet, cooling Mango Lassi ($5) as a bit of respite for those who may want to venture into these spicier territories.
For our main course, a trio of piping hot dishes arrived for us to share, along with our sides of Jeera Rice ($5), a cucumber and onion salad, and an Aloo & Onion Kulcha ($5) — a soft, flaky flatbread with a potato and onion filling, recommended by our server.
The Matar Paneer ($12), green peas and chunks of paneer (a soft cheese) simmered in a tomato-based sauce, seemed somewhat muddled in its taste and didn’t quite deliver the deep flavors we were hoping for. The Chicken Curry ($12), was spiced to the medium level we requested with well-cooked pieces of chicken breast, but lacked the flavor complexity I expect from Indian curries.
The Malai Soya Chaap ($12) featuring a decadent, cream-based sauce, was declared our favorite dish of the meal. Soya chaap, made of soybean and high in protein, has proven to be a sought-after alternative to meat, growing in popularity over the last number of years in South Asia and beyond, especially in street food. A pleasing texture, we enjoyed scooping up the soya chaap smothered in tasty malai sauce with the cumin-speckled rice (and a few bites of green chili for me).
“We want to deliver quality Indian food, giving people the same authentic taste they would have in India. We like to use the best, simple ingredients and we make all the food in-house, grinding spices on site,” says Aullakh. “This is my passion so I like to come out and say hello to customers to see how they like the food. We want customers to be happy.”
I couldn’t resist an order of Gulab Jamun ($2 for two pieces) for dessert — small, fried balls made of milk solids soaked in a sugary syrup infused with cardamom and rose water. Served warm, a few bites was enough to indulge my sweet tooth.
With plenty of leftovers to take home, we appreciated the value of our meal at Panj Taara. Next time, we’ll plan to stop in for takeout and sample a few more items from their sizable menu.
Panj Taara Bar & Grill
4355 King St. E., Kitchener
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
payment: All forms accepted.
Getting your food: Say in. Online ordering for pickup is available on their website. They also offer delivery through Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and DoorDash.
Accessibility: Parking is available in front of the restaurant with a ramp leading to the entrance. The entrance does not have an automatic door opener so the door would need to be held open. Washrooms are not accessible.
Bill: $77.95 (including tax but not tip) for two non-alcoholic beverages, one appetizer, three main dishes and two side dishes for sharing, one dessert.