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See the chef, the room and the food at Rickshaw Bar

Photos by Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail. Read Chris Nuttall-Smith's full review of Rickshaw Bar here.

The chef

As a girl in Lahore, Noureen Feerasta used to beg her parents to let her help in the kitchen. Studies come first, they always insisted, and so she learned to race through her school work. Ms. Feerasta went to Concordia University to study marketing, and took a job as a cook at a Montreal pizza shop. She hated her studies but loved the job. “Once I failed all my exams in third year, my parents kind of disowned me,” she said. She has been saving up for the past 12 years to open her own place.

The room

The room is long and thin, like so many spots on Queen Street. She kept the decor largely as she found it: barn boards, brick walls, Rube Goldberg copper chandeliers, with just a single notable touch, a glittering, hand-beaded and embroidered dress from a momentous part of her life in Pakistan, to make the place her own.

The food

Rickshaw Bar’s menu mines Indian and Pakistani staple foods, as well as a few dishes from Burma (her paternal grandfather’s family lived there) and the East African Ismaili Muslim diaspora (her family is Ismaili). It’s got the modern verve and lightness to bring it into right now.

The chicken and mango salad includes the expected red cabbage, citrus, lime leaves and pickled cucumbers in addition to the juicy mango chunks, but there’s also toasty, sweetly starchy crunch from deep-fried chickpeas
The chef also makes the layered Indian flatbreads called parathas, and puts them to use as the wrappers for paratha tacos.
The Tanzanian-style makai curry is made from corn stock and cashew nuts, the broth light and gently sweet with a skim of red chili spice for fiery interest.
The scallop ceviche plays the ubiquitous dish like a Mumbai-style street snack, combining scallops and lime, chilies and radishes, coconut milk, puffed rice and the fruity, gently pongy taste of chaat masala spice mix.

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