KAMMY'S THE ROTI HUT
351 Pitfield Rd., Scarborough, Ont., 416-298-4153. Unlicensed. Dinner for two, with tax and tip, $20.
Consider yourself warned, downtowners. We're making the trek out to Kammy's the Roti Hut, which is tucked away in the thick of Scarborough, and we do not want to hear even a whisper of disdain on the subject.
It's a matter of ignorance. And yet we are torn. Do we fill the snobs in on what they're missing, or do we keep the knowledge of epic West Indian gastro pleasures to ourselves?
This is one of those rare cases where we're prepared to concede that the media really may be to blame. A goodwill ambassador is required.
There's something inherently likable about Kammy's. A sign in the front window reads: "Dear Valued Customers: Don't be intimidated by long lineups, we move very quickly! We cater to individual needs so therefore nothing is premade."
At the front counter, there's Kammy, a beaming hair-net-clad Trinidadian who's quick to make suggestions on which deep-fried, dough-based street food to try as a starter. Order all of them, with Scotch-bonnet pepper sauce on the side.
But the roti really are the Hut's raison d'être. Kammy's goat roti, or maybe just "goat-i" ($5.75), is reason enough to abandon downtown superiority and move one's home base to a cozy bungalow on Tineta Crescent. Long-stewed bite-sized hunks of meat are carefully prepared and meltingly tender. Bits of potato, onion and green bell pepper are incorporated into the stew, and it's all swathed in thick curry-laced gravy. Though the vegetables complement, they don't meddle with the main attraction, quality meat, cooked down to a concentrated state of carnivorous delight.
Succulent boneless chicken breast roti (also $5.75) comes dripping with the same manageably fiery sauce and enveloped in perfect roti bread - moist circles of slightly sweet, warm flatbread, layered by hand with a smattering of chickpea meal, which adds complexity, texture and flavour and elevates the exterior from "just a wrapper" to an essential part of the experience.
A potato-channa (chickpea) version ($3.99), also rich with sauce and equally gut-busting, is well-qualified to sate even the most mammoth of appetites. You can watch all these being made in the open kitchen from the front counter, by the way.
It's clear that people come here to get fed, as nice as the sunny yellow walls and Caribana-tinged decor are. Patrons, many of them male and built like linebackers, are clearly beguiled by surrogate mama Kammy and her TLC comfort food.
Gents from the local fire department drop by for doubles ($1.35): simmered chickpeas, peppered with five spice, sandwiched between circles of puffy bara, an airy handmade bread worthy of absorbing the flavour-packed juices.
It's entirely friendly and unfussy. A formula that's simple, effective and obvious. To Toronto foodies who wrinkle their noses at the prospect of "simple" (as in truly simple, not Jamie Kennedy simple), it's a revelation.