Standing in a crowd of diners waiting for a table at Guru Lukshmi prompted someone to once refer to them as devotees of the restaurant. They come from all across North America seeking what is unarguably one of the best and most authentic South Indian cuisine on the continent. We were warned not to think about going there without a reservation on the weekend so instead we hit the place early one Tuesday evening but made a reservation by going to email@example.com on their website. You can also do it by calling 905.795.2299. Diners are strongly advised to call ahead and reserve.
Guru Lukshmi has and will always be a family enterprise. Kumar and his wife Thana immigrated to Canada in 2000, they opened a small eatery in a mall food court in 2003, in 2005 they opened Guru Lukshmi, now a full-fledged restaurant at Erin Centre, Mississauga. Overwhelmed by crowds and tired of complaints about long wait times, they moved to a bigger location at 7070 St. Barbara Blvd, but somehow they ran into the same problem- long wait times. They soon had to expand to 120 covers in a major renovation two years ago. You would think that the space would be enough, which explains why Kumar is planning yet another expansion next year! “We don’t believe in franchises or opening in new locations. We cook in the kitchen and every day one of us is at the restaurant,” he said.
In recent years, Guru Lukshmi has become more than just a restaurant, it is almost like a tourist destination. There are people who swear their dosas are to die for, not so long ago, a man walked in with a request that the restaurant make a particular Dosa for a family member on his deathbed. It was one of his last wishes!
At 6.30 pm the place is filling up really quickly, by 7 pm every table is occupied and an hour later on our way out, there are at least 25 people waiting outside. We settle down and our server Kaushal brings over the menu, we peruse it, going over the mind-boggling number of dosas- Butter paper dosa. There are over 40 signature dosas you can order and every month a couple more variations are added.
There is something for children who have yet to acquire a taste of traditional dosas like the Kids Chocolate Dosa, which is rich melted chocolate spread on the dosa rolled and dusted with powdered sugar. I watch a young picky eater ravishing the Chocolate Dosa while his parents enjoy a sensible Onion Dosas.
We start with an Idly Vada which arrives pipping hot, the Idly is fluffy, warm and pairs really well with the coconut and tangy coriander chutney. We order Madras Filter Coffee and some Salt Lassi.
Sitting at the next table is Shyam and Leena Sheth with their two children, they come here once a month on average and never fail to bring visiting relatives and friends here. The couple have tried most of the Dosas and Uthapams, their kids too have developed a taste for Guru Lukshmi’s creations.
Settling on a Dosa can be really challenging, they all look tempting and unless you are ravenously hungry or have an exceedingly large appetite, it is hard to go through two Dosas.
Kaushal helpfully suggests we let him know the level of spice and oil we can tolerate. The Dosas can be ordered crispy or soft. When it comes to sambar you have a choice of whether you’d like it mild or regular. There are also carrot or potato-free Dosas for those averse to these vegetables.
When it comes to spice, we have a high threshold so we invite him to bring it on. One of the popular items on the menu is the Mysore Bhaji Masala Dosa, we decide to try it as well as the Onion Rava Masala Dosa. It is hard to resist not trying the Tomato Onion Uthapam, but order it despite knowing it would be too much.
The aroma of pipping hot Dosas wafting through the restaurant whets our appetite.
Our order arrives faster than expected, we were lucky, there are times it takes long but that is only because everything here is freshly made to order, so no one complains. The Tomato Onion Uttapam is positively scrumptious. We share the Mysore Bhaji Masala Dosa, needless to say it was delicious, we tuck into the well-spiced Bhaji which hit the right spot. A diner at another table ordered the Dosa filing on the side and somehow that seemed like an easier way to eat it. This way the Bhaji that rests on the Dosa doesn’t end up getting that part all soggy. Must try it the next time.
The Rava Masala Dosa was strictly okay, we at a bit of it, but by then we were stuffed to the gills and so opted to pack it up and eat it the next day. A styrofoam container was brought for us to pack it up.
We end the meal with Pista Kulfi, request the cheque and hurry outside realizing that it would be really inconsiderate to linger when there were so many hungry diners waiting patiently outside for a table.
The restaurant is closed Monday and opens Tuesday through Sunday for lunch from noon to 3 pm and for dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm. Once again, call in a reservation or else be prepared to wait.