486 Grantham Ave., Unit 9, Linwell Plaza
When Kamini and Ravi Srivastava moved to Canada from India in 2019, they came with more than excitement and desire to live closer to their adult children.
Kamini came with 25 years of experience in India’s professional kitchens and stores of family recipes passed down to her from her grandmother and mom.
Eight months later, in the throes of the pandemic, the couple made those precious artifacts the crux of a business plan that converted a former a fried chicken outlet in a sleepy north St. Catharines neighbourhood into a dining destination.
The Srivastavas opened The Indian Aroma Kitchen. It’s a dedicated takeout spot specializing in the cuisine of northern India — think vindaloo and aloo gobi, butter chicken and dal ke kebab. They’ve also created a few house specialties, including butter chicken poutine; paneer tikka pizza featuring housemade dough decked out with creamy dal makhani, paneer, tandoori spices and mozzarella cheese; and a variety of wraps stuffed with Mughlai classics, that fuse the flavours of their two homelands.
“The quality is there, the taste is there and we’re getting great reviews,” Ravi said.
There’s a reason for that.
Kamini’s experience as a professional chef enabled her to tweak her family recipes to be restaurant-calibre. She was uncompromising in her process, refusing to rush or cut corners to feed what’s been a growing hunger for her food among St. Catharines diners.
All of her spice blends are made in-house, putting a unique thumbprint on the bases for each dish on the menu.
Poultry for the popular butter chicken is marinated for five to six hours while lamb for the chef’s special lamb shank nihari is marinated up to five days then slow-roasted for 12 hours before serving.
“Indian cooking is all about technique and the way we make things,” Kamini said. “Indian cooking is a long process. It’s an hours-long process but it gives flavour to things.”
Since opening The Indian Aroma Kitchen in August 2020, those dishes have become calling cards because of the time and talent Kamini puts into them. So, too, have the chole, a spiced chickpea stew that comforts on the the coldest winter day, aloo gobi that makes the lips and tongue buzz, samosas served with tamarind and coriander chutney, and rich curries, kormas and vindaloos.
All of it can be capped with Indian sweets, including gulab jamun and kulfi, or washed down with a cooling mango or rose lassi, or warming masala chai.
For first-time visitors, the couple recommend an order of butter chicken or aloo gobi, samosas, parathas, including stuffed versions, and either the vegetable or chicken biryani.
With the help of their son, Pallav, who studied culinary arts at Niagara College, the Srivastavas recently took a pared-down version of their menu on the road with a food truck parked at the Outlet Collection in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They also expanded their headquarters at Linwell Plaza on the corner of Linwell Road and Grantham Avenue to add an ice cream shop.
Mostly, they’ve endured because of the comfort The Indian Aroma Kitchen has provided diners and the security the couple has offered their staff — the same crew as when the restaurant opened — during these uncertain times.
“It was a really difficult time for us when we opened,” Kamini said. “COVID just started but… we had good customers and wonderful staff — we are like family. And we are here today.”
Author: Tiffany Mayer
Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara