I wandered into this "pizza" place completely by accident, drawn in by the intriguing, hand-printed signs promising "Butter Chicken Rolls" and a variety of kebabs. I rarely visit this part of the city, but today I happened to be in the neighborhood AND ravenously hungry, so I decided to take a chance on a low-key, local dining option. I was in for the surprise of my life.
Entering J Pizza Plus is visually underwhelming. Five time-worn booths line the south wall, while the large open kitchen and cashier areas occupy the the entire north wall. The back-lit plastic menu slots above the cash are all empty. Instead, the day's specials are laser printed on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of typing paper, all curled and warped by the steam and heat, taped to the glass wall separating staff and customers. So yes, visually, very underwhelming. But you only have to close your eyes and let the fantastic aromas wafting from the kitchen tell an altogether different story.
Personally, I am a fanatic for Indian cuisine, so I had no interest in the pizzas on display, although they looked fine - especially considering the ridiculously low prices. Instead, I decided to sample two Indian-style specials: the Chicken Biryani, and a Butter Chicken Roll.
Owner-chef Jamal cooked the Butter Chicken from scratch, slicing generous chunks of juicy, crimson Tandoori chicken and tossing it with onions, fresh cream, and all the other secret herbs and spices that have made this dish a comfort food favorite the world over. As he and his wife prepared my Naan bread and Biryani, another employee brought me a free samosa with a generous dollop of Jamal's home-made hot Scotch Bonnet and Mint sauce, of which the staff seemed particularly proud. The sauce was intense, testing the thresholds of my tolerance for heat, but without overpowering the unique and savory pungency that marked this as the condiment of an expert chef. All fans of fiery foods need to give Jamal's mint sauce a try. They won't regret it.
Both my dishes were ready in just about 12 minutes, and both were delicious.
First, the Butter Chicken Roll. A generous portion was wrapped up in a soft and fluffy Naan bread, with a counterpoint of freshly chopped lettuce adding a cool and crispy texture that perfectly underscored this classic sauce-heavy dish. It was delicious, and a bargain to boot!
While the Butter Chicken Roll was very, very good, the Chicken Biryani was on a whole other level. I have had Chicken Biryani countless times over the years, both in high end Indian restaurants as well as in dive-y hole-in-the-wall joints, but NEVER have I had Chicken Biryani quite like this before. It was, quite simply, the best Chicken Biryani I have ever had in my life. Jamal's super-authentic Hyderabad style seasoning and delicious falling-off-the-bone dark meat chicken (as it should be!) are now the Gold Standard by which I shall forever gauge my future encounters with this particular dish. At 4.99, it would be a bargain at TWICE the price they're asking.
The only negative thing I can think to say about J Pizza Plus is that it is so far from my home, which means I will be forced to make a weekly pilgrimage to get my Indian Food Fix! If they ever manage to put their signage in order and get some decent menus printed, watch out, because J Pizza Plus is already serving up some of Regent Park's tastiest food, even though very few people even know it exists.