Toronto·Suresh Doss

The kebab rolls 'are a standout' at this family-run shop in Ajax

LaRosh is a small family-run operation that serves traditional biryani and kebab rolls.

LaRosh is located at 1 Rossland Rd. W. in Ajax

A kebab wrapped in a soft roti topped with onions, tomatoes and house-made hot sauce. (Suresh Doss)

About four or five years ago a Sri Lankan cook suggested I drive through Ajax to check out the growth of Indian restaurants in the region.

I discovered a small family-run operation called LaRosh, which operated out of a convenience store.

A father, mother, and two sons split the duties between kitchen and counter service with a tight menu that consists of biryani and kebab rolls. What drew me instantly was how the traditional dishes tasted, the spicing was pronounced, and you can smell the aromatics before you open the door. From the first bite, it really did feel like eating in someone's house.

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LaRosh quickly found a fan base with the growing immigrant population in Ajax, and with the encouragement of the two sons, they moved their operation to a plaza at Rossland Road W. and Harwood Avenue N. 

Inside, there's seating for about 10 people.

"We get a lot of regulars, the local community or people from a place of worship," Syed Qadri said.

Qadri is one of the sons in the family. Along with his brother, Ali, he has spent the last few years learning how to cook alongside his mom and dad.

"My dad is known for his biryani. My mom is known for her kebabs. I think what people like here is how traditional the flavours are."

While there is no menu on the wall, a takeout pamphlet can guide you through the offerings at LaRosh, and I'm happy to report that the focus is still on rice and kebab rolls.

LaRosh prepares a kebab roll and adds its toppings. (Suresh Doss)

The kebab rolls are a standout. They're a street food that is now common in some parts of Pakistan and Dubai.

A mixture of meat is marinated in spices overnight and then formed onto metal rods before getting grilled. When it's done, the meat is soft and tender, spiking with chilies, cumin and coriander. You can eat the kabob right off the grill, but I suggest you have it in a roll.

"We use milk in our dough; it's what sets our recipe apart," Qadri said.

At LaRosh, the roti for the kebab rolls are made in-house, with a good amount of milk used to soften the dough and give it a slight hint of sweetness. As the kebab grills, Qadri rolls out the dough and then cooks it until it blisters on both sides.

Kebab and soft roti are wrapped together with onions, tomatoes and house-made hot sauce. It is a portable meal that improves after you let it sit for a few minutes. 

A plate of biryani, a dish cooked with rice, chicken and spices. (Suresh Doss)

The biryani is a very memorable plate of rice cooked with chicken and spices. Qadri's dad uses a family recipe to cook a large pot daily and it draws a steady lunch crowd. During one visit, a regular said it, "tasted just like how my mother would make." 

What makes it so special, I think, is how aromatic the dish is without punching you in the face with singular notes. There's a symphony of flavours with a palatable chicken essence in each flavour.

There is also a dessert at LaRosh that is worth trying. Next to the counter, you'll notice a small fridge stacked with containers holding kind of pudding inside. This is kheer.

They slow cook khoya — a dairy product with sugar and cardamom — for eight hours and then add rice to the mixture, cooking it for an additional two hours.

You end up with this creamy pudding with nuggets of rice. 

About the Author

Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food writer. He joins CBC Radio's Metro Morning as a weekly food columnist. Currently, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto magazine and regularly contributes to Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and Eater National. Doss regularly runs food tours throughout the GTA, aimed at highlighting its multicultural pockets.


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