Cochrane has gone from a history of tending cattle to one of raising families in a commuter community on Calgary’s northwest doorstep. It’s still a steak, pizza and fast-food kind of place, but some good ethnic eateries and coffee shops are adding to the increasingly cosmopolitan mix.
On the infrequent road-trip occasions when I dine at an Indian restaurant, I invariably go for a lamb curry or butter chicken. But Mehtab East Indian Cuisine has such a long, diverse list of vegetarian dishes—okra or roasted eggplant pulp, anyone?—that I quickly shift gears. I mean, how can I resist this description of Daal Makhani: “Black lentils with kidney beans, simmered on a slow fire overnight and tempered with ginger, garlic and tomatoes, seasoned with butter and fresh cream.” All that slow cooking, with Indian spices, brings out the complexities of this first-rate, not-too-rich meal. I also get a requisite order of garlic naan that is light, flavourful and not swimming in butter. The prices are reasonable for Indian fare of this quality—about $12 for the filling, vegetarian meals and a couple of bucks more for those with meat. Of course, you can always sample a wider range of dishes on the ever-changing lunch buffet, for a bargain $12 or so.
Mehtab East Indian Cuisine
120 5 Avenue West, Cochrane
Lunch buffet Sunday to Friday 11:30 am-4 pm, dinner daily 4:30 pm-9 pm
“This will warm you up,” my server Tim cheerfully says, on a winter’s day, as he starts assembling my chicken donair at hole-in-the-wall Donair on the Run in downtown Cochrane. It will certainly fill me up, I’m thinking, as I watch the “regular-sized” pita being mounded with slow-roasted, shaved chicken breast and my choice of lettuce, olives, tomatoes, pickles, radishes and parsley. Add some typical Middle Eastern sauces—tahini and tzatziki—along with Mama’s pungent, house-made garlic sauce and, after a minute or two in the panini press, I’ve got a substantial lunch for under $7. What really makes this beauty sing is the final topping: crunchy chunks of pungent, pickled turnip. “Here, have a piece of our baklava,” owner Camille Elain says as I skip out the door, ready to tackle the coming deep freeze.
Donair on the Run
407 1 Street West, Cochrane
Monday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm, except till 6 pm on Saturday. Closed Sunday