Friday, November 22, 2013

OPENING | Pukka - An outstanding venue for Indian cuisine by Chefs Cornel d’Silva, Kirti Singh and Dinesh Butola

Just four weeks ago, the St. Clair West and Bathurst area welcomed its newest resident – Pukka. Pronounced “puk-ka (puck-a)”, owners Derek and Harsh envisioned a “great restaurant that offers Indian food and wine” versus an “Indian restaurant”.  We were delighted to join Vicky (momwhoruns) and other bloggers for a dinner to see what Pukka had to offer!

Something sounds off balance here…wine and Indian food together? That sounds unheard of. They explained that Indian food and wine normally do not complement each other because once the alcohol level reaches a certain point; it no longer complements the heat of traditional Indian food.  It seems Pukka has managed to explore what works and doesn’t work to find the right balance between the wine and food to create a truly delectable dining experience.

 Owners Harsh Chawla: restaurant industry consultant & Derek Valleau: former operations manager at Crush Wine Bar

Their kitchen chefs all have background in preparing authentic Indian cuisine with one chef from Bombay and the other two chefs from further North of India.  You can definitely be sure that you’ll taste authentic Indian food that’s focused on layering spices to complement their vast wine selection.

On our visit, Sommelier Peter Boyd walked us through our wine pairings.

To start we had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The pom royales were quite light and crisp and really opened up our appetites for all the food to come.

The mixed vegetable pakoras were served with tomato chutney ($7.80). Walking by the appetizers was enough to make your stomach growl as the dish was very aromatic. The pakoras were fried well without feeling heavy with the oil.

We were pleasantly surprised by the cold tandoori smoked eggplant tartare ($7.90) as we didn’t really know what to expect. The eggplant tartare was full of flavour and the textures really complemented the crunchiness of the tori that it was on.

Once, all twelve of us were seated, the feasting began... it really was a family-style indian dinner - a pretty fancy & tasty one at that:

The vegetable string chaat – puffed rice, sprouts, chutneys and sweet yoghurt ($8.70) was an interesting appetizer that combined many different flavours and textures into one dish. It wasn’t heavy on seasoning and would make a very light appetizer.

Baby kale salad – dates, lotus chips + spiced cashew dressing($8.40). Definitely one of the best salads we’ve had! In Chinese cuisine, lotus is usually boiled in soup and in Korean cuisine it’s usually braised and simmered with soy sauce and other seasonings.  The lotus was delicious as a chip and gave further crunch to the kale. The dates and cashews were also an excellent addition to the salad.

Chicken 65 – south Indian fried chicken + chili tamarind sauce($9.40). There are quite a few myths surrounding how the name of this dish came to be.  One myth claims that the dish first originated in 1965, second suggesting that it's made with 65 different spices and third (what we like to believe) says that the King decided that it tasted just right at the 65th time it was prepared for him.

Goat cheese stuffed lamb kebabs – pomegranate reduction($10.20). This could sound like a heavy dish, but it wasn't at all. It was absolutely delicious and we can say this was definitely our favourite of the night. The pomegranate reduction was the perfect pairing for lamb as well, providing acidity to a meatier dish.

Poppadoms + chutney ($2.90). Super crispy and it was a nice alternative to naan. The mango chutney provided a nice acidic escape for the palate from all the spices of traditional Indian cuisine.

Spinach + mushroom stuffed paneer – pistachio korma sauce ($15.90). The paneer was quite light in texture but seasoning wise, it tasted like something was missing that we couldn't quite put our finger on.

Pan-seared pickerel – coconut + curry leaf ($23.90). The pickerel tasted very fresh and had a great sear so that the skin was crispy. It worked very well with the coconut and curry leaf. The flavours were not overwhelming at all or heavy like the usual Indian curries.

Butter chicken – tomato infused butter sauce ($18.40) One of the best butter chicken's we've had in the city. It was rich without feeling heavy.

Braised short ribs – braised with black cumin, garlic and ginger ($21.80) The meat was juicy and tender and infused with all the different spices and flavours.

Daal Makhani – slow cooked black lentils ($7.90). Awesome to spread over our basmati rice, naan or the poppadoms.

French beans – caramelized onions, turmeric and coconut. A classic vegetable dish, this one was very simple in flavours. Not what we envisioned at a restaurant that served Indian though!

Assorted naan basket. Plain and garlic naan are necessities for an Indian dinner.  The garlic naan was better and not as dry as the plain naan and tasted very fresh with the assortment of sauces and dips.

Eton mess- rosewater meringues, pomegranate, mango, sweet lassi cream ($7.90). The dessert was an interesting mix of texture with the sweetness and light texture of the meringue. We loved that the sweet lassi cream was not super sweet and had more of a tart flavour to offset the sugar of the meringue.
As complex as each dish was with the different spices, all the flavours were very clean and you could taste the difference of every dish.  We loved that after such a huge meal, we didn't feel sluggish!

From the hors d’oeuvres to the dessert, every course we had was delicious. We love their concept of a family style dinner with appetizers and mains that feed 2-3 people. It’s a great way to be able to sample a variety of foods without having to commit to one dish.  

It was also refreshing to be able to pair wines with several Indian dishes. There is no single wine that can complement every Indian dish but with just under 30 wines and hoping to expand to have 60 to 100 we’re sure you’ll find one that works for you!

Pukka on Urbanspoon

- We were invited to this event as media, thus our meal was complimentary but our opinions remain honest -

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