Pukka - Indian at Bathurst/St. Clair
778 St. Clair
Got a lot of positive twitter buzz.
Anyone CHers been yet?
Yes, and it's wonderful! They've taken Indian food to a new level, with very interesting dishes that are complexly (and knowledgeably) spiced and beautifully presented. Not cheap, but the quality is definitely there. Kind of reminds me a bit of Debu Saha's Biryani House on Wellesley at its prime, though the dishes are not quite as lavish.
Each dish we had was excellent. It's a small menu that we were told will change every couple of months. I highly recommend the restaurant.
I'm worried it will bite into business at my beloved Savera which is basically right across the street. It's a tough strip for restaurants to make it and I'm worried it can't sustain two Indian restaurants. I know I sound irrational but....
A brief preamble:
Indian (SE Asian) is one of the great cuisines of the world. Sadly, most local restaurants compete on price (this food is widely considered cheap) so quality in Toronto has rarely been great.
There have been some excellent exceptions – but their price-point has been necessarily higher and, regrettably, they rarely last too long. In the past few years we have seen both Aravind and Tabla have difficulty and close – both served really good food with subtle spicing. Some posters might add Debu – which certainly tried hard, but didn’t (for me) reach similar heights – but it also closed.
So where do we go for great (or nearly great) Indian food, which shows layered spicing and high quality ingredients?
The latest entry is Pukka – and it’s VERY good. After only one visit, I’m loathe to anoint it just yet – but, for me, it’s head and shoulders above the current competition. But that comes at a price – this is certainly more expensive than your neighbourhood ‘Indian’ place – but IMO is definitely worth it.
But if you compare it to a ‘well-appointed’ alternative cuisine restaurant it compares very well as to pricepoint.
Our meal for two came to about $150 – but that included a bottle of wine, so not out-of-line in the general market.
The food is very good with a few outstanding (for me) dishes. Throw away your preconceptions – this is well-spiced food, using Indian spices but not (for the most part) blow your head off heat. Yes, it will tingle, but will seem tame by most spicy Asian cuisines (e.g. Thai, Hakka and Szechuan).
My favourite dishes were the Baby Kale Salad (hardly your standard Indian resto dish) which comes with a cashew dressing, lotus chips and dates; and the green bean side dish with turmeric and coconut. Both outstanding.
The mains are relatively few (the restaurant describes them as ‘sharing dishes’, but my impression was that they were similar in size to standard serving portions) and are clearly spiced differently – no ‘one-size-fits-all’ sauces here.
For those who HAVE to have the hottest dishes, try the Braised Pork Vinha d’alhos (meat with wine & garlic literally, but became corrupted into ‘vindaloo’).
AND a really good wine list too. Well-chosen.
Plus the service was excellent – well-trained much more professional than your typical SE Asian place.
I’ll be back (and very soon) to try more dishes.
I'm very interested in trying this place because there seems to be an emphasis on the wines. Estufarian would you say they do a good job with offering by the glass pairings? I get that they have an extensive wine list, but I am not interested in spending on a Barolo if I'm eating Indian food. I'll reword that, I'm mostly interested if there is an experience to be had involving wine pairings with this food, is that the case?
I played it safe with a bottle of Mittnacht Klack Gewurztraminer, which was an excellent match (although the bottle seemed too small!). They also comped a small taste of a botrytised Sauvignon Blanc Californian. So I didn't ask about matched pairings.
Maybe next time (and there will be one).
re: Charles Yu
I just tried them out - one visit; all conclusions tentative. But great promise. They've only been open a few weeks.
Haven't explored any wine options (yet) - the good news is that the existing wine list is pretty good. I probably wouldn't try 'great' wines with Indian food anyway. When I revisit I'll follow up on what their plans are - although with AmuseGirl's rehearsal schedule, we don't have much time this month.
I haven't been to Amaya in a long time but it was my go to for Indian food in Toronto. I found it above most offerings in the mid and downtown core. How does Pukka compare?
I'm out in GTA West so I have TONS of Indian (north and south regions.... and now I'm discovering a coastal variation) restaurants for choices. Most of them aren't focused on environment but just good comforting meals.
Can't really help as I haven't been to Amaya in the past 24 months. I liked their presentation, but the service was so-so and I didn't think it worth the premium prices.
I believe some (or one?) of the people originally involved with Amaya are behind Pukka. Certainly I 'half-recognized' the host.
One of the co-owners, Derek Valleau was a former co-founder of Amaya the Indian Room. The quality is comparable, though I find the service at Amaya to be much better. The servers are more warm and hospitable.
What I like about Amaya is that the chef, Hemant Bhagwani is constantly trying new things (such as Lobsterlicious - 3 courses for $39 until May 18th) and earlier this month I think he had an Indian Street Festival food celebration menu.
In terms of the "overpriced" comments. I think it's fair to say that Amaya and Pukka are pushing to be fine dining restaurants. I know everyone is used to the AYCE Indian buffets and Indian fast food, but I think for the quality of food you're getting at both establishments, the prices are justified.
I have been to both Pukka and Amaya in the past 12 months and both are very comparable.
I really want to try this - but looks like only one vegetarian dish in the "eats" section and that I cannot have because I am mildly lactose intolerant.
I guess, one could make a meal out of the vegetarian sides.
Wonder why dal makhani, mushroom and peas etc are listed in the sides section.
cold tandoori smoked eggplant tartare ~ semolina roti sounds amazing!
Anyone else tried Pukka? I have a reservation for my S/O and I next week and since we have small kids and NEVER get out I want to make sure it's a great experience. We were going to go to Cava but I pushed for Pukka since it's new and we live in that hood. Will my S/O be disappointed with the choice??? The pressure is on!
Was there a few weeks ago. It's good, but I think a bit overpriced. As in, you can probably get similar decent food at a lower price point (maybe not as fancy variations). What you're paying for is the service and atmosphere. It's a very modern space and relatively dressed up for an Indian place. I loved the art on the wall which had some sanskrit and english writings.
We had the Chicken 65 and butternut squash samosas to start (the samosas were definitely unusual), the scallop and prawn ambotik (curry), and a side of aloo ghobi and garlic naan. The scallop and prawn dish was tasty - but there were 3 pieces of prawns and 2 scallops - at $24.80, a bit pricey in my opinion.
Having said that, there's no reason one can't enjoy the place, as long as you know that it's a bit on the higher end. The couple at the table next to us were telling the waiter how great the food was and I agree. I guess at that price point, I was expecting a tad bit more in terms of overall experience and atmosphere. But I think you'd enjoy it, so you should go and experience it for yourself.
Well worth it.
Definitely confirmed as my favourite 'Indian' in Toronto.
Once again I emphasize both the quality of the ingredients and the magnificent spicing. As bluefirefly mentions, the price is above the 'typical Indian' place - but I still feel it's good value if one compares to other cuisines and restaurants in Toronto that use quality ingredients and long-simmered textured/layered flavours. This is not your too common 'Indian' with a mother-sauce (or two) that is modified for each style of dish. Last night I had two entirely different beef dishes as (regrettably, for me, the pork has now disappeared from the menu as it wasn't a popular choice). The coconut based one included slices of real coconut - total texture contrast to the rest of the dish which was totally unexpected. At first it was offputting, but by the end I loved the variation - and incidentally the spicing built up slowly over the meal. Originally I thoughit milder than I prefer, but was totally happy by the time I finished (except for wanting more).
The baby kale salad is probably my favourite salad in the city. Superb.
And kudos to the wine list. Even if one doesn't typically have wine with Indian food, the complexity of the spicing here does (for me) match very well.
And, for the record, it was packed - I only got in when there were multiple cancellations because of the weather, and by 8:00 every table was taken, with people waiting at the bar for tables to turn.
So what can I criticize - I have a reputation to uphold! Umm - maybe only myself for having waited so long between visits.
Was there for the first time this week. Imaginatively spiced and presented food, lots of interesting twists. Good wine selection too. Worth a visit.
Some negs for me were:
- really loud room, could barely hear my companions (no soft surfaces to absorb sound)
- overcooked shrimp made it rubbery. Also the pickerel was overcooked. Not sure if chef was having an off night with seafood!
- I'm a little old school in that the servers kept reaching across for plates, etc. Didn't make sense because there was plenty of room to go around....