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.