by Nellie Chen
Nestled along the rows of trendy bistros and charming boutiques at St. Clair West and Bathurst, opens a new Indian restaurant, Pukka. The intimate yet inviting Indian bistro borrows its name from the Hindi word Pukka (pronounced pa-ka), meaning authentic or excellence.
The modern interior offers comfort, class, and also a very well-stocked bar set amidst an ambient backdrop. Our friendly waiter/bartender mixed us a refreshing and exotic concoction of Pimm’s and Prosecco, finished off with sprinkles of pomegranate seeds.
The dinner began with an assortment of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers: Tandoori Smoked Eggplant Tartare, Vegetable Pakoras, Vegetable String Chaat, Kale Salad, Chicken 65, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Lamb Kebabs. Pukka’s owner, Derek Valleau, explained that the food bears more resemblance to classic Indian dishes rather than garners fusion influences. Many of Pukka’s chefs are native to various regions in India, and have studied and continue to specialize in classic Indian cuisine. Despite the authenticity of the chefs and preparation methods, there are undoubtedly many western twists to the traditional Indian fares. Look no further than the kale salad and the goat cheese stuffed lamb kebabs to find familiar flavours and ingredients.
Esteemed Sommelier, Peter Boyd, introduced a pairing of Pinot Bianco with the starters, made by a cooperative in the northern valley of Italy. The crisp white was followed by a dark yet juicy Côtes du Rhône red, its full-body flavours and peppery finish play merrily well with the spices in the entrees.
The entrees included Spinach Mushroom Stuffed Paneer, Pan-Seared Pickerel, Butter Chicken, and Beef Short Ribs. The flavours were generally mild, and set very low on the spice meter. Some dishes such as the paneer and short ribs were rather under-seasoned, which may underwhelm the adventurous and experienced Indian food enthusiasts. Nevertheless, ingredients used in these entrees are unique, and dishes such as the pickerel and butter chicken are well-cooked, tender, and delectable.
The presentation and plating are creative (basmati rice served in a mason jar!). The dessert, Eton Mess, was the pièce de résistance: a delicately sweet creamy mixture of exotic fruits and rosewater meringue, a decadent and refined interpretation of the popular British dessert.
The price points at Pukka are reasonable with very generous portion sizes (one plate feeds two). The restaurant is likely to please a mainstream audience, drawing in patrons with its palatable cuisine and relaxed yet classy setting. Pukka is perfect for those seeking something a bit different than the ubiquitous local Indian eatery on a Saturday night.
Top Personal Picks:
Any cocktails mixed by the bartender
778 St. Clair Avenue West.
For menu, restaurant hours and more visit www.pukka.ca
Photos by Nellie Chen