We visited Pukka over a year ago, so we were excited to return this year to see what’s new in their updated menu, just in time for the winter season. I personally love Indian food, and especially during the colder months, when the strong and bold flavours of Indian cuisine really stand out.
We started with a trio of appetizers, the first of which was a string chaat. This was a beautifully plated dish, and the addition of pomegranate gives a fresh modern twist to this Indian snack. The eggplant tartare was next; it was also topped with pomegranate, adding an element that helps cuts through its rich flavour. Finally there was the gunpowder prawns. As the name suggests, it’s a very aggressively spiced dish. The prawns were perfectly cooked, and balanced with the sweetness the mango chutney, it was quite delicious.
Of the two mains that were served, the seared spiced duck breast was definitely the standout dish of the night. Duck is not a protein typically found in Indian cuisine, so the use of this meat did not go unnoticed. The duck was tender and juicy, and the flavours were unquestionably Indian. The roasted European sea bass was also tasty – the fish was soft, the skin was crispy, the sauce was creamy yet unexpectedly light. Notably, fish is also not a traditional ingredient found in Indian food.
Along with the mains were served some side dishes. There were the usual Indian sides like naan, and basmati rice still charmingly served in a mason jar (which also keeps the rice warm and moist). The okra fries were a nice surprise – I had never seen okra prepared this way before. The yoghurt dip complemented the fries perfectly. Finally there was the French beans, which were topped with caramelized onions, turmeric, and coconut. It was really great to have some choices for sides that aren’t just the everyday Indian staples.
For desserts, we had the chilli chocolate cake and the lemon tart. The chocolate cake came with cardamom poached plums on a plate drizzled with crème anglaise. It had a slight hint of chilli as the name suggests. The lemon tart was delicious. The ginger bread crust gave a textural and flavour contrast to the soft lemon cream. The only thing I’d change is to make the lemon cream a little bit firmer so that it holds its form when the crust is finally broken. Along with these desserts we had a cup of cappuccino and chocolate chai to end the night.
The word Pukka in Hindi means authentic, and while there is an obvious effort to modernize Indian cuisine at Pukka, the flavours and preparation remain unequivocally true to Indian roots. As general manager Derek Valleau remarked, “This is not your mother’s Indian food.” Pukka aims to update classical Indian dishes through the addition of unexpected ingredients (like pomegranate, duck, and seafood), introducing a lightness to this typically very rich cuisine, and elevated presentation. With its fresh take on Indian food, an upscale and elegant atmosphere, family-style dining, and very friendly service, Pukka is a great restaurant to visit in St. Clair West.
Pukka is located at 778 St. Clair Ave. W just west of Arlington Ave.
Photos by John Tan