Located at 778 St. Clair W., I was invited to Pukka's (pronounced "puck-a") media tasting a couple of weeks ago. Pukka (Twitter: @pukkatoronto, Facebook: Pukka Toronto) which opened in mid-October is the newest modern Indian restaurant to hit the city. Rather than serving traditional Indian cuisine that can oftentimes pack a bit too much heat (for most anyway) owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau of Pukka aim to provide their diners with a twist on the traditional by focusing more on flavour instead of the fiery hot. Seasonal and local ingredients are used in Pukka's family-style menu with offerings that are generally much lighter, fresher and less "cream-heavy" than your classic Indian. Although the food is contemporary - ranging from Indian subcontinental to modern fusion - chefs at Pukka still make their own naan in an authentic clay tandoor oven as well as their own curries and chutneys.
Business partners Harsh Chawla (pictured left - a restaurant-industry consultant) and Derek Valleau (pictured right - former operations manager at Crush Wine Bar).
And as for the restaurant name...why "Pukka"? Pukka is actually a Hindi word literally meaning "cooked, ripe" and figuratively "fully formed", "solid" or "permanent". Valleau explained Pukka, popularized by chef Jamie Oliver, can also mean "genuine" or simply "very good".
The modern and industrial decor at Pukka aligns perfectly with its contemporary take on Indian cuisine. After all, have you seen white exposed brick and reclaimed barn wood at any other Indian restaurant before? Certainly not me.
Pukka boasts an impressive selection of wine - its current wine list consists of 25 international wines...which is much more than what you would typically find at an Indian restaurant. Pukka aims to triple / quadruple the number of labels down the road.
Some of the wines I enjoyed that evening.
Pukka's Caesar with various Indian spices.
Before I knew it food was coming out of the kitchen..a lot of it! We had the following dishes at the media tasting:
MIXED VEGETABLE PAKORAS - Tomato chutney
COLD TANDOORI SMOKED EGGPLANT TARTARE - Khasta roti
BABY KALE SALAD - Dates, lotus chips + spiced cashew dressing
VEGETABLE STRING CHAAT - Puffed rice, sprouts, chutneys + sweet yoghurt
CHICKEN 65 - South Indian fried chicken + chilli-tamarind sauce
GOAT CHEESE STUFFED LAMB KEBABS - Pomegranate reduction
POPPADOMS + CHUTNEY
PAN-SEARED PICKEREL - Coconut + curry leaf
FRENCH BEANS - Caramelized onions, turmeric + coconut
BEEF SHORT RIBS - Braised with black cumin, garlic + ginger
SPINACH + MUSHROOM STUFFED PANEER - Pistachio korma sauce
BUTTER CHICKEN - Tomato infused butter sauce
ASSORTED NAAN BASKET
DAAL MAKHANI - Slow cooked black lentils
ETON MESS - Rosewater meringues, pomegranate, mango, sweet lassi cream
I definitely overindulged but no regrets! Dishes that stood out for me at Pukka were:
Mixed Vegetable Pakoras - Lightly battered then deep-fried, these fritters were well-seasoned and delicious.
Baby Kale Salad - I simply love the addition of crispy lotus chips here.
Chicken 65 - Chunks of fried chicken tossed in a slightly sweet and sour chilli-tamarind sauce? Yes. More please.
Pan-Seared Pickerel - Seasoned then seared, the delicate Ontario pickerel served in coconut curry was full of flavour.
Butter Chicken - The consistency of this sauce was superb. It was creamy, yet not too creamy / thick so that it still retained the taste and texture of the tomato-infused butter sauce. The chunks of chicken were soft and moist. Absolutely delightful with naan / basmati rice.
Daal Makhani - A rich and delicious medley of slow-cooked black lentils, red kidney beans and split chick peas.
Eton Mess - I'm usually not a fan of traditional Indian desserts (I find them too sweet) but Pukka's Eton mess was delightful. Traditionally an English dessert, Pukka's version with sweet lassi cream, airy rosewater meringue, mango and pomegrante was a nice, light and fruity finish.
With a wide variety of dishes inspired by the Indian sub-continent all the way to modern Canadian fusion, Pukka's menu may not be traditional but it is, without doubt, delicious.
*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*