Pukka exterior.In our continuing search for quality restaurants that we can walk to in the neighbourhood (for most of us that would be St. Clair West) a group of us recently tried Pukka, the new Indian-inspired restaurant in the west end. Braving the polar winds we walked the few blocks and were greeted with a warmly busy place whose front window featured a sign saying “not your mother’s Indian”. And that it was not (although my mother never really cared for Indian food).

Pukka is a modern take on Indian – both in the setting and the food. Like many new restaurants in Toronto, the furnishings are minimal with a reclaimed feel and the lighting interesting. Staff are welcoming, knowledgeable and eager to help us decide on our shared dishes. They also offer advice about alcoholic accompaniments, which is typically a problem in Indian restaurants. Usually if you don’t like beer you are out of luck. At Pukka, chefs trained in India and at Toronto restaurants such as Scaramouche bring classical technique to a cuisine that in Toronto is usually more home-cooking style.

Here’s what we had: goat cheese lamb kebabs, butternut squash samosas, rapini fried with cubed paneer, Punjabi chicken, French beans, beef short ribs, and fenugreek laccha paratha. We also had a wonderful prawns and scallop dish that is no longer on the menu. The wait staff did tell us that they tweak dishes and sometimes replace them.

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And here’s what was left over:

Empty dishes.

Of course we couldn’t forgo dessert and chose the cinnamon chocolate torte served with five forks – a typical arrangement when a group of women goes out for dinner.Dessert.

And yes, there were drinks – cocktails and wine – just right and suiting the food perfectly. We especially liked the Snapdragon cocktail: vodka, pear nectar, ginger beer and lime – excellent complement to the food with a full and piquant flavor.Pukka bar.

Our unanimous verdict was that every dish we had was very good. Our only regret was that we did not order basmati rice to go along the delicious sauces that were left after we finished a couple of the dishes. We foolishly thought that the paratha would be enough.

Although the polar winds still blew on our walk back home, we felt warm, full and happy that Pukka has made its way to our neighbourhood.

– Miria Ioannou
Photos by Schuster Gindin

If you feel like cooking Indian at home, try this innovative way of making naan

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