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Pukka Up

Modern Indian Food on St.Clair West

Not every restaurant reviewed in Tonic is new or “newish”. Sometimes you want to try a place and because it’s a neighbourhood favourite you can never get a reservation. Pukka on St.Clair Avenue West is one of those restaurants. We recently got lucky on an early summer Saturday night. Full disclosure: We took 6:45pm reservations, because it was the night before OmT.O. and I wanted to make it an early evening (So, no, this column will not become a festival of Early Bird Special Reviews).

Pukka serves upscale Indian dishes. Which means several things. The quality of the ingredients, freshness of the spices and artistry of the dishes are all well above the average fare. Also, although the dishes are meant to be shared, their presentation is very non-traditional, and evokes a modern North American restaurant aesthetic. It is also more expensive.

It was a hot night, so we took a table on the small outdoor patio and immediately ordered drinks. I got the Dark n’ Stormy ($9.70): a classic featuring dark rum, ginger beer and lime - this version quite gingery (which wasn’t a bad thing). Naomi ordered the British Raj ($10.20) featuring rum, lime, almond syrup, and pineapple juice - think Mai Tai. The drinks were refreshing and very well priced by Toronto standards.

I’m not one for appetizers at an Indian restaurant as they tend to be deep fried. But we both liked the idea of the Sweet Potato Samosas which we were told had been recently added to the menu. Two to an order, the pyramid shaped treats were stuffed with chunks of sweet potato and potato and served with tamarind and mint-coriander chutneys; delicious. Better still were the Hara Kababs ($8.20), fig stuffed spinach patties served with apricot chutney. They were soft and light, a twist on a classic saag (creamed spinach), but less rich.

For mains we shared Stuffed Paneer ($19.40), slabs of paneer sandwiching spinach and mushrooms covered in a mild cashew korma sauce. It reminded me of an Indian-style white lasagna. We also had the Bengali Halibut in Mustard Curry ($25.70). The fish was perfectly poached and covered in a tart and spicy mustard curry sauce, which tasted more of tomatoes than mustard. The Cauliflower Pepper Fry ($11.80) with chili, garlic, ginger and curry leaves, sounded too good to pass up (and it was).  Remaining morsels and extra sauce were eagerly sopped up with an order of Naan ($2.90) and plain rice ($4.90), with some leftovers bagged up to bring home.

As it was a hot night, and we were quite full, we had planned to skip dessert. But because I was on the clock (and ever obedient to my loyal readers) I, ever so reluctantly, agreed to try Pukka’s showstopper dessert -  Mango Mousse with Pomegranate reduction and coconut Tile ($6.90). It’s a Mango Lassi morphed into a rich custard and it is not to be missed. It took us a while to get to Pukka, but it won’t take us nearly as long to go back.

Pukka 778 St.Clair Avenue West. For more information visit www.pukka.cahttp://www.pukka.ca