Pukka – St. Clair Hotspot Still Reigns

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Pukka in Hillcrest Village isn’t your average Indian restaurant. Launched nearly five years ago, the neighbourhood spot has reached an audience across the GTA with modern, inventive, and playful fare.

Take their popular appetizer Pukka Chaat ($13), for example. The crunch of pomegranate seeds, green apple, and puffed rice, frolicking with silky chutney and creamy yogurt, tantalizes taste buds from start to finish.

Plump, oversized prawns, dusted with spices, and finished with a good char from the grill are the center of attention of starter Gunpowder Prawns ($19 for 4). Set atop an earthy, colourful mung bean salad, and crowned with a dollop of pineapple chutney, beet threads, and micro greens, the composition makes for an attractive dish with unexpected flavours.

Colossal chunks of chicken immersed in saffron, green chili, ginger, and lemon, results in wildly aromatic Chicken Tikka ($15), accompanied by housemade mint chutney.

Lamb lollipops were a pretentious appetizer in the early aughts, but here they’ve been transformed into a sophisticated entrée ($30 for 4). Resting on a curry brimming with turmeric, mint, coriander, and fenugreek, and gilded with edible flower petals and fresh herbs, grilled lamb chops are crisscrossed like logs on a campfire, long bones reaching towards the sky.

Pan Roasted Pickerel ($29) boasting crisp skin, tender flesh, and summer pea curry dotted with heirloom tomatoes, topped with garlic shoots, is worth the trip alone.

Dishes are accompanied by crisp French Beans ($13) sprinkled with caramelized onions, turmeric, and coconut; a large jar filled with fragrant steamed long grain Basmati Rice ($5); and freshly made, can’t-wait-to-tear-into Naan (plain $3, butter $3.50, garlic $3.75).

Still have room for dessert? Cardamom scented cream, pomegranate, and pistachio brittle augments eternal crowd-pleaser, Pavlova ($9.70).

The bustling restaurant is often filled with a cacophony of cutlery clattering against china, ringing phone, and rumble of guests at tables, in line, and squeezing through the door for pickup and delivery. It’s fun and lively. Owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau always seem be on hand, endlessly greeting guests at the door and tableside, pouring drinks, hosting their nightly soirée.

A recipe for success, indeed.

Pukka - 778 St. Clair Ave. W.