I Just had a Meal that was Pretty Fking Good

Once in a while I enjoy going out for dinner. By this I mean dinner versus an new age experience in which food is some part of it. Within an industry dominated by the likes of Charles Khabouth, Oliver and Bonnacini, Jenn Agg or Grant van Gameren, sometimes it’s nice to find a stand alone old school eatery with single site ambition. In essence, I was looking for a place off the hipster path which still has appetizers and mains and serves complimentary bread and tap water without much resistance.

I recently brought a customer out and decided to venture to St. Clair West and visit Fk. I would like to believe that this is a response to the need to make everything an acronym (perhaps to make texting easier) or maybe it’s simply a sassy play on words but i wasn’t sure if I should tell people if I was going to dinner at eff-kay or fuck for dinner. When they called to confirm my reservation which I ensured I booked a few weeks before (because they sure as Fk don’t use open table), they identified themselves with the former pronunciation.

In this case, the “F” is Frank Parhizgar who along with Shawn (nice spelling) Cooper, ran Frank’s Kitchen for a number of years before shuttering and moving a bit north to the current location.

In addition to a less than pedestrian menu, Fk prides themselves on a robust wine list including a small list of exclusive by the glass choices protected with the help of a coravin (I only mention this because it seems to be a big deal). As a result, I was able to indulge in a 5 ounce glass of a small batch Alsatian Pinot Gris which was fantastic. If you are not a wine person, they also offer a couple of delicious albeit expensive draft beer choices including Krombacher Pilsner and an Italian Menabrea Ambrata.

The amuse bouche really is a dying art so it was nice to see the waiter enthusiastically  pour cold avocado soup around a small pile of matchsticked cucumber placed in the middle of a hand crafted bowl (apparently Mr. Parhizgar had a hand in this too). It was pleasant reminder that summer wasn’t quite over yet. Afterwards, we were offered Frank’s fresh baked trio of bread which included a rustic crusty bread, an Italian pomodoro and a walnut loaf.

 

Avocado Amuse Bouche

The appetizer menu include a few old school favorites served nouveau.  My guest opted for a crafty tuna nicoise which featured sushi grade tuna served linearly across the plate among other classic salad ingredients. I cheated a bit and avoided the appetizer menu all together, instead ordering crab cakes from the side menu.  The cakes themselves were crunchy type ( I normally like something a little softer) but the ramp tartar sauce was a phenomenal condiment which I would gladly slather on many foodstuffs, crustacean or otherwise, without much hesitation.

For the main I opted for the lobster ravioli which swam in a tarragon bisque.  It came with a modest portion of six pieces but was rich enough to satiate especially after I made every effort to scoop the last drops of the broth out of the bowl which my spoon while lamenting in the fact that I should have save a bit of walnut loaf to ease the task.

Lobster Ravioli

I skipped dessert but nonetheless I was treated to a house made chocolate gem to finish the meal. Once again, it was another example of a passionate attention to detail.

Fk Chocolates

In the end, Fk was refreshing…a bit of an oasis in the desert of loud, bustling eateries which cloud food with folly.  There is true passion in the dishes coupled with a few cool wines along with the ability to talk about with your party without Richter scale noise. The staff are pleasant and attentive, the wine is unique and the food is pretty fking good.

FK Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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This is a Blog as Lame as the Service at Kwan Dim Sum and Chinese Cuisine

It is 1051 pm and I realized I have not yet blogged in June.  Not doing so would end my streak of writing at least one blog a month since June 2012.  So, a few months back I went to Kwan Dim Sum and Chinese cuisine at Yonge and St. Clair for lunch. I was a little worried because I used to work with a guy with a last name Kwan who was rather annoying.  I arrived around 1145 to a rather empty restaurant.  I looked around and admired the decor which was full of shelves and jugs. I’m sure lucky I booked early because by 1215 it was jam packed. Whew!

We ordered an array of dim sum including steamed dumplings (Har Gow), Sui Mai, deep fried shrimp dumplings, savory crepes and soup for $5-8.  Retrospectively, it wasn’t that original of an order but a good representation of a dim sum lunch. The food was well executed and well presented.

 

Unfortunately, the service was slow and a little rude.  Getting a glass of water was hard and getting tea was even harder.

My Take

This is the most boring blog I have ever written but the clock is ticking and I need to keep the streak alive.  I liked the decor at Kwan.  The dim sum was quite good.  The service, however, was unenthusiatic. It’s a safe and pretty place for those who enjoy dumplings et al. and don’t want to worry about whether the shady signs and run down decor of other dim sum restaurants in the area translate into either bad or overly “authentic” food. In the end, it’s very CaucASIAN.

I Decided to Pukka Place off the Beaten Path

Pukka opened last year along the relative foodie-free St. Clair West area.  Until then, I’ve always associated the word Pukka with something that happens after a few too many pints or the name of a popular pie advertised at football matches across England. It’s real definition is “genuine”.  Pukka touts itself as being the “best modern Indian restaurant in Toronto”. To date, most Indian restaurants in Toronto have been either small, family run hole-in-the-wall cubbies, extravagantly decorated upscale chains such as the Host or all you can eat buffets which dull down flavours to appease the boring palates of Caucasians who just looovvvveee Indian food. Pukka takes a page from Vancouver’s Vikram Vij, an international celebrity chef who gained fame by introducing Indian flavours into mainstream dishes in a stunning environment with excellent service.

Unlike Vij’s, Pukka takes reservations, so that’s a great start.  I booked a table to have dinner with some colleagues.  The decor mimics numerous other Toronto dinner hot spots. It’s cozy and noisy with a huge bar and colourful art all over the walls. The staff were courteous, dapper and as I would find out later, very knowledgeable.

First off was the drink order.  Choices include wine, martinis, a small beer selection and traditional cocktails such as mojitos and old fashioneds. I was intrigued by the Chai town ($8.40), a clever mix of bourbon, chai tea, pomegranate liqueur and bitters.   It tasted a bit like a Negroni’s younger brother.  It had a pleasant sweetness coupled with the subtle tickling of chai on the tongue.

Chai Town $8.40
Chai Town $8.40

 

The menu is divided into snacks, eats and sides as well as bread and rice.  We got the normal banter of how many  dishes four grown men should order to ensure they leave happy. From the list of snacks, we ordered vegetable string chaat, tandoori chicken tikka and gunpowder prawns.

The chaat was one of my favorite dishes and certainly was the lightest. I’d best call it a bowl of Rice Krispies gone Bollywood.  Visually stunning, the flares of colour and flavour provided a different snap, crackle and pop to this vibrant dish.

Vegetable String Chaat $8.70
Vegetable String Chaat $8.70

The chicken tikki was another visually stunning dish.  More importantly, it maintained the moisture commonly lost when smaller pieces of chicken are overcooked.  The seasoning was subtle and authentic and the saffron butter sauce added brilliance to the dish.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka $12.8
Tandoori Chicken Tikka $12.8

The gunpowder shrimp with moong bean salad was twice the price of the other snacks.  Four hearty shrimp were presented atop of an earthy bed of beans.  They were well seasoned although maybe a tad overcooked.

Gunpowder Prawns $17.90
Gunpowder Prawns $17.90

For “eats”,  we ordered the boatman’s fish and prawn curry, the madras pepper steak and beef short ribs.   As one of the most expensive dishes on the menu ($25.80), I was hoping for a little more content.  Only a few prawns and a couple of chucks of fish swam in the thin but flavourful broth. One of the sides was Bhindi bhaji; tender okra which simply seasoned with onion, ginger and garlic. It was a fresh addition to the heavily sauced entrees which surrounded it.

Boatman's fish and prawn curry $25.80 Bhindi bhaji 8.7
Boatman’s fish and prawn curry $25.80
Bhindi bhaji $8.70

The pepper steak ($19.70) was a flat iron cut served in a fragrant sauce with pepper, onion and coconut.  Although it didn’t swell with Indian flavours, technically it beat others I’ve had from the likes of Ruby Watchco and Bestellen. The meat was tender and cooked beautifully, needing little more than weak pressure of a butter knife to get through. The side of green beans were jazzed up nicely with onions, tumeric and coconut.  They kind of reminded me of a  healthy version of pakoras.

Madras Pepper Steak ($19.70) and French Beans ($9.80)
Madras Pepper Steak ($19.70) and French Beans ($9.80)

The highlight of the night was the beef short rib ($22.40).  The cook on the meat was perfect….no grit, no string, no chewiness.  The sauce was an aggressive blend of traditional Indian flavours which enhanced the star of the plate instead of drowning it.

Beef Short Ribs $22.40
Beef Short Ribs $22.40

Naan ($2.70) and basmatic rice ($4.60) were offered as sides.  I swear Mason jars make everything just a little more expensive.

Naan Bread ($2.70)- Two Orders
Naan Bread ($2.70)- Two Orders

 

Saffron Rice $4.60
Saffron Rice $4.60

From the small dessert menu, I went for the sweet plate ($9.80) as I was intrigued by the marshmallows rolled in garam masala sugar.  The plate also came with a torte dipped in ginger and topped with whipped cream and tandoori pineapple.  The third was naan khatai, a traditional Indian sugar cookie.   The marshmallows were a tease and I easily would have traded the rest of the plate for four more.

Sweet Plate ($9.80)
Sweet Plate ($9.80)

My colleague ordered the toasted coconut panna cotta topped with lemon and tandoori pineapple.  I had a morsel which was quite brilliant.  It was a tad unorthodox, lacking the extreme sweetness of traditional Indian desserts.

Toasted Coconut Panna Cotta $8.50
Toasted Coconut Panna Cotta $8.50

 

My Take

Pukka could be the best modern Indian restaurant in Toronto.  It fuses traditional but subtle Indian flavours with a decor and vibe indicative of Toronto’s trendy dining scene although it’s in a bit of an odd location. The dishes avoid the salty/fatty flavours that have become the seasoning of choice for many other nightspots and replace them with vibrant flavours including a whole lotta coconut.

The staff were friendly and knowledgeable, replicating a passion that mimicked the flavours that radiated from the plate. The chaat was brilliant.  The meat dishes were executed to near perfection although the seafood was steeply priced and a little less impressive. The panna cotta and marshmallows were delicious.

If you’re looking for your taste buds to get slapped around by a dabba for a great price, one of the many mum and dad shops may serve your purpose.  If you’re looking to overindulge on limitless portions of curries, there’s many a buffet for that.  If, however, you want more subtle Indian flavours fused with trendy dishes at lofty prices in the context of a modern automat, Pukka is your place.

Pukka on Urbanspoon