Re­vamp­ing Can­tonese land­mark

Plus, St. Clair’s slice of Bom­bay, a food truck morphs into a bricks-and-mor­tar eatery and more

Richmond Hill Post - - Counter Culture - by Jon Sufrin

CAN­TONESE CUI­SINE

IN­DIA’S FRESH FARE

Rich­mond Hill’s Penglai Fairy­land Restau­rant has un­der­gone a bit of a re­vamp. Fol­low­ing a change of own­er­ship in mid-Oc­to­ber, the eatery up­graded its decor and changed the en­tire menu. Pre­vi­ously, the 200-seat restau­rant served both Korean and Can­tonese cui­sine, but it now fo­cuses solely on the lat­ter.

An ex­pan­sive menu ranges from items like shrimp rolls ($6) to beef with Chi­nese broc­coli ($16). Deep­fried scal­lops are served with sauce sweet­ened by a med­ley of pep­pers and pineapple ($26). Lob­ster with gin­ger and onion can be or­dered in vary­ing sizes — from one and a half to six pounds — mak­ing it ei­ther a meal for one or for a group to share (mar­ket price). Hot and sour seafood soup (from $6) is also avail­able in sin­gle or group por­tions and is hard to say no to on blus­tery days. Those who wish to curl up by the fire at home can call ahead and get the grub to go.

Penglai Fairy­land Restau­rant, 280 W. Beaver Creek Rd., 905-731-5570 In open­ing a new In­dian restau­rant on St. Clair Av­enue West near Bathurst, busi­ness part­ners Harsh Chawla and Derek Val­leau didn’t want to set­tle for the sta­tus quo. So they en­listed the tal­ents of three for­mer Amaya chefs to take care of the food, and they took on renowned som­me­lier Peter Boyd to han­dle the wine. The re­sult is Pukka, which opened in midOc­to­ber.

Pukka (pro­nounced “puck-a”) sticks to clas­si­cal In­dian cui­sine in a num­ber of ways: the kitchen is equipped with a clay tan­door oven, and chefs make use of house-made cur­ries and chut­neys. But the menu is pep­pered with sea­sonal, lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents, and the cooking is less de­pen­dent on cream and salt than tra­di­tion dic­tates.

The wine list, too, is more thor­ough than one would ex­pect from an In­dian restau­rant. Twen­ty­five la­bels from around the world are cur­rently on of­fer, and the plan is to grow that se­lec­tion to 70 to 100 la­bels.

“In­dian food is com­plex, and it’s dif­fi­cult to match with wine,” says Chawla. “But we’ve taken on this chal­lenge very well.”

Like the far-reach­ing wine se­lec­tion, Pukka’s menu finds in­spi­ra­tion from across the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. Samosas ($6.90) are stuffed with but­ter­nut squash, and On­tario pick­erel ($23.90) is spiced with turmeric, co­rian­der and gar­lic, then seared, topped with fen­nel seeds and served with coconut curry.

Other In­dian stan­dards in­clude slow-cooked daal makhani ($7.90) — fea­tur­ing black lentils, red kid­ney beans and split chick­peas — along with chicken 65 ($9.40), a south In­dian favourite that sees hunks of chicken bat­tered in egg and corn flour, then deep-fried and spiced with curry leaf, red chili, tamarind, cumin, gar­lic and other spices. (That dish, like many at the restau­rant, is gluten-free.)

Decor is fa­mil­iarly in­dus­trial, with ex­posed brick walls, a ce­ment bar and re­claimed barn wood on the ta­bles and bar top. But Chawla and Val­leau — who, like the chefs, were pre­vi­ously af­fil­i­ated with the Amaya chain — are hop­ing that the lighter, fresher take on In­dian cui­sine will help them stand out on the St. Clair

West strip.

“This is not a stereo­typ­i­cal restau­rant,” Chawla says.

Pukka, 778 St. Clair Ave. W., 416342-1906

NUTS FOR NOO­DLES

For a few months this year, it al­most seemed as though Toronto’s ex­plo­sively pop­u­lar ra­men scene was slow­ing down. Then, both San­sotei Ra­men and Kin­ton Ra­men an­nounced new lo­ca­tions, and last week, a Tokyo restau­ra­teur opened Touhen­boku Ra­men near McCaul on Queen West.

Although many ra­men shops em­pha­size the milky, creamy pork broth known as tonkotsu, Touhen­boku uses chicken broth. Two types are avail­able: a clear, light broth known as chin­tan, and a col­la­gen-heavy broth known as pai­tan (it’s like tonkotsu, only pork­free). Owner Zuimei Okuyama says that he sim­ply likes chicken broth, and it has the added ben­e­fit of set­ting his ra­men shop apart from the pack.

To make the chin­tan broth, whole chick­ens are sim­mered for four to five hours. The pai­tan fol­lows a sim­i­lar process, but the chicken bones are mashed up a bit to re­lease their flavours, and the broth is sim­mered for an ex­tra hour or so un­til it’s vis­cous. Okuyama says he learned about ra­men from a school in Ja­pan.

Ra­men ($10.50) is served four ways: orig­i­nal (pai­tan broth), spicy (pai­tan broth with chili oil), gar­licky (pai­tan broth with a black gar­lic sauce) or light (chin­tan broth). Flavours are so­lid­i­fied with a con­cen­trated sauce known as tare (at Touhen­boku, the tare is based on ei­ther sea salt or soy sauce). Ev­ery bowl of ra­men comes with scal­lions, a half-boiled egg, wood ear mush­rooms and blow­torch-seared meat (pork or chicken).

And be­fore we for­get, there are noo­dles, too. Touhen­boku makes its noo­dles in-house on a ma­chine im­ported from Ja­pan (it takes at least four hours of labour per day to keep the restau­rant stocked with fresh noo­dles).

Ad­di­tion­ally, Touhen­boku serves rice bowls and a se­lec­tion of apps, such as gy­oza or fried chicken (all $4.50).

Touhen­boku Ra­men, 261 Queen St. W., 416-596-8080

LATIN AMER­I­CAN HEAT

It’s only been about a year since Krys­tian Catala and Terry Nicolaou launched their pop­u­lar Gourmet Grin­gos food truck, but the two en­trepreneur­s have al­ready opened a bricks-and-mor­tar lo­ca­tion near For­est Hill.

Orig­i­nally in­tended as a prep kitchen for the truck, the space near Bathurst and St. Clair of­fers many of the same Latin Amer­i­can stan­dards that made the food truck a hit, plus some new items.

Fans of the truck will rec­og­nize the fish tacos ($10.95 for three) and the mole-braised short rib tacos ($8.95 for three). New items in­clude the chorizo na­chos ($7.95) or the chichar­ron pou­tine (made with pork belly and shoul­der, cas­sava fries and a Venezue­lan-in­spired aïoli, $7.95). Nearly ev­ery­thing is made in-house and tor­tilla chips are deep-fried to or­der

Gourmet Grin­gos, 1384 Bathurst St., 647-349-1900

SCUT­TLE­BUTT

Boots & Bour­bon Sa­loon is set to open on Queen Street East early this month. Brought to us by Rock Lob­ster’s Matt Dean Pettit, the younger sib­ling will have a coun­try theme that will en­com­pass food, mu­sic and even en­ter­tain­ment.

Pizze­ria Li­bretto and sand­wich shop Porchetta and Co. are slated to open new side-by-side lo­ca­tions on King Street West. Both plan to stay true to their orig­i­nal con­cepts (pizza and porchetta sand­wiches re­spec­tively) and will open in 2014.

A new up­scale tav­ern-style eatery has opened at 382 Yonge Street. An off­shoot of Reds Wine Tav­ern in the Fi­nan­cial District, the mid­town chap­ter of­fers shar­ing plates and more from chef Matt Robert­son (Splen­dido, Ca­noe).

The team be­hind Nota Bene will be open­ing its lat­est venture, Car­bon Bar, at 99 Queen St. E. early this month. The new space will be much more ca­sual and will serve con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can cui­sine.

Foodies take note: a Chef ’s Chal­lenge with Gi­ada de Lau­ren­tiis has just been an­nounced. The event will take place Feb. 8, 2014, with chefs bat­tling it out for women’s can­cer re­search. Mark McEwan, Vikram Vij and Mag­gie McKe­own join as guests chefs.

With files from Kather­ine Cameron.

Clock­wise from top left: Penglai Fairy­land Restau­rant; Touhen­boku’s karaage (fried chicken) and, be­low, ra­men; Pukka’s lamb ke­bab with mint-in­fused goat cheese

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