Being a fan of the original Sula, Indian restaurant on Commercial Drive, I was excited to try their second and newest location on Main Street, one week after they had opened. And boy was I not disappointed by decor alone.
The space is warm and opulent in a time that requires us to be cold and distant. Glowing lights suspended by gold; they matched the copper of the table settings and the brown and oranges of the bar. Shame that their opening coincides with these times, because I can definitely see them as a place to linger and enjoy lively company within. They certainly have the drink list to keep you sipping long into the night. Including a healthy Gin and Tonic listing, much to my guest’s delight.
The “Kerala” is a mix of Tanqueray Rangpur, Kaffir Lime, Green Cardamom, and Mediterranean Tonic. It is an effervescent cocktail, sparklingly light, and finished off with a tangy punch.
“Vayu’s Calm” includes Hendricks Gin, Spanish White Vermouth,
Green Chartreuse, Cardamom, Mint, and Lime. This reminded me more of margarita, especially with how lime focused it was. I was just missing the salt.
Round two of cocktails had us trying the “Cosmic Dance” with Big Boss Cashew Fenny, Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Apple, Honey, Chili, and Spices. This one was more my speed. A heavy sipper with a dull heat that is slow to burn the back for your throat. This is the kind of cocktail I want to drink if I am under the weather.
The “Delhi Junction” included Fenugreek-infused Bombay Sapphire, Fino
Sherry, Dry Vermouth, and Aromatic Bitters. This was their take on a martini, but more subdued. It was a new flavour combination for me, one I can only best describe as being herbaceous in a juicy way.
Whereas the cocktails at the Commercial Drive location are sweet and tropical, these are more refined and for the spirit connoisseur. This bar is one you would make a bee-line to, just for a stiff drink or three. Therefore, it would have been nice to start off with a small bowl of mixed nuts or crackers, to really celebrate the bar list and align them more with a place you would frequent for their cocktails.
Instead we nibbled on a couple of appetizer’s whose serving served more as an entree. As good as they were, I would have liked 1/3 of each presented as a starter, in order to save room for all the entrees you can’t help but be curious to try later.
The Indian Street food and Chaats are dine in only, due to the nature of the dishes and the need to enjoy them fresh and crispy. Chaat is a category of Indian street food that hits every component of taste. It is a combination of sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, umami, and spicy.
The “Papdi Chaat” is Indian canape wafers topped with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and chutneys. It ate like a bowl of cereal or platter of nachos. Although as good as it was in texture and taste, less would have been more. This was enough for 6, but ordered for 2.
The “Mumbai Vada” is a dairy-free battered potato dumpling seasoned with green chilli, tempered cumin, and mustard. I expected a fully encased bundle, but was served my dumpling pre-cut up. From presentation sake, I would have liked this in smaller bites, left as a whole. Flavour and texture wise, it was much like a somosa, but without the traditional accompanying chutneys.
When it comes to Indian cuisine, it doesn’t matter where I go, or how much I try, I always gravitate towards butter chicken. I would not be satisfied without giving Sula on Main’s version a try, and sauce wise it held up. Rich and creamy with the flavour of their Tandoor broiled chicken in tomato, cream and butter sauce coming through. My only critique was that the pieces of chicken were dry, despite them being left in large bulky chunks. I Would have liked bite sized portion of chicken, cooked tendered instead.
And unique to the Main Street location is Sula’s seafood offerings. It showcased the regional cuisine of Mangalore, a coastal town in the southern part of India. Between lobster and crab, we gravitated towards crab due to our server’s suggestion, however based on what we had, I would suggest the lobster instead.
The “Jenji Gassi” is local Dungeness crab cooked in a coconut curry, highlighting flavours from byadigi chillies, poppy seeds, and cumin. The crab was cumbersome to crack in such an opulent setting. I appreciated its whole, shell and all in our presented serving. However, found the work it took to crack and peel not worth the little amount of meat that came out of it; especially as it was bland. The sauce on the other hand was a treasure. I sopped it all up with the naan below and greedily drizzled it over the rice as well.
The Main Street location of Sula also boasts a Tandoori oven, so we were sure to partake in a couple of dishes that required a longer baking. The following two came with a 30 minute warning, so order early and expect to wait with cocktails in hand.
The “Tangdi Kebabs” were described as “Iran’s culinary gift to India”. They are chicken drumsticks char-grilled in the tandoor. The result, an excellent grill flavour from the blacken char, with the smokiness adding levels to the chicken’s seasoning. And here I thought I liked it a lot, until I tried the lamb below.
The “Adraki Lamb Chops” are roasted with crushed cashew bits and seasoned with garam masala, cumin, and a coriander spiced marinade. You got the crunch of the cashew offering a nice contrast to the perfectly prepared, tender and juicy lamb meat. If, no when I return, I will definitely be ordering this again.
And no Indian meal is complete without the rice and naan necessary to soak up all the delicious sauces with. I would be just as happy with just the butter chicken or crab sauce and naan.
The “Tandoori Naan” is a classic as an extra pillowy tandoori Indian flat bread. For something a little different Sula also has stuffed naan. We tried the one sandwiching spinach and Indian cheese, paneer. The addition added an extra level of indulgence to something already so great. I have never see such an innovation else where, so credit Sula its creation. And I can recommend it just as easily as an appetizer to start with.
For rice, I was disappointed by the coconut rice. Its broken texture did not lend itself to the already soften dishes, and the coconut flavour did not add anything to anything. Instead, I recommend the basmati rice for its fragrant taste and texture. A better mild companion to all the great flavours above.
And don’t forget to save room for dessert. A semi-sweet end to help cleanse the palate is the mango coconut rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater. It eats like a dessert oatmeal with a freshness that leaves you with a cleaner mouth feeling.
Like between two children from the same parents, I hate to pick favourites here, but the new Sula on Main with it sophisticated setting and specialty menu have won me over as my favourite between the two.
SULA MAIN STREET
4172 Main Street, Vancouver BC