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Clove, #SpiceTrail

Today we were exploring Surrey’s Spice Trail, a selection of restaurants and shops promoted by Tourism of Surrey, as the best in food and entertaining. Must, visits when you are in the area; or as is the case with Clove, worth travelling through cities for.

I am going to start by immediately declaring that Clove is by far the best and only such Indian fine dining restaurant that Vancouver Mainland has. Throughout our meal it would become abundantly clear why their slogan is “the art of dining”.

Opened during covid this was a partnership and passion project for the owner, who was not about to allow a pandemic derail them. They noted that Surrey did not have a South Asian restaurant, so wanted to be the ones to bring it to the city.

Walking in you are in awe of the sleek design of the place. Vaulted ceilings and clean lines. A handsome glass showcase of wine on display, a marble bar with matching  columns. This is fine dining with white napkins, plates cleared after each course, and your server taking an active role in your ordering. Or in our case, their talented bartender, who was also the one to create all of the restaurant’s original cocktails.

Therefore, we had to show our respects by ordering the most photogenic of the lot. Their cocktail listing includes an extensive collection served in unique glassware shaped like a pineapple, bird, and/or mushroom. Each one tells a story, each one uses unique ingredients in their mixing, like ghee whitewashed rum, and black or green cardamon infused vodka.

The Magic Mushroom is a mix of Tanqueray gin, lillet, midori, pernod, grapefruit nectar, and Ms Betters Bitter Miraculous Foamer. This is a smooth smokey cocktail that tasted like fresh muddled cucumber. It is served with a featured bar snack and today that was thickly sliced, in house made seasoned chips.

Gateway to Heaven is made with cardamom and bay leaf infused gin, hibiscus tea, lillet aperol, and ginger beer. This was a warming gingery beverage, given a smoking treatment that later becomes an unveil, as the glass in un-cloched table side.

The Bird of paradise is a mix of tanqueray no.10, chambord liqueur, elderflower syrup, fresh lime juice, Ms Better’s grapefruit bitters, Fentimans rose lemonade, and botanical smoke. You whimsically sip on this floral mix from the butt of the bird shaped glass.

Clove also does great alcohol-free cocktails like their Pineapple Mango Margarita which is 0 proof featuring Seeplip Groove (a non alcoholic liquor, which gives the scent and taste of gin without any of the affects), agave syrup, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, jalapeño, mango purée, and tonic water. This is a tropical beverage that was a great pairing with all the spicier and bolder flavours to come.

As for food, the following is what we all agreed upon as a 4 person group, with a couple highly recommended plates from by our server/bartender.

From the Tandoor we had lamb and prawns. As per Wikipedia, a “tandoor” is a large urn-shaped oven, usually made of clay, originating from the Indian Subcontinent. Since antiquity, tandoors have been used to bake meats and breads”. The Lucknowi lamb chop was a hunk of tender grilled meat that you ripped from bone. Each chop was dressed in a pistachio, mint and coriander crust, which added a nice texture to the chew. Each piece of lamb was so flavourful, and had so much char and zest that I found not only the side of mint yogurt it was served with, necessary; but the additional smear of it on the plate as a decorative element much needed as well. Both offered a nice break of freshness, and the ability to go back for more, renewed.

The Tandoor Ajwaini king prawns with carom seeds, ginger, garlic, and tomato garlic dip told a similar story. Here, I was now seeing the level of their cooking ability unfold before me. These were some of the largest pieces of shrimp I have even seen, butterflied and thoroughly dressed. There was so much flavour in the marinade that you didn’t need any of the chutney on the side, other than as a palate cleanser. They too offered a break in the rich spices through jolts of tang and freshness.

Under the Main Course section of the menu we had their New delhi butter chicken. My favourite Indian dish continues to be butter chicken, so no doubt I was going to insist on having it today. And my excitement grew when I was told that Clove does it the “proper, traditional way”. Apparently, the chicken is suppose to be prepared separately from the sauce, and upon serving do two become one. However, as a time effective approach it is common to see the cut-up pieces of chicken simply get boiled and cooked to order within the sauce. However, having tried it like the above: done separate, I can definitively say that it makes a huge difference. One, the chicken is not over cooked. Two, it is able to stand on its own, so you don’t have to heap on scoops of the butter chicken sauce to flavour it. Although you will anyway because the sauce is just that good. Especially how they prepare it here with roasted tomatoes and fenugreek that is poured over your tandoori chicken table side. This has to be the most elevated version of butter chicken that I have had to date, and probably my favourite for that very reason.

The Saag paneer was a nice counter flavour. It does not look as appealing as the dishes above, but you can only do so much with an off-green, lumpy stew. This ate like a mellow green vegetable dish with spongey blocks of cheese. A mix of cottage cheese, collard leaves, spinach, and cream. A great texture and side that helped to punctuate the whole meal.

You don’t see much duck on an Indian menu, so we were curious to try the Duck Rajasthani. This is slow cooked duck leg in spices with a chickpea casserole, and fennel coriander crust. This reminded me of a French style cassoulet but adapted for Indian cuisine. The duck ate lean and herbaceous, helped along by its warming and rich stew. The chickpeas made the dish hearty, and the air fried lotus seed puffs offered pops of crunch. As predicted, this was very different that what you would expect from an Indian restaurant, and once again one that elevated the meal.

Similar, is the Lobster Chettinad, which our server insisted we order, considering it is not something that you find on many, if any Indian menus. This is a 5-6oz lobster tail served like a platter with kachumber salad, fries, neer dosa, and garlic aioli. Bewarned, they do sell out of this, so note, it is best to order ahead and come early for dinner, as it is not available Friday to Saturday after 8pm.You don’t often find lobster so heavily marinated, as to not deter from its natural flavour. However, here in this format, the sweetness of the lobster meat, under all the sauce was helpful in balancing the heat.

In a similar fashion, its sides offered a base for the lobster and its sauce was great for dipping into, smearing over, and eating in conjunction with. The fries were crispy and well-seasoned. The raw cucumber, cherry tomoato, pomergrante, and cilantro salad became a breath of fresh air in this dish. Simple, but necessary. And the gluten-free rice-based bread similar to roti or naan in its doughy chew.

Speaking of Indian breads, Clove has a few varieties to choose from. On top of the commonly seen garlic naan and the neer dosa in the set above they have Methi Paratha. As per Wikipedia, “Methi paratha are Indian flatbreads made with whole wheat flour, spices and fenugreek leaves aka methi leaves. These healthy, delicious & flavorful parathas are iron rich & make for a great breakfast or any time meal”. We were told that these are harder to make and they use their own spices to make them thicker and heartier.

I find such breads and their basmati rice side a necessary part of any Indian meal to help soak up sauces and distribute flavours more evenly across your palate. Especially as everything had so much flavour, and not just spicy heat. Each dish different and unique on its own and no overlap, which I find common with many other Indian restaurants.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of Indian desserts as I find them far too sweet. However, how Clove incorporates them into their modern sundaes works, playfully titled “Surrey Mess”. A deconstructed plate of summer berries, cardamon cream, kesar rasmalai, meringue kiss, and frozen rose rabri that is completed table side.

The ice cream is made from scratch at your table using liquid nitrogen and a few strong churns. The result is chunky ice cream scooped over the above mentioned ingredients, chopped up for easier bite sized morsels. Seeing the finished product the name makes absolute sense. For those unfamiliar with Indian desserts, this is an approachable take and fun introduction. I would definitely classify this as a must order when you are visiting Clove.

In conclusion, if looking for a fantastic fine dining option, specializing in the unexpected of Indian cuisine, look to Clove for excellent food presented alongside excellent service. You will not feel more welcomed. Fully recommend.

Clove – The Art of Dining
14310 64 Ave, Surrey, BC V3W 1Z1
(778) 928-4310

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