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Desi Turka Indian Cuisine

I don’t have an Indian restaurant option in Burnaby (where I live) so was happy to check Desi Turka Indian Cuisine, especially as is not located in an area of the city that I frequent. Located in a busy road with plenty of drive by traffic, they are easy to spot. One of a handful of traditional and authentic Indian businesses the likes of bistros and sweet shops.

On this wet and mild Burnaby day the exterior didn’t catch my immediate attention. Almost worn down with the unused wooden patio setup. However, inside it is warm and inviting with modern furnishings. Dark wood with caramel beige booths. The ethnicity is by way of the art. A poster size photo of historic Indian architecture repurposed into wallpaper, and a painting of Indian artifacts.

Walking in, the restaurant smelled like the herbs we would explore more of in the cuisine. And the space was kept lively first thing in the morning with a dance techno soundtrack.

As the first ones in, we took our time to order, as the staff took theirs to make our drinks. They would come 45 minutes after we sat and our request was taken. I chalk this up to the stalling of time and the waiting for more staff to come in for support.

The only one to greet us at the door, took a while to notice someone walk in and was shy throughout the visit, wringing his hands in nervousness. Although he was polite and soft spoken. He took care in placing down drinks and dishes, but really didn’t do any recommending of what to order when I asked.

After confirming that Indian coffee is just regular coffe, but with with milk and sugar, we opted for their Masala chai served hot for a warming start. Mild, not much ginger, more cream for a milky morning beverage.

For those who are like me, and want it with a little umph you can get their Nice Guy Chai for $6 more. This is their hot masala chai made “nicer” by adding 1oz of your choice of spirits, with a spiced rum or vodka. I got the former, finished with a smoked cinnamon stick.

Although, the cocktail to get is their Tamarind Margarita. Tequila, orange liqueur, tamarind chutney, simple syrup, and lime juice.
This wasn’t a fruit tamarind, but a chutney used in place of a juice or syrup. The result was a savoury cocktail akin to a caesar for a zesty and Sunday morning offering. It did well as a palate refresher.

As for food, your options are plentiful, spelled out across a seven page menu that includes dessert and drinks on the last. We would order an item from each section of the menu to help compartmentalize.

The Fish Pakora is an appetizer of fish marinated in ginger and garlic then fried. Like the Indian equivalent of fish and chips, lightly battered flaky fish with a hint of citrus and dill; whereas you would have expected more familiar Indian spices. It would have been nice to have a dip on the side, not that it needed any additional flavour, but more as a way to change the taste for longevity. The side of vegetables did help in this regard.

The Fish Vindaloo are pieces of fish cooked with potatoes in a light and tangy sauce with vinegar and spices. The potatoes added a different texture to the mix, but I would have liked them and the fish more firm. The latter just melts making it indistinguishable. Out of the three entrees we ordered, this was the spiciest, and greatly in need of the rice as a base.

You get a choice of either lamb or goat with your Palak, we went for the latter for a healthier protein. Boneless goat cubes mildly spicy with chopped spinach. Honestly I am not a fan of spinach, due to its wilted texture, but like this I make an exception. A smooth paste that coats and masks bits of the older, gamier goat. Be warned, the menu says no bones, but I got three, which turned out to be within the most tender of the meat chucks.

And I can’t go without having the tried and true Butter Chicken. Boneless chicken nuggets marinated in a garlic, ginger, cream, and tomato sauce. Topped with a square or butter that melted into a river of oil. The chicken was solid and dense breast meat. Dry and not as flavourful at its centre. You needed plenty of the more tangy than sweet sauce to help add moisture and flavour to the white breast. Tasty enough, but I prefer a sweeter more creamy butter chicken sauce. Not my favourite version.

And we would have the above with a side of Coconut Rice cooked with coconut milk and a dash coconut powder as a neutral base for all the punchy flavours above.

Much like the for dipping Plain Naan, which is a fluffy leavened bread and ideal scoop for all the stews.

They also have a Spinach Cheese Naan, which is the same leavened bread above, stuffed with grated homemade cheese, and spinach. Not as poofy and light, and a lot more charred. I honestly liked this as is, and would offer it more as a pancake-like appetizer, much like Taiwanese style green onion pancake, as a posed to the a base for something else.

This was an unexpected find for the neighbourhood. The restaurant has a great foundation and many tasty offerings. It just needs a little more care to raise it up to the level of an elevated Indian option you would frequent. I would suggest a wipe down of the greasy menus, a more uniform approach to the dish ware, a cohesive decor theme, and more customer-centric staff.

Desi Turka Indian Cuisine
7807 6th St, Burnaby, BC V3N
(604) 553-4511

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