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Sula Davie, tasting menu

I love a good sneak peek preview, the ability to try something new and/or up and coming. Then assess it before recommending it to others, once it becomes publicly available. It is one of the reasons why I do what I do. I love being able to be opinionated and acknowledging that not everything is “amazing”, “a must try”, or a “hidden gem”.

Ironically, that is not the case here. Today we were at Sula’s third and newest location, where they were launching a new tasting menu with wine pairings. We visited 2 days before to get the scoop for when it launches June 6th, 2024.

Worth mentioning is that this is only available at The Davie location in the West End.

Walking in, I noted that the space is as stunning in person as it looks in photos. A colourful patch work elephant greets you at the door. On the ceilings and walls are halos of light drenched in hanging faux greenery. They are like portals that transport. As a whole, the space takes on the personality of its other two siblings with greenery and metals in abundance; but with its own bold and modern elder sister approach.

Each location’s menu is slightly different as well, each with its own head chef. Whereas the Commercial Drive and Main Street location focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, like many of the Indian restaurants in Vancouver. The Davie location has a modern fusion approach to Central and Southern Indian food. So this is not the place for butter chicken.

As with many Indian restaurants, the menu is extensive with no photos to lean on. A challenging read for those inexperienced with Indian cuisine. Therefore I would suggest the following tasting menu to take the guess work out of ordering. This way you get a fulsome idea of what the restaurant is about, as most such menus are meant to entice and build favour so you come back and try the rest of the regular offerings.

This is the Spice Route Dinner Tasting Menu. $45 Per Person per person with reservations required. And spoiler: it is well worth it. Best with the advertised wine pairing at $30 more: 5 tasters at 3oz each. There is a minimum of two to enjoy this meal; and if dining with a group, complete table participation is required in order to take advantage.

The tasting menu features a map of India, listing the origins of each of the following dishes, giving you a culinary journey through India within 8-courses. Each plate meticulously crafted to highlight the diverse flavours and spices from all parts of the country. As of now, there is no hard end date as to how long this will be offered for. However, representatives of the restaurant believe it should be around for the duration of summer.

I came in hungry and ended up having to wait for my guest who was running late, then went to the wrong location. So this was the perfect start. Tomato broth infused with the traditional South Indian spices, tamarind, and jaggery. Served in a single serve coffee press, the filter pours out the soup into a shot glass for easy sipping. This was a potent soup that drank like a health shot in the glass with ginger. Warming with the spices and a taste of tomato that lingered sweet on the lips. There was lots going here to keep each sip different and you interested. I made sure to remove the lid and get in every last drop. Drinking it left a clean sensation.

Naturally, we opted for the wine pairings, but there was none for the first course.

The second course was Bread Fruit Fritters. A tempered bread fruit patty coated in charcoal-infused batter, paired with a raw mango & cilantro chutney. Shaped like a soft puck it eats like a samosa with a similar softened stewed potato filling and brightening, tangy chutney sauce. Bread fruit is cousin to mulberry and jackfruit, and something new to me. It was soft and starchy, and not sweet like other tropical fruits. The blackened dough surrounding it was just as soft, and normally I would look for a balanced texture with a crunchy element, but this didn’t need it.

The fritter came with our first wine pairing: the Campagnola Pinot Grigio. It was a sweet and dry wine to draw out the sugars in the breadfruit and mango. It also acted as a great palate refresher in between bites. The rest of the wine pairings had a similar function and I highly recommend this as an add-on as a result.

The third course was my favourite, and was where the savoury portion of the meal peaks. Goan Prawn Balchão Tacos. Prawns cooked in spicy Goan balchão sauce, served on mini garlic naan. This was as bold and spicy as it was colourful. Crafted with Western flavours mixed with an Indian influence and heat. This was a slow growing burn that had us reaching for the wine below, as relief. There was plenty of sweet prawn and pickled vegetables to have bites over flow.

Paired with the 11th Hour Cellar’s Sauvignon Blanc, with floral afternotes. The briney tannis of this ran parallel to the taco, helping to temper all the overwhelming spiced, leaving us fresh for the next bite, like it was our first.

I have never had elevated Indian cuisine like this before. Naga Smoked Chicken with the sauce poured over table side for a stunning presentation. Chicken served with spicy Naga chili sauce and tangy bamboo shoot and pineapple relish. This was just as bold and spicy as the taco before. It had a similar profile, but at a deeper level with more pickling. I found the lentils too heavy, trying to combat with the overly spiced chicken and the pungent slaw. Here we needed a neutral base like a scoop of basmati, or preferably more of that garlic naan. Something to help carry all that flavour. I did enjoy all the varieties of textures and having bamboo in this new way. The dill meant as garnish, was a welcomed addition. Its fragrance helped to add add creaminess to the dish, as I likened it to tzatziki.

The Uma Collection, Malbec was helpful in mellowing out the above with its own flavour. A smokey cherry wine that came out sweeter in comparison. The wine here was curative, but there was just not enough of it to ration out between bites.

The 5th and last savoury course was Rice & Yellow Lentils seasoned with cumin, turmeric, onion, tomato, dry spices; and served with spiced fish tikka. An immaculate presentation in colour and carefully placed ingredients. Although mixed with rice and more of a mash here, I didn’t want more lentils, having finished the serving before. They weighted the dish down. A nice airy basmati would have been nice here to change things up and offer a neutral base, much like what I was looking for above. The more I ate the chalkier the texture got, like ashy curried mashed potatoes. It distracted from the well prepared salmon.

Sadly the 11th Hour Cellars Pinot Noir was not much help here. It was just as heavy as the dish. A rose or dry white would have been a better pairing. Or even the meant as dessert wine below. The curry notes challenges the red, and in return the red added more acidity which the course didn’t need. By itself the Pinot Noir was lovely with strawberry notes. This would have went well with the first soup course as more complimentary bedmates.

The Mango Sorbet gave me the palate cleansing I needed. A sweet and tangy mango sorbet served with a coconut crumble, green apple chunks, and basil seeds. This was intelligently conceived. A very refreshing course with crispiness from the crumble, and crunch from the seeds, finished with points of herbaceous-ness. I was impressed with start of dessert and it would only get better.

I have been impressed by all their serve ware so far, and it only got better with their Gulabi Chai. A Pink tea from Kashmir made with black tea leaves, spices, cardamom, cinnamon, and rose water. Steeped in a clear tea pot to highlight the rosy hue, and poured table side into a two piece swan mug with winged coaster. It certainly had us gasping in awe and sipping slow to really enjoy our drinkable dessert course. This was a deliciously creamy chai, the hint of rose was mild, for those who aren’t a fan of botanicals. It would have been nice to have it spiked, a cognac would have been well received, seeing as there was no wine pairing for this.

I am fond of panna cotta so this Paan Panna Cotta was an immediate hit in my books. Being familiar with traditional paan, I was expecting a menthol dessert. Instead this was a subtle one, not refined sugary sweet, but sweetened naturally with fruit and chocolate. This was a wonderful light end, melting in your mouth to perfectly punctuate the meal. A creamy paan panna cotta infused with betel leaves and gulkand, served with berries and chocolate.

This was paired with our last glass. A very sweet 3oz of Jacobs Creek, Moscato Rose. The wine was a lot more sugary than the dessert and therefore not a good fit. As I mentioned earlier, this would have been better with the lentils and salmon above. And here, a tart ice wine would have drawn out the flavours of the betel leaves best.

In closing, we fully enjoyed our 8 course meal. For the quality of food you are getting, $45 is a steal, and the $30 wine pairings worth it to keep the meal moving. I have never seen Indian cuisine dressed so pretty, and this tasting menu has definitely won me over. I will have to return to try the rest of their menu and to get my hands on more naan.

However, if this is too much food for you, or you are short on time, they also have a mini version of this tasting menu for lunch. Four courses available from Monday-Friday 11am-2:30pm. This is $27 per person, with the same requirements as the dinner menu; but you only get the soup, the fitter, the chicken, and the panna cotta.


Sula Indian Restaurant, Davie Street
1708 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2K7
(778) 653-5433

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