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Sula, Dine Out 2022

Vancouver’s favourite reason to get out and eat is back! Dine Out Vancouver is ramping up for its 20th year. Running from January 14th to the 31st, this foodie fuelled affair is offering diners set menus at discounted prices, and an opportunity to try something and somewhere new.

This was the perfect occasion to revisit one of my favourite restaurants, and see what’s different on the menu and on the table; as they update both frequently, if not yearly. New dishes and new dish ware to serve them on. Sula Indian Bistro continues to be my favourite Indian restaurant to recommend. Not only do they serve authentic Indian fare from the various regions of India, but do so with fragrant herbs and garam masalas that are roasted and made in house. The latter of which is paired with plenty of ginger and garlic, for some of the most tastiest Indian curries and sides that I have had to date.

And most importantly, not everything tastes the same at Sula. Often, when you visit Indian restaurants, the staff do not go out of their way to help curate your meal. The result is a handful of dishes that look and taste exactly the same. At Sula they employ 6 different types of sauces, and build on them for a more complex and varied offering. Whereas at other Indian restaurants, they only utilize one tomato based sauce for everything. Therefore, at Sula, it is a difficult task to just pick one dish; and it is best to bring a small (social bubble appropriate) group to be able to order several dishes. Then pick and choose and mix and mash up flavours.

They currently operate 2 locations, with 2 very different feels. The one on Main Street is the newer of the 2, with a Yaletown vibe that includes chic decor and an elevated menu. Whereas the Commercial Drive location is a tropical oasis, and the ideal escape from all of Vancouver’s rain and snow that we have been collecting. Today, I was visiting the latter with the perfect drink menu to help foster the illusion of travel and escape further.

The Himalayan utilized the sweetness of green apple and mint to flavour your vodka. The Orange and Pomegranate Paloma featured tequila for a more festive sipper. And for something that pairs perfectly with your meal, try their Mango passionfruit Bellini. This drinks like a mango lassi, the more common and traditional Indian beverage to have.

As for their Dine Out menu, this year Sula is giving diners the option to curate a 3 course meal for $36. This includes the choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert with great vegetarian and vegan options available as well. A few of the dishes overlap with their a la carte menu, so if you were eyeing something, now is the time to try it at a discount.

Between two popular street food options, I went for the only meat choice as my appetizer. Chicken 65 is their take on chicken tenders with an Indian twist. Battered and fried in chickpeas, the rounds of meat offer hearty morsels. They do get dry, but nothing that the included side of tamarind and/or mint chutney cannot help remedy.

I doubled down on my chicken intake with my entree choice. It was either this or chicken tikka, or paneer and chickpeas for those who want it plant based. The Achari Chicken Kadai is a North Indian style of chicken curry. Seasoned with turmeric and ginger, and plenty of roasted peppers and onions. What sets this curry apart is its tangy pickled base, which gives the dish its freshness.

With your entree you get your choice of rice and naan, two staples to any successful Indian meal. And Sula has some of the best of both in the city.

For this set I went with the basmati rice, known for its fragrance. It is the ideal, dry and thin grained rice to help sop up all that extra curry and sauce from your entree. The perfect base to help accentuate all the pungent flavours.

All their naans are soft and chewy, the perfect texture to sponge up and scrape clean any dish or bowl with. For this set, I kept it the staple with garlic naan.

And for dessert, I had the Pistachio Rasmalai. Described as an Indian soft ripen cheesecake, but with the consistency of a grainy rice pudding. It is served in a goblet with a creamy rose water and pistachio dressing of sorts. This made for a great palate refresher, which isn’t too sweet; as I find is common place with most Indian desserts, as it is necessary to balance all the savoury and spicy flavours of the meal before.

And seeing as my guest wanted to indulge, we also cherry picked some of the menu items that stood out, wanting to get a full taste of their 4 page offering.

For appetizers we had the Mumbai Vada. These were battered potato dumplings that basically ate like a herbed mash potato ball with a crispy outer shell and a smooth centre. Flavoured with green chilli, tempered cumin, and mustard chutneys it was a great side to any of our meaty morsels below.

The Lamb Cilantro curry was my favourite entree for its rich savoury flavour. A caramelized tomato, onion, mint and cilantro curry made thicker and creamier with yogurt. Plus plenty of tender lamb meat to wrap your teeth around.

This is the first time I have had a fish curry, and I don’t know why I waited for so long. The Fish Malabari is a traditional South Indian yellow curry made with roasted coconut and tamarind for a sweeter sauce. The fish was tender and flaky, but you couldn’t really taste its naturally gentleness past all the fragrant spices.

With all the above we needed more carbs in the form of bases and sides. So time we tried the coconut rice. Unexpectedly coloured yellow, its texture is more coarse and fibrous due to the inclusion of actual finely shredded coconut meat. Its individual flavour did not take away or hinder any of the curries that overpowered.

And for our second naan option, we went with the very visually onion and cilantro naan, speckled in yellow and green. They also have stuffed naans, but considering naan is best as a vehicle to smear sauce with, it is ideal to keep it more modest in toppings, to best highlight the main.

And for those who are not a huge fan of Indian sweets, such as myself, they have a great fusion dessert menu that gives you the flavours you want, in a more modern application. Take the following cakes for example.

The Chocolate and Passionfruit Cake with layers of white chocolate was not too sweet. It ate sugary like a dessert, especially with the house made mango ice cream on the side; but was still mild enough that you could enjoy it with coffee and/or tea to end your meal on. Moist sponge given pops of tang from the use of passionfruit. It reminded me of different take on Black Forest cake.

Although between the two, I prefer the Chai and Pistachio Cake. It employed the same recipe as above, but with their house made chai sponge and layers of cream flavoured in pistachio, rose water, and cardamom. The scoop of coconut ice cream on the side offered a nice creamy freshness to break up all the floral notes. This was my ideal palate refresher and a great note to end our meal on.

In conclusion, for a tropical escape to help beat the winter blues, when the ability to travel for sun and water seem so far away, look to Sula at Commercial Drive. With one of their tropical cocktails in hand, enjoy their luscious space and exotic menu, loaded with warming spices and comforting curries. And with their 3 courses for $36 Dine Out menu (which includes rice and naan), there is no reason not to take this getaway.

128 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X2
(604) 265-7493

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