Derek and Harsh, owners of Pukka, stake their ground in Hillcrest Village

Concession Road Derek and Harsh
Concession Road Derek and Harsh

Foodies in Toronto have definitely heard about Pukka, a modern Indian restaurant run by partners, Derek Valleau and Harsh Chawla. Buoyed by their success in fine dining on St. Clair West, the same team recently launched Concession Road featuring French food created by Masayuki Tamaru, Tamaru (Crush Wine Bar, Left Bank Bistro) and Mark Cutrara (Cowbell, Hawthorne, Parlor Foods). The sommelier, as at Pukka, is Peter Boyd (Scaramouche). We spoke to Harsh to find out what prompted them to open another restaurant in their own neighbourhood, after 18 busy months at Pukka.

Harsh admitted that Pukka is so popular that they have had to turn people away. At least 100 people every weekend are unable to find seating when they arrived at Pukka. For Harsh and Derek having their own alternative restaurant nearby to send people to, even if just for a stopover at the bar before their return, would be entirely helpful.

Concession Road Bar
Concession Road Bar

With Hillcrest Village still growing and the opportunity for a second restaurant presenting itself, Derek and Harsh felt there were already plenty of Italian offerings and other international flavours, but nobody delivered high end French.

Concession Road steak frites
Concession Road steak frites

After taking possession at 760 St. Clair West, they opened a mere 34 days later! The team capitalized on the beautiful eye for detail of one of their servers and tapped into her design sense to open Concession Road quickly.

While many consumers do their best to buy organic or ethically raised meat and chicken, it wasn’t pressure from customers that was the impetus at both Pukka and Concession road to do this, nor was the argument that it tastes better. Harsh’s own convictions ensured this was the only way to run their kitchen so he buys all his meat and chicken from Roast Fine Foods. He firmly believes that if he would not serve it to his own family then he will not serve it to his customers.

Concession Road uses Roast Butcher
Concession Road uses Roast Butcher

Running one restaurant is time consuming enough but we wondered how Harsh managed running two eateries considering that he has two young daughters at home, one just recently born. Thankfully, he and his partners are able to split the duties so that one of them is always on hand at both restaurants. He also doesn’t sleep much!

Harsh’s favourite part of owning a restaurant is meeting his guests, many of whom visit from well beyond the GTA. We asked him if anyone has urged him to open in their hometown? Indeed, he has had such requests from Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and New York City.

Harsh admits his comfort foods are not only Homemade Indian Tal with Lentils in a whole wheat roti, but also a really fresh bowl of pasta with butter sauce.

Concession RoadJ fried chicken
Concession Road fried chicken

If you head over to Concession Road, Harsh says to go for the JFC aka Japanese Fried Chicken.

Concession Road photos are by Lisa Jackson.

Concession Road, 760 St. Clair Ave. W., (416) 658-0460
Tuesday to Friday from 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., and on weekends from noon to midnight.

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