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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday to Friday from 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., and on weekends from noon to midnight.