Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
When I think of Indian food, heavily spiced curries, naan and lassi come to mind. But I got none of that at Tonka. Tonka is Chef Adam D’Sylva’s (of Coda fame) take on Indian fine dining. Ever since watching the Chef’s Table episode on Bangkok’s Gaggan, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of Indian fine dining, and Tonka gave me a peek into that delicious world.
My meal started with a single serving of pani puri, a delicate crispy shell filled with spicy potato, mung beans date and tamarind chutney. It comes with a surprisingly heavy bottle filled with aromatic water, which you’re supposed to pour into the pastry shell until about halfway to the top, then figure out a way to eat this without spilling everything over yourself. When I finally manage it (tip: use your hands!), the combination of crispy shell, tangy water, and spicy-savoury-sweet filling is amazing.
My next little entree is a scallop, served with Jerusalem artichoke, Kashmiri chilli and channa dal chutney. The umami of the channa dal combined with the spiciness of the chilli really compliment the sweetness of the scallop and I savour every bite.
For my main, I have the mustard chicken tikka, which comes served on a radicchio leaf. It is accompanied by puffed quinoa and a delightfully sweet chutney that contrasts perfectly with the smokey, spicy flavours of the tandoor-cooked chicken. I also have the fried cauliflower, which is generously scattered with garam masala salt, and covered in fenugreek and yoghurt dressing. Both dishes are delicious and perfectly balanced.
At Tonka, Chef D’Sylva has used Indian spices and cooking techniques to come up with a brilliant combination and balance of flavour. This is unlike any Indian I’ve ever had, and I’m looking forward to trying more. Bravo and well deserving of its one hat.
20 Duckboard Place
Melbourne, Vic 3000
Open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday.
Tonka is down a little alleyway parallel to Flinders Street. It has low lighting. It has garbage skips. It has graffiti. For those new to Melbourne, don’t worry – some of Melbourne’s best dining is to be found in alleyways such as these. Just pick up your confidence, keep walking, and don’t forget to enjoy the stunning graffiti art along the way.
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