Indian Pukka 778 St Clair W, at.
Pukka 778 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-342-1906, pukka.ca, @pukkatoronto Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau’s stylish uptown bistro goes where few local Indian restos ever venture – upscale. A creative kitchen, smooth service and noise levels that allow for conversation make full houses the norm rather than the exception. Reservations essential most nights. Best: tapas-style starters like papri chat with puffed rice, ripe mango and Granny Smith apple dressed with pomegranate seeds in sweet yogurt dressing spicy south Indian fried Chicken 65 garnished with nasturtiums shareable mains like nutty butter chicken with wilted fenugreek leaves smoky lamb chop “lollipops” à la Vancouver’s Vikram Vij in minty cream sauce sides of French green beans with caramelized onion and shredded coconut baskets of buttery garlic naan and crisp whole wheat rotis to finish, sundae-like Eton Mess in pomegranate syrup and sweet lassi cream topped with rosewater-soaked meringue. Complete dinners for $60 per person, including tax tip and a glass of wine. Average main $22. Open nightly 5 to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
Agave y Aguacate 35 Baldwin, at Henry, 647-748-6448, @AgaveyAguacate Celebrated for the Kensington Market cantina that Anthony Bourdain called “some of the most amazing Mexican takeout north of the border – any border,” Francisco Alejandri resurfaces in Baldwin Village in the former home of the equally legendary Gaston’s. Anyone who ever lined up for hours at the old one-man operation will appreciate the now speedy service. Tables and chairs, too! Best: chileajo, stir-fried fingerling spuds, pearl onions, green beans and chickpeas in garlicky guajillo pepper sauce and mild queso fresco cheese white fish ceviche verde with avocado, tomatillo and coriander pesto chile relleno, blistered poblano peppers stuffed with pineapple and puréed avocado, dressed with roasted garlic slow-poached veal ‘n’ pork meatballs in smoky chipotle gravy tiramisu-like lime charlotte with black Hawaiian lava salt. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Average main $9. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNNNN
Barrio Coreano 642 Bloor W, at Manning, 416-901-5188, playacabana.ca/642-bloor, @barriocoreano Playa Cabana’s Dave Sidhu finally gets the formula right with this surprisingly unpretentious taqueria in Koreatown. Friendly, informed service, an innovative East-meets-Southwest carte and a low-key Latin playlist transform first-timers into repeat customers. Best: thinly sliced “watermelon sashimi” dressed with kumquats, unseeded jalapeños, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds in tart ponzu vinaigrette grilled calamari in smoky árbol chili sided with pineapple kimchee salsa South Korean fried chicken tacos in sweet ‘n’ sour kampungki sauce on blue corn tortillas the built-to-share 32-ounce Cowboy aged rib-eye steak flourless chocolate cake in jars finished with green tea ice cream to drink, kimchee sours with Jack Daniels, fresh lime and pickle syrup. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 5 to 11 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am, Sunday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, three steps to washrooms. Rating: NNNN