We were happy to have Maggi, a popular Vancouver Food Blogger, for a tasting at Sula! And here’s what she had to say about her experience:
“Today I was invited to try “Sula”, an authentic Indian restaurant, serving Indian cuisine prepared using traditional methods. They churn out staples like curries, tandoori breads, and rice; prepared with visual finesse. Here, I didn’t expect that I would discover a butter chicken recipe that I liked, that isn’t scooped out of a fast food heated tray.
But first: When it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
Located on Commercial Drive, there is plenty of dining options competing for your attention and money. So “Sula” puts it foot forward with a colourful exterior. Its red brick wall is spray painted with fuchsia flowers, and its entry way grows with a rainbow tree painted against a black wall. As you pull open the door, a running water feature further sets the tone.
Inside the room opens up to an oasis. The sights, sounds, and scents take you out of the cold and into the warmth of a tropical sanctuary. Trickling water can be heard across the open space thanks to a bubbling pond at the centre of the main dining room; and a cascading stream, trickling over stones in the corner. Rich Indian inspired textiles and art, coupled with live plants make the space feel exotic and fresh.
Seating is available across booths and four tops in the dining area. A private corner set against three walls is available for larger groups. And for those looking for a rowdier night, the purple walled bar at the back caters to your appetites.
We immediately gravitated towards the window and the three tables that required a step up to get to. It gave us a handful of inches above the rest of the restaurant, where we were able to continue marvelling at the details put into the decor. The laser cut flower and leaf glued to the wooden menu, and folded cloth napkin with “bunny ears” for each place setting continued on this trend.
Within such a cool ambience, starting our meal with a cocktail only seemed right. And best of all, they are prepared using essences and spices which flavours compliment our food to come.
The “Mango mojito” is one of their signature cocktail. It is like a regular mojito with Bacardi rum, Malibu, lime and mint; but with the addition of a fresh mango purée, giving it a creamy finish. It was tropical with waves of coconut, the kind of drink you enjoin beach side in paradise.
Likewise was the “Goa sunrise”. Vodka, limonchello, cranberry, and lemon. It was a tropical lemonade with citrus and a sweet berry finish. This one was very easy to drink.
The “Tamarind margarita” is one for those who like a strong drink with a smokey finish. Mezcal, tamarind, Cinnamon-agave syrup, lime, and bitters. It was dark and full bodied with heat, like the flavours to come.
To start we had the “Papri chaat”. Described as an “Indian canapé”. Hard crackers-like wafers topped with with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and various chutneys. The way we are it and the way the toppings were piled on top of it, it reminded me of nachos. The same chip crunch and cool creamy dips, but with Indian spices and the sweetness from chutney.
All their hot stews and curries are served in these miniature heating apparatuses. A dish with lid, sitting on a three legged carrier, kept warm by a lit tea light under it. This continual heat source keeps your meal hot for longer, without overlooking it. A very helpful feature for foodies like me, who allow our cameras to eat first, often resulting in a cold meal to enjoy.
The “Saag paneer” was surprisingly good. I am not a fan of wilted vegetables so enjoyed their texture here as a purée, thickened with large chunks of cottage cheese, seasoned with freshly ground spices. The chunks of cheese had a stiff texture like squeaky cheese. I really enjoyed it as a god meat alternative. It was filling, especially with the order of Indian breads we had with it as a side.
When it comes to Indian food, I find myself returning when I get that craving for flat bread. The “Garlic naan” is soft and fluffy, best enjoyed within the small window where it is still warm. It is the best dipped into the thick curries and taken in like an edible scoop.
The “Tandoori roti” is not un-similar, but made with whole wheat flour. Therefore it is denser and the round of cooked dough a lot thinner and harder. But it still offers a good chew to have as a base to curry.
Like the “Prawn goan curry/prawn” that used coconut milk in its curry, therefore, making it a great dairy free alternative. It was one of the most silken and creamy curries I have ever had. It had lighter with sweeter notes thanks to the use of the tropical fruit, and some heat from the coriander seeds and yellow curry powder. I especially appreciated the fact that all the shrimp were peeled for our convenience. However, due to our wait to eat (us taking photos) they were tough and really didn’t add anything to the curry. I would have liked some more textures like bamboo instead, however that would lean too far towards the territory of Thai curry (which is something completely different).
The yellow curry was also great with coconut rice as a side. “Sula’s” rendition included herbs with the coconut milk infused basmati. It was helpful as a base, to balance out the more overwhelming flavours.
My guest suggested that we order the “butter chicken” as well. Not necessary a unique dish to “Sula”, but a good way to calibrate it against other Indian restaurants. And I am glad she did, here I have found my current favourite butter chicken recipes to date. Previously I sought this popular, highly Westernized dish out at my local food court; haven’t had any better, anywhere else. With the sauces available in jars at the grocery was a far second. So to now be able to find one that is leagues better than both and in a nice sit down setting is a treat. This was a fantastic offering of boneless chunks of chicken cooked in a tomato and butter cream sauce. A little sweet, but more spicy and tangy. The white meat was juicy, but I preferred to just take in the sauce with naan.
They had a series of dishes served on a sizzling hot plate, which they call “Indian style barbecue”. The “Tandoori chicken” was what we tried, where the juicy pieces of dark meat were served bone-in. It is marinated with authentic Indian spices and grilled in tandoor. I enjoyed the little vegetables that surrounded them, but I felt it needed more to complete the dish. A base of rice, or some other starch.
With all the tense flavours consumed, their “Mango lassi” was the best palette refresher to end our meal on. It came with extra care taken to drizzle syrup on the sides of the glasses. A smooth beverage made with true mango purée.
I would come back for all my butter chicken and naan cravings, and to taste more off their menu. There was nothing I didn’t like; and much more to try, with the hopes that they are just as good. A great places for good food or to have a fun night at. Don’t deny your cravings.”