Palki Passion with the VanEats boys
If you've never heard of VanEats, then you should consider yourself out of the loop, especially if you're a foodie on a budget. What they do is collaborate with restaurants around Vancouver to bring you exclusive custom-made dining packages. The catch? They're like Groupon in a way, but extended, and are only available for a short time and in limited quantities. So you have to act fast or you may feel remorse for not clicking the large orange BUY NOW button.
What I like best about the VanEats boys is that they create epic, drool-inducing, "food porn" videos to highlight the items that are part of the package. After watching one, I'd be surprised if you told me you didn't want to eat at the showcased restaurant. Take for example their latest dining package, Palki Passion.
Palki Indian Restaurant is an award winning restaurant with two locations in Vancouver, the first being in North Vancouver. This package is focused on the new location on the haven of ethnic cuisine, The Drive.
I've worked in an Indian restaurant before, have ate it many times in my life, been to Vaisakhi, attended Indian weddings and have many Indian friends. Normally I would avoid Indian restaurants in Vancouver, based upon my experience with traditional meals, but when I saw VanEats Palki Passion package my interest was piqued.
When I went in to the restaurant I was surprised at the transformation from the outside of the building to the inside of the restaurant. The inside was well designed and separated in to two sections; the lounge area, equipped with bar and a low table and couches, and the dining area with Indian decor, candles, wine glasses and "sailor hat" napkins. This elegant dining setting differed greatly from the outside which looked cheesy, not very traditional, and not very intriguing to be honest. Walking by I would most likely not even notice or not give it a second look. Regardless I was there that night and ready to "Get My Eat On".
The night I dined there they happened to have domestic beer on special. We didn't drink it. It felt wrong having a Canadian beer with my Indian meal and so we quickly averted our eyes. We couldn't remember which beer was better the Kingfisher or the Taj Mahal so we asked the server, who without hesitation told us that Kingfisher was one of the best beers in India.
After tickling our taste buds with delicious beer, we were then ready for the appetizer of vegetable pakoras (not part of the package), that were served with a sweet tamarind and a fragrant mint & coriander chutney. Pakoras are quite flavourful on their own, mainly of deep fried batter taste, but I still felt that the dips were a nice accompaniment and I gobbled up the tamarind chutney, putting it on everything that I felt needed a little more "zing".
A Vegetable Samosa, if you've never had it, is a savory deep fried pastry filled with spiced vegetables. When I say vegetables I don't mean asparagus or broccoli, I mean peas, potatoes and occasionally cauliflower or carrots. It's not a healthy dish, but it's a lovely one and a must-have when eating Indian food. I douse it with chutney to give it the sweet and spicy taste. These ones were good but not great. They were cooked well, held their form and had a crunchy exterior, but they could've used a bit more spices and almost needed the chutney on them.
Until I visited Palki I had never had a Lamb Barrah Kebob. It is rack of lamb marinated with garlic, ginger and spices then roasted in the Tandoor. I love lamb, and this lamb was fantastic. Bursting with flavour and not overly gamey I was very impressed with the kebob. Typically I have lamb curries at Indian restaurants that or bite size and edible with a fork or spooned with sauce in to a naan. Although Indian food is a never a tidy meal for me, I felt slightly barbaric as I had to eat it off the bone with my hands at one point, but was comforted by the fact that I wasn't the only one at the table to do so. And it was that good, so I feel no shame.
You may or may not have had Chicken Tikka before in your life. It's a standard item on an Indian restaurant's menu and is a piece of boneless chicken marinated with "special ingredients" and grilled in the Tandoor. Palki's was like any other restaurants I suppose in that it was spiced, charred and juicy. Where many restaurants go wrong is over-cooking the chicken in dishes and not being able to mask it by sauce. Palki passed the test and delivered a plump and tender piece of meat.
On the plate was also a Tandoori Prawn, which as the name explains, and the picture shows, isa jumbo prawn marinated and cooked in the Tandoor. It was firm which is always a good sign but I felt on its own held very little flavour so was best eaten with the charred bell peppers which were packed with flavour and enhanced the smokiness of the prawn.
The Murg Malai Tikka, is a piece of tender chicken marinated in sour cream and fresh spices from the Tandoor. It was simple, but nice and light, with a slightly charred edge that gave it an extra crunch. Indian dishes have a reputation for being very heavy and calorie-laden so it's nice to highlight the dishes that argue that, with this being a prime example. Again, I ate it with the bell pepper to give it that extra punch.
Butter Chicken, is butter chicken right? Yes and no. It is because it's chunks of boneless chicken first broiled in the Tandoor and then cooked in a butter and cream sauce. It isn't because Palki's version is a very sweet, rather than very savory, butter chicken. It's still creamy and thick as you would expect, and glows with a copper orange color so vibrant you wonder how they do it all from spices, but they do. It's not the best butter chicken I've ever had but the chicken was juicy and not overcooked, and the tea light kept the dish smoking hot as you dippled and dappled in the other dished. My recommendation? Eat the other portions of the meal first before they go cold, then carefully work on the butter chicken.
The butter chicken was served with the Onion and Cilantro Naan which was probably one of the best naan I've ever had. The bread was light, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and seasoned so nicely that you could eat it with or without dipping it in to the butter chicken sauce.
I heard from other food bloggers that they were asked what heat temperature they preferred, unfortunately I wasn't asked. The standard order is made mild to medium, in order to please every palate (Westernized), which is okay if you don't like spice. I unfortunately like things spicy to the point that it makes you salivate but not past the point that there is no flavour. This definitely affected my overall thoughts on the meal and had it been made to my spice-preference I think I would've enjoyed it that much more.
All in all the package covered a variety of dishes highlighting what Palki has to offer. That said, I would've like to have seen less chicken and maybe some traditional Indian dishes included such as paneer, or dhall, but for a mere $14 it's still a steal of a deal.
So now you've read about the food, but you're probably still wondering what the heck a palki is anyway; I wondered the same thing. Luckily there was an explanation of it in the first page of the menu, which everyone at my table took a moment to read, with "so that's what it called" echoed around the table.
The Palki Passion package runs until June 11th but apparently they've already sold out! Have no fear as you can win a "pass" and maybe they'll open it up to more packages. Details can be found on VanEats.ca.
For a full set of my pictures click here.