Wednesday, 11 September 2013


20 Duckboard Pl Melbourne

After attending the Langtons classification tasting at Fed Square (where the Chris Ringland Shiraz put Grange, Hill of Grace, Runrig and Australis in their place), we were looking for something nearby to soak up the sizeable amount of quality alcohol we had consumed.

Tonka has been one of the most talked about restaurants in recent times given its a spin off the wildly successful Coda.  Located at the end of Duckboard Pl, I would say that if it didn't have the Coda cachet, that this would be a sure fire dead zone for a higher end restuarant.  But social media and word of mouth are a powerful thing, and Tonka has managed to align cheap rent with being a destinational restaurant.

Not your typical fine dining surroundings...

Surprisingly this doorway leads to...

This (sorry for the picture quality)
Anyway, we were seated quickly and perused the well documented Indian inspired fare.  Service is good and personable and I have to say that once you walk through the long corridor that the view over federation square is highly unexpected and a nice surprise.

Wanting to counter the effects of too much heavy wine we went for the following:

Heart of palm, cucumber, pickled ginger, mint
This missus is Brazilian, so heart of palm ('palmito') is a favourite.  She rated this very highly given the bright fresh flavours and simplicity.  

Chicken Biryani with sella rice, saffron and cassis
The first of 2 dishes that set the taste buds on fire without warning.  High quality ingredients but the spice was so overpowering that any positives were lost in the need to get a jug of water.

Rajasthani duck, cucumber, mint and buffalo milk curd
The second course in the set your hair on fire degustation.  I don't mind spice, it's a hugely important dimension in Indian, Malaysian and Chinese cuisine, however I believe that punters should be warned if it is reasonably likely to require you to go to the bathroom and dunk you head in the sink.  Again, the duck was well cooked, it fell off the bone, and the ingredients were well sourced and represented, however the spice killed it.  

Avani's lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds
This was the only main course that had the spice equation sorted.  We had this with a side of naan and it was by far the best course of the night.  Beautifully tender lamb complemented by traditional coconut and cardamom flavours.

All in all, Tonka partially deserves the buzz.  It's in an unusual location, the views are stunning, staff personable and high end Indian is a new market in Melbourne.  However given that spice is an integral part of the cuisine, I would either expect that it is more balanced or that punters are warned of the heat that is coming their way.

Tonka on Urbanspoon

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