Palki Restaurant has been doing brisk business for the past 14 years, having opened their doors back in 2000. It’s taken us a while to get out there though since Palki is in North Van which is a bit of a trek from Burnaby. Palki invited us to North Vancouver to sample their freshly updated menu, which had a Valentine’s Day overhaul this year.
My buddy Pandesally and I made the journey to sample some of their “Best Indian Cuisine” as the name suggests. The name also evokes love and tradition, as a palki is a traditional Indian wedding “carriage”, kind of a litter used to transport the bride.
We parked half a block away and the spicy aromas wafting from Palki caught our noses immediately, beckoning us inside. The restaurant was fairly busy, including some large groups that arrived later. Palki’s seems to be a hit with the locals, and you should probably book reservations especially on holidays. Their interior had a modern feel thanks to some beautiful renovations done a little over a year ago.
Palki specializes in North Indian dishes, but their menu also contains coastal dishes and dishes with Afghani, Persian, and even Portuguese influences. Their menu also has a beef section, which you don’t always see in local Indian restaurants.
We started with drinks. Pandesally had an Indian beer ($5.25) and I had a Salted Lassi ($3.50). Palki changes their import beer selection based on availability, and Kingfisher Lager was their selection of the day. Pandesally ordered a second so I will safely assume he enjoyed it.
My savoury Salted Lassi drink may be a bit more of an acquired taste. In my opinion it’s just salty enough to remain refreshing, but some may find it “weird” as I can’t think of a Western equivalent. It’s sprinkled with cumin for added flavour and the yogurt based drink made a wonderfully cool accompaniment to the spicy dishes. Oh, and they make their own yogurt from low-fat milk! Love it.
The Papadum/Lentil Wafers ($1.50) were a bit too salty for my tastes, but I appreciated the mint chutney and tamarind dipping sauces. I usually don’t care much for these tamarind based samosa dipping sauces, however for some reason I couldn’t get enough of this one. I’m honestly not sure what was different about it, just that I liked it. You can also order Mango Chutney for $1.95 extra to go with any of your dishes.
This is Palki’s Mixed Platter ($11) which serves two with a mix of veggie samosa, veggie pakora, and chicken pakora. The samosas had a very homemade taste and feel to them, with large chunks of potato inside and an intoxicating spice blend. They were not overly oily, just enough to make them satisfying.
Pakoras are something else I don’t normally make a fuss over, finding them oftentimes dry and bland. Palki’s version again had some je ne sais quoi to it besides being moister than average. I especially liked the chicken breast pieces, which are deep-fried in chickpea batter.
The Tandoori Naan ($1.95) is, you guessed it, baked in their traditional Tandoor oven, pictured above. It came out light and fluffy and browned to perfection with no charred bits. You can also order this whole wheat Roti style.
…And the naan came in handy for mopping up the sauce from these Curried Mussels ($12.95). I had never tried Indian-style mussels before, and unfortunately I can’t say I was really wowed by them. The curry was tomato-ey and made to the medium spice level that we specified, with whole chickpeas and some cilantro. The sauce was quite thick. There was nothing wrong with this dish, it was just missing the “wow” factor that you get when mussels are done right.
The Coconut Rice ($6.95) may seem a bit pricey on the menu, but Palki Restaurant gives you a good portion for your money. They also one-up most restaurants that serve this by adding mustard seeds, shaved coconut, and fresh cilantro.
I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to order beef in an Indian restaurant, so I swapped my stand-by fave chicken korma for a beef version. Palki’s Beef Korma ($12.95) had a delicious cashew and onion sauce which we ordered in a mild version, but the cubed beef was overly dry and I didn’t enjoy the texture. I ended up wishing I had stuck with the usual.
I appreciated the entire Lamb Pasanda/Lamb Cilantro ($12.95) dish however. The boneless lamb is cooked in a tomato, onion, yogurt, and cilantro curry. I’m glad I ordered this one at the hot spice-level; it had a nice slow burn to it that was washed down well with the last of my lassi. The meat was tender and juicy and the whole shebang was bang-on. Both curries came in the Indian-style hot pot with flames underneath to keep things bubbling.
We barely had room for dessert, but were intrigued by the Kashmiri Naan ($4) with its dried fruit and minced nut stuffing. Including cashew, dried plum, raisins and more, this was like an otherworldly PB & J. It was a huge hit with both of us and is a definite must-try menu item here. Not overwhelmingly sweet either.
A couple other notes: Palki offers an extensive vegetarian selection which we sadly didn’t have room to delve into, a lunch buffet, and delivery to North and West Vancouver.
Overall I enjoyed the experience Palki offers, from the namesake love and tradition reflected in the food to the decor and atmosphere afforded by their renovations. I also found their prices reasonable. While Palki Restaurant is inarguably a cut above your average Surrey curry shack, there were a couple of misses in my books. However as with our meal at Poncho’s Mexican Restaurant, Pandesally would beg to differ, having thoroughly enjoyed everything that was on offer.
Disclaimer: This meal was provided free of charge for review purposes.