Tucked into the corner of Sula Indian Restaurant’s Main Street location during its soft opening earlier this week were two women of utmost importance to proprietors Sharath Vittal and Nitesh Shetty.
“They were here when we opened our Commercial Drive location 10 years ago, and they’re here tonight,” said Vittal.
It seems fitting. Sula’s Commercial Drive haunt always seemed underrated. Consistently pumping out innovative takes on classic dishes and having, for our money, the best naan bread in the city, it was at times overshadowed by some of the bigger names in town.
With the launch of its new Main Street locale, it’s safe to say those days are numbered. The pair’s latest venture sees the spot that used to house the Caribbean-centric Reef turned into a beautiful, modern interior that, while a move away from the more traditional setting of the Commercial Drive site, still pays homage to the duo’s roots.
In one of my first restaurant visits in over a month, the team at Sula made my partner and I feel comfortable with Plexiglas on all the tables and servers able to enunciate menu descriptions over their masks while distant.
The seafood-forward program (Vittal and Shetty grew up in Mangalore, an Indian port city) is loaded with hits, including Yetti Sukka (prawns cooked with chillies, tomato, lemon, tamarind and coconut), Marvai Gasi (mussels in a delicious coconut mustard curry) and Salmon Puli Munchi—an absolutely perfectly cooked salmon slathered with tamarind and chillies.
My vegetarian partner raved about the Mumbai Vada (deep-fried potato dumplings) and the Papdi Chaat (wafers topped with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, chaat masala and chutney). And, of course, both the spicy and regular naan on offer.
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The Adraki Lamb Chops were a standout as well—perfectly spiced in a cumin and coriander marinade.
The food is backed up by a top notch cocktail program delivered by consultant Jeff Savage, Canada's 100 Best Bartender of the Year 2020, who said he was moved by the vision of Vittal and Shetty.
To that end, Savage has concocted some gems that perfectly serve the fare, including a couple smart takes on the classic gin and tonic that help temper the spice of the eats, as well as the Kama Colada, an Indian twist on the Pina and the aptly named Spice Trade, a blend of maple and Indian whiskies featuring a bartending flex that is so well done I can’t possibly ruin it for you.
The highlight though? We both agreed: the Tandoori Portobello Mushroom. What a move it is to throw up a game-changing Indian take on the Portobello mushroom a few blocks away from Vij’s, where the eponymous chef made the delicacy Vancouver famous.
On the way out I jokingly made a reservation: 10 years from now, wherever the third place is. But I’ll be back many times before that.
Sula’s Main Street location opens This Friday (November 20) for eat-in and takeout. The heated patio will open in December, with brunch and happy hour options to follow.