There are few places that instantly make you feel special. Tonka, formally Honky Tonks, is one of them. The moment you walk in you know this place is different. The staff are warm yet professional and the room is beautiful, accented by the twirling white installation hanging from the roof. And, to top it off, there is the knowledge that Adam D'Sylva — of Coda fame — is running the kitchen. Follow the flashing neon sign to the very end of Duckboard Place off Flinders Lane, and you'll find your way.
Just like executive chef Adam D'Sylva's heritage, the food at Tonka is Indian. Michael Smith (ex head chef at Jacques Reymond) joins the kitchen team, as well as Sous Chef Ved Navghare who worked along side D'Sylva at Coda. With a serious amount of talent on board, the crew are working with two tandoor ovens to bring us inspired Indian cuisine.
Start with a crisp pocket of spiced potato, mung beans, date and tamarind chutney complete with a jar of 'aromatic water' which is heavily spiced with coriander ($4.50 each). Other good starter include the morish soft shell crab pakora with cucumber, melon, chilli and mint ($8.50 each) and Kakori lamb kebab from the tandoor served with baby iceberg and minted yoghurt ($8 each). Move to the larger dishes like the tender Avani's lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds ($38), or the light John Dory and king brown mushroom laksa with snowpea tendril salad ($38). For something that packs a bit of heat try the chicken biryani with Sella rice, saffron and cassia ($19.00).
For dessert the roasted banana parfait, salted caramel, chocolate mousse and caramelised popcorn ($17) will satisfy any sweet craving, while the buttermilk pannacotta, poached quince, cashew crumb and honey ice ($16) is a textural experience in itself.
The wine list, curated by Travis Howe, presents interesting wines with accessibility front of mind. The staff know their list and can recommend something regardless of your palate. Start with a Rizzardi Prosecco Brut Extra Dry from Italy ($10 glass) or, for something French, try the Jacquesson 'Cuvee 735' NV Champagne ($23 lass). Whites start with the Donnhoff 'Tonschiefer' Dry Riesling from Nahe, Germany ($14 glass) and end with a Sommeliers Choice (MP) if deciding is too much. You can take that same path for a red wine, or choose a Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Sangiovese from Tuscany ($18 glass). The extensive by the bottle list is bound to satisfy any wine drinker.
It's approachable, fine dining if we've ever seen it. Go, make an occasion of it and drink it all in at Tonka.
Images: Brook James.