Accessible Indian-inspired cuisine with a fine dining twist.
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 dining room is beautiful, accented by a twirling white installation hanging from the roof. Follow the flashing neon sign to the very end of Duckboard Place off Flinders Lane, and you'll find your way.
Start your Indian feast 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. Other good starters include the Crystal Bay prawn mollee with smoked Yarra Valley caviar and the tandoor paneer tikka with pineapple chutney and cos.
Move to the larger dishes like the tender Avani's lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds, or the nigiri vegetable curry with seasonal pickled vegetables. For something that packs a bit of heat try Tonka's chicken biryani with Sella rice, saffron and cassia.
For dessert, the chocolate and caramel mouse with spiced pear compote is a standout, while the mango lassi ice-cream sandwich with a caramel spiced brownie is a textural experience in itself.
Tonka's wine list also presents interesting wines with accessibility front of mind. The staff know their list and can recommend something regardless of your palate. There are also cocktails which take classics such as old-fashioneds and margaritas and give them an Indian twist — thoughtfully using aromatics and herbs. The rum mango lassi really needs to be ordered as well.
It's approachable, fine dining if we've ever seen it. Go make an occasion of the whole experience, drinking it all in at Tonka.
Images: Brook James.
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