- Subcontinental smorgasbord.
Kabab and Curry, the new Indian restaurant at the Market Place that offers both Southern and Northern specialties, is a bustling, non-fancy narrow storefront, decked out in 1950s-style red vinyl chairs and chrome tables. Its three waiters, hoisting aromatic dishes, quickly sidestep down its two narrow aisles like men on a mission, keeping up with seemingly never-ending stream of diners, including a number of east Indians. The crowd keeps them on their toes, and while our waiter was patient as we posed an endless stream of questions, his eyes and body language betrayed his ardent desire that we would get on with it so he could get to his other tables.
But how to know Indian food? It’s a complex cuisine from a complex continent, involving a multitude of spices and tastes and styles of preparation. Chutney. Curry. Yogurt. Nan. All that good stuff.
Mostly, all you really need to know is that Indian food is what people eat in heaven. But, if you’re a greenhorn like us, it’s our suggestion that you make things easier on your waiter and do as we did — just tell him you want to try one of the spicier Southern dishes, or the North’s tandoori and vegetable entrees, or both, and let him pick out his favorites for you.
We suggest this because you can hardly miss here and you will almost certainly return again and again, until you’re so familiar with the food that you can look piteously on those newcomers who don’t know Idly-squat. (Idly, by the way, are rice cakes, a Southern Indian specialty.)
By way of providing a rundown on what we ate, and a few definitions, we can smooth the way for your trip to Kabab and Curry. And so …
Gobi manchurian. This dish of marinated cauliflower buds fried and served in Manchurian sauce (ginger, tomato sauce, green chilis, soy sauce, onion, etc.) was one of the dishes the waiter ordered for us. He checked back to see how we liked it, and we liked it just fine, more than fine, excellent, in fact. He said he could live on it, he likes it so well, and for that reason his wife thinks he’s nutty. It’s a flavorful spicy dish, crunchy, a little oily. Different.
Papri chat. This Northern Indian go-before was a cool concoction of lentil dumplings, chickpeas and potatoes in yogurt blended with chutney. Dipped into the chat are what the menu calls “chips,” the papri of papri chat, which a little research tells us are fried slices of two kinds of flour spiced with cumin and turmeric and other good things.
Chicken vindaloo. We were on more familiar turf here, since we read lots of British mystery novels in which the victims are always grabbing Indian takeout on their way to their demise. This dish was knock-out, exclaim-out-loud delicious. The dish combines tender tasty chicken breast chunks cooked with onions and potatoes in a vindaloo sauce, a slightly sweet formulation that marries a multitude of spices — cumin, red chili peppers, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric … . You get the picture. Get the dish, too.
Sheekh kabab. This dish of spiced, ground lamb cooked on skewers was slightly dry, with a texture that suggested the lamb had been blended with pureed chickpeas or some other legume. But maybe not. The teen-ager in our party liked it, the adults’ reactions ranged from “good” to “pass me your plate if you’re done.”
Lamb curry. This is what this greenhorn ordered. Tender chunks of lamb swam in a hot curry sauce, which, while tasty, was not as thrilling as the vindaloo.
The nan — bread baked in the tandoor oven — came late to the table, but it was hot, with butter or oil on top, and terrific.
Our only criticism of Kabab and Curry was that the dishes skimped a little on the meat. We wanted more lamb and chicken, or else more nan, so we could soak up those delicious sauces.
The menu also includes paneer, a fresh cheese that is the Indian version of queso blanco and that is out of this world. The menu described it, however, as cottage cheese, and in our haste to keep our waiter from having a meltdown, we skipped it. We’ll try it next time.
Go early on weekend nights to avoid the rush. Lunches are served cafeteria style. “Dinner is better,” the waiter — and maybe the owner — whispered to us. He was right.
Kabab and Curry
11121 N. Rodney Parham
Two adults shared an appetizer, a bowl of chat and two entrees and that was the right amount, though we would have felt lighter if we hadn’t cleaned our plates. Our point: Go ahead and experiment.
Lunch buffet 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, dinner 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Kabab and Curry expects to serve wine and beer in a month. Moderate to expensive prices.