The last time I saw a menu with more than 75 items must have been at a chain diner. As I read the menu at Curri, I realized there is much more to it than simply cramming every dish under the sun into one place. Co-owner Varma Dhanalakoti and his wife Mani Deepa wanted to incorporate at least a few traditional dishes from each region of their native India, originally opening the restaurant with more than 100 choices. Their capacity to make everything in-house from scratch is certainly a departure from your average greasy spoon.
Nestled in a strip mall, the interior at Curri, which opened in March, is neat and uncomplicated. The point-of-sale system is handled entirely on the ubiquitous iPod touch, which is likely to save a few trees. High-backed cushy booths line the dining room. Manager Jahmal Jones explained that it was designed with the guest’s comfort in mind; the aim is to combine the cozy environment with the exposure to new flavors.
Perhaps that’s why we decided to amp up our spice level on the Chicken Chettinad ($14), when asked to choose on a scale of one to ten. “A ten will make you cry curry,” our server cautioned, but we persisted. Though it was intensely hot, the lip-tingling spice didn’t totally overwhelm the flavors of turmeric, coconut and coriander. Still, I was more comfortable with the “seven” we chose for the Aloo Vindaloo ($11), a red, saucy dish with potatoes and chiles. They won’t hesitate to make it seriously spicy, but if you prefer mild, just ask.
Most of the appetizer choices were deep-fried, but the variety was appealing. Favorites were the delicious Samosas ($4), a flaky triangular pastry stuffed with potatoes and peas, and the Sheek Kabab ($8), ground lamb in a sausage shape with a vibrant herb flavor. The crispy fried fresh cheese cubes known as Paneer 65 ($7) tasted a bit dry, though the generous coating of masala seasoning was pleasantly fragrant. We eventually polished them off, using them as a vehicle for the tasty mint and tamarind chutneys.
Next came the dosa. A southern Indian specialty, these are thin, cracker-like crepes made with rice flour and lentils. The Onion Dosa ($8) flowed off the plate, and might have been the most fun part of dinner. We tore pieces off and dipped in the trio of sauces, not knowing quite what to expect with each one. The ginger and green chili chutney provided some heat, later cooled by the sweet coconut chutney. The sambar, a type of lentil and tamarind vegetable soup, was best with pieces of dosa fashioned into a makeshift spoon. In the end, all that remained were some colorful red onion pieces that had been folded into the crepe. There are several distinct types of dosa on the menu – and I am told the Paper Dosa ($6) covers the table at nearly three feet long. No, I wouldn’t really call them frugal around here.
At the weekday lunch buffet, the spice level is generally tame. Well-known staples like Chicken Tikka Masala and Tandoori Chicken make regular appearances, though most other items change daily. There are always at least eight entrée options, half of them vegetarian.
There doesn’t seem to be much skimping with the bar selection either. Co-owner Ray Krause picked 21 of his favorite Scotch whiskies to round out the bar list. Also available are three lager style Indian beers, among others. I tried the Flying Horse ($8 for 22 ounces), which had a mild fruity sweetness and a crisp bite. Later, I sampled a classic mango lassi, a blended-to-order drink made with yogurt and, of course, mangoes. It could have been shaken with an ice cube or two, but the thick and lightly sweet beverage was perfect for the palate after the spice-charged entrees.
Even with such extensive offerings, some newly acquired regulars still request dishes that aren’t on the menu. The kitchen responds with every effort to cook them anyway. Based on the friendly service and eagerness to fulfill special requests, hospitality is key at Curri. While it’s not the only Indian restaurant in town, it’s the one where there’s quite literally something for everyone.
Curri is located at 1028 South 74th Plaza, near 74th and Pacific. Hours are Tues – Sun 11a.m. – 2:30p.m., Tues – Thurs and Sun 5p.m. – 9:30p.m. and Fri and Sat 5p.m. – 10p.m. Lunch buffet served weekdays, a la carte menu otherwise. Call 402.614.0009 or visit curri.biz for more information.