Authentic Indian cuisine in the heart of old Victoria
You might just walk past India Curry House and not even realize it. Tucked away at the back of a historic building on lower Fort Street, only a sandwich board lures passers-by. Those who venture in will find this small restaurant inviting, the air thick with exotic and delicious aromas.
They’re located close to my place of work, and I have been in for lunch twice now. The first occasion was when I was welcoming a new staff member and his family to the island, who were fresh off a plane and hungry, and they requested Indian. Having heard good word-of-mouth reviews of India Curry House, we decided to take a look at their menu. Although they boast a nice menu for dinner, they offer only buffet at lunch. Not usually much of a buffet diner myself, I was skeptical that first time. Since my new coworker (who is also Indian) was willing to try it, I figured I was in good company.
We were greeted warmly upon entering, and seated at one of only a handful of tables. The buffet sits in an L formation in the lower part of the room, with the long line featuring hot items and salad & desert in the short part. A pot-bellied stockpot also offered soup (rasam this day) in the centre. The hot items consisted of rice pilaf, naan, butter chicken, goat curry, and several dahl. I tried a little of each one, and found them to be a bit spicier than most Indian restaurants offer – something I enjoy – but not so spicy as to be a deterrent to most diners. The goat curry was particularly rich and delicious, as were all of the dahl (today’s selections were lentil, potato & cauliflower, and mixed curry). Butter chicken is one of my favorites, and something I often make at home; their version is thinner than I am accustomed to, but with good flavour and generous hunks of chicken. My tablemates ate eagerly, and voiced an equal appreciation for the food. Several of our party ordered Mango Lassis as a tasty accompaniment to their meals.
My next visit came a couple of weeks later. I was gratified to find that the selection of entrees is rotated nicely, so that a frequent diner wouldn’t find it too repetitive an experience. Another common deterrent of the buffet experience is food that is less than fresh, or conversely (although equally off-putting) a lack of food choices due to infrequent replenishing. It’s a delicate balance, and one many otherwise excellent eateries fail to perfect. When we arrived this day, there were several chafing dishes that were either completely empty or left with only picked-over dredges at the bottom. I steeled myself for what I thought would be inevitable disappointment, but was happily surprised to find wait staff refilling the food immediately after our arrival. Our server even brought a basket of fresh from the oven Naan directly to our table, having noticed we had none when we sat down. We ate with gusto and appreciation, and even left room to sample the desert this day. Ever the critic, I was sure the solitary bowl of what looked like rice pudding was a throw-away. Instead, I found myself savouring the Rava Kesari (a semolina-based pudding rich with sliced almonds) down to the last spoonful. The owner earnestly enquired about our meal at the till, and seemed to genuinely appreciate our compliments. When he invited us back again soon, I could honestly say “absolutely!” And at $12 a person for as much as you can eat, it’s not much of a guilty pleasure.
Here is my “cheater” recipe for quick & easy Butter Chicken at home:
1 packet “Asian Home Gourmet” Indian Butter Chicken spice paste**
1 lb chicken breast, cubed
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 small potato, finely diced*
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 cup plain yoghurt (I find 5% MF works best)*
3 tbsp butter
1. Heat butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add potatoes and saute on medium-high until slightly browned.
2. Add onions and saute until they are translucent. Turn heat down to medium.
3. Stir in spice paste & tomato puree, stir until mixed.
4. Add yoghurt and heat mixture thoroughly.
5. Add chicken, stir well and cook 10-15 minutes or until meat is cooked through.
6. Serve with basmati rice & Naan.
* The recipe on the packet calls for Heavy Cream, but not only does substituting potato & yoghurt save on fat, I prefer the tangy taste it imparts.
** Asian Home Gourmet spice packets come in a wide range of flavors that make cooking dishes from India, China, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand easy. While nothing beats preparing seasonings from scratch, I have found this brand to be the best on the market. I have tried the Red & Green Thai Curry,Thai Spicy Basil Stirfry, Schezuan Dry Chilli Ginger Garlic Stirfry, and Vietnamese Lemongrass packets and enjoyed them.