Curry Leaf – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Curry Leaf North & South Indian Cuisine

Leonard: Is it racist that I took you to an Indian restaurant?
Priya: It’s okay, I like Indian food.
Leonard: Or as you probably call it back home, food.
~
Big Bang Theory (Season Four, Episode 18)

Queen Rania of Jordan cautioned against judging “through the prism of our own stereotypes.”  Ill-founded stereotypes were very much in evidence after my team successfully landed an especially challenging project at Intel…and as with most stereotypes, they were based on faulty assumptions, overarching generalization and lack of experience.  When we deliberated where to celebrate our achievement, my suggestion that our repast be held at an Indian restaurant was met with such comments as “Indian food is…too spicy, too rich, too much curry, too vegetarian” and worse, it “causes heartburn and (to put it mildly) gastric distress.”  Prying more deeply revealed only one of my colleagues had ever actually ever tried Indian food.

In truth, when it comes to Indian food, if we don’t subscribe to such stereotypes, even the most open-minded among us tend to generalize about it.  Much as we do with Italian food, we compartmentalize Indian food as either “Northern” or “Southern,” generalizations which are inaccurate and which don’t do justice to one of the world’s great cuisines.  India is a very diverse country in which practically every province boasts its own unique cuisine.  Culinary taxonomists tell us there are 38 major kinds of cuisine in India, but my friend Kishore tells me there are local variations from village to village.

The Lunch Buffet is Spectacular!

Still, when we found out about the Curry Leaf, an Indian restaurant which opened its doors in August, 2016, we were elated at the prospect of a restaurant purporting to feature both Northern Indian cuisine and Southern Indian cuisine as well as a number of Indo-Chinese options.  Generalization goes out the window when our minds’ eye pictured spicier, more piquant entrees, the type of which aren’t common in Albuquerque whose Indian restaurants tend to focus on Northern Indian cuisine.  Even more rare in the Duke City is Indo-Chinese cuisine, the Indian adaptation of Chinese cooking techniques and seasonings.  Not since Paddy Rawal’s OM Fine Indian Dining has Albuquerque been able to enjoy the preternatural fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisines.

With owner Narenda Kloty at the helm, Curry Leaf has the pedigree to succeed where other restaurants might fail if endeavoring such broad offerings.  Mr. Kloty is no stranger to the Land of Enchantment having previously owned and operated Albuquerque’s much-missed Bombay Grill as well as Santa Fe’s India Palace.  Until recently, he also owned a restaurant in Milpitas, California in the heart of Silicon Valley.  Today his sole focus is on Curry Leaf, a magnificent restaurant whose appeal to New Mexicans will grow as savvy diners discover flavor profiles very similar to our own beloved cuisine.  He is a peripatetic presence at his restaurant, a true gentleman whose goal it is to ensure all diners have a great experience at Curry Leaf.

A very inviting and attractive ambiance

Though sporting a Montgomery Boulevard address, Curry Leaf is recessed from the busy artery and isn’t easily visible until you turn into the retail development in which it sits.   Ironically, it’s situated next door to the familiar space which for nearly three-and-a-half decades housed the India Kitchen, Albuquerque’s very first Indian restaurant.  The Curry Leaf’s rather humble exterior belies an expansive and attractive dining room.  Visit for lunch and your immediate view as you walk in will be of burnished copper vessels in which the day’s buffet offerings are kept warm for you.  The wall art is not only visually spectacular, it’s thought-provoking.  An incomplete drawing of Buddha, for example, may have you contemplate that man, too, is a work in progress.

If you love buffets, this one is among the very best in the metropolitan area.  Quite simply, it offers entree quality offerings at value prices.  In fact, there are several items on the buffet this blogger already considers the best in the city (yes, even better than at the fabulous Namaste).  After my first two visits, I’ve accorded a rating of “23” for Curry Leaf, a rating heretofore not bestowed upon any buffet restaurant.  There’s little doubt that rating will increase when we order off the menu (which isn’t available during the lunch hour: 11:30AM to 2:30PM daily).

From the buffet: Chicken Tiki Masala, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Pakora, Tandoori Chicken

Ah, that menu!  It’s magnificent!  The appetizers section alone offers several items you won’t find at any Indian restaurant in the Albuquerque area–sumptuous starters such as chili paneer (cubed Indian cottage cheese sauteeed with onions and bell peppers in a spicy chili sauce) and chili chicken (marinated, batter-fried chicken sauteed with onions and bell peppers in a spicy chili sauce).  Homemade bread choices include not only naan of several types, but roti, kulcha and poori.  Tandoori specialties are absolutely the best in the area because the tandoor ovens burn charcoal.  The soups, several of which are available on the buffet, are wonderful (and will hopefully be entered into the Roadrunner Food Bank Souperbowl event in 2017).  Other menu categories warranting exploration are rice, chicken, lamb and goat, seafood, vegetable, dosa, Indo-Chinese and desserts.

Among the “best in the city” offerings at Curry Leaf are garlic naan, one of several homemade breads available.  The intense heat (approaching 900-degrees Fahrenheit) of the tandoori oven fired with charcoal imparts a magnificent flavor to what is probably my favorite form of bread (even over my mom’s flour tortillas)   Thin yet fluffy, the naan is amazing, inviting you to dip it into the tamarind chutney with its sweet, sour and just slightly piquant flavor or the raita, a yogurt-based sauce with a blend of spices.  Then there’s the mint chutney, an Indian “salsa” with an intensely fresh flavor.  It goes without saying that the naan is wonderful without amelioration, too.

Sambal

If asked what the national food of England is, you’d probably answer fish and chips or Yorkshire pudding and roast beef.  In 2001, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook British declared chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of the United Kingdom.  Restaurant-goers seem to agree as they’ve made it the most popular restaurant dish in the country.  Tikka, a Persian word for “bits and pieces” aptly describes the dish which showcases boneless chicken pieces in a creamy spiced tomato sauce.  Curry Leaf’s rendition is fantastic, so full-bodied, rich and delicious it warranted a second helping.  So did the Chicken Makhani, a dish sometimes called Indian butter chicken.  It’s a dish so good it should be registered as a repeat offender for deliciousness.

Ubiquitous in virtually every Indian restaurant’s buffet offering, tandoori chicken is a take-it-or-leave-it item for me, but not at Curry Leaf which serves the Duke City’s very best rendition.  What makes this chicken so much better than any other is the fact that the tandoor oven is heated with charcoal.  That charcoal penetrates deeply, imparting smoky sweetness to the chicken which is rendered a bright reddish-orange color by a spice blend that includes cayenne pepper, paprika and other spices.  The Colonel can have his blend of eleven herbs and spices.  This chicken is better than finger-licking good.

Garlic Naan

Regardless of culture, soup is one of the most gratifying dishes on the face of the Earth.  Indian soups are among the very best.  They’re diverse, healthful and delicious.  Curry Leaf includes at least two soups on the daily buffet.  You’ll be tempted to ferry the entire tureen of Madras Tomato Soup to your table though a ladle or two will have to do.  This tomato soup is made distinctive with the addition of coconut milk and spices.  This is unequivocally the very best tomato soup I’ve ever had.  Nearly as good is the Sambar, a vegetable soup with a piquant bite.  It’s fiery red in appearance with fresh vegetables for every spoonful.

Two other noteworthy buffet staples are the Saag Paneer and the Aloo Gobi.  Rumor has it that Popeye the sailor man emigrated to Indian when he heard about Saag Paneer, a rich, delicious dish of creamed spinach and cubes of soft farmer’s cheese.  If you’ve never enjoyed spinach, this dish will change your mind…and if there’s one vegetable even more reviled than spinach, it might be cauliflower.    Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower sauteed with chopped onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a rich blend of mostly seed-based seasonings) presents cauliflower in the most delicious manner you’ve ever experienced this cruciferous vegetable.  Those seasons render this dish pleasantly piquant and superbly flavored.

From the Buffet: Madras Tomato Soup, Aloo Gobi, Saag Paneer, Chicken Makhani, Tandoor Chicken

As wonderful as the buffet is, savvy diners should also visit Curry Leaf for dinner when the menu really opens up with spicy deliciousness unlike any you’ll experience in the Duke City.   Now, if only Curry Leaf offered breakfast…

Curry Leaf
6910 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 881-3663
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 9 October 2016
1ST VISIT: 1 October 2016
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Garlic Naan, Mango Lassi, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tiki Masala, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Pakora, Dosa

Curry Leaf Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

10 comments

  • BOTVOLR

    (This venue is used to make this note, simply as it is the first of several to pop up when ya hit “Indian” over on the Right.)

    For us who may hesitate dining “Indian”, here is a great guide from Thrillist: 9 Things That Make You Look Like an Idiot at an Indian Restaurant: http://tinyurl.com/kbnvk5h

    (Alas, Paddy’s Om ((still in SF as Raaga)) is sorely missed.)

    • Roberto

      You must have watched Live with Kelly today. She raved about her recent vacation in Santa Fe and about “a beautiful chef” who “has a place called Raaga.” According to Kelly, “16 years ago he came to our country with $100 in his pocket. He built an empire. He was on the tv show “Chopped,” he has worked for general motors. He is one of these guys that is just a go-getter. And I swear he was giving me a motivational speech as I was sitting there eating, just eating.”

  • We were at the audio place next door and saw the sign with the Northern and Southern designation — taking it as a good indication the food wouldn’t be generic. An evening buffet was set up, but we went for the menu. Must say this was the best Indian I’ve had since London. An artist at work in the kitchen. We had the Lamb Vindaloo, Bhindi Masala (they put OKRA in all caps on the menu … no need for the warning!) and the Chicken Manchurian appetizer. All outstanding. Lamb meat is usually on the cheap side in Indian restaurants, but it was superb-tender here. The dark brown sauce on the Chicken Manchurian meatballs had us greedily sopping up the remains with the garlic naan. Spices deft, distinct and engaging on all dishes. Service was good — drinks refilled repeatedly before they went dry. A bit pricey, but worth every penny. I’d be astounded if this was not the best Indian in town.

  • Sarita

    So after reading your review I rounded up a couple of my Indian-food-loving friends to try out this place for dinner. Seeing the busy parking lot seemed to confirm what you said about its deliciousness. And boy, were you ever right! We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals. For some reason we were all in the mood for lamb. The tikka masala was tasty. The vindaloo, while delicious, could’ve stood to be a level or two hotter, but now we know for future visits. I know what I’m getting the next time I return: The keema dosa. It’s an Indian crepe filled with ground lamb. My friend’s complaint about the dosa, if you can call it a complaint, was that it didn’t leave him much room to enjoy as much garlic naan as he usually does.

    Oh, that dosa! I thought about the sampling I got for days. So you are correct, Gil, when you say that the dinner menu opens up with even more deliciousness. It’s a good thing this place isn’t closer to Rio Rancho, or the folks at Namaste would have something to worry about!

  • Sr Plata

    So, after reading Sensei”s review of Curry Leaf, I had to make my trek with the Man himself this week and I have to say it could be one of my favorite Indian Buffets (watch out Namaste!). ‘Garlic Naan’, need I say more, could Lipitor work any harder with all that delicious but mixed with plenty of Garlic (not overwhelming.) My next favorite, if you can believe it is the ‘Vegetable Pakora’, unbelievably good; floured and fried lightly so it has a great taste (not too hard or crunchy as are some other places. The Tandoor Chicken seemed to be cooked and taken care of with kid gloves, tasted uncalled, actually everything is ‘Upscaled’. ‘Saag Paneer’ tasted very fresh and was very very good. I even tried the extremely fresh salad vegetables which I normally wouldn’t since I go for the biggest for the buck but it looked and tasted wonderful. A Chai Tee was a great finish to a great meal as I tasted many other items, had a 2nd plate and will make it a point to return. Oh, they might have Goat tomorrow (Saturday), give them a call at 11;30am to find out…

  • Most certainly will try on next trip to Albuquerque.
    However, please try Paper Dosa in Santa Fe. It is fabulous &
    more than worth the trip. Open Weds thru Sunday, 5:30 to
    9 or so. The web site is paperdosa.com
    Susan McMurray
    Santa Fe NM

    • Thank you, Susan. Narenda Kloty, the owner of Curry Leaf, speaks very highly of Paper Dosa. With two sage recommendations, it’s vaulted near the top of our “must try soon” list.

      Gil

  • Mary Kroner

    I was just about to e-mail you about this place.
    Today I tried the lunch buffet for the second time and for the second time I was absolutely blown away by all the deliciousness.
    Everything I have tasted at the Curry Leaf has been just wonderful. I could eat the coconut chutney by itself by the bowlful, I think, but it’s even better with the idli, lovely light discs of slightly fermented cooked rice, and that great sambal. I too eagerly anticipate ordering from the menu.

  • Sandy Driscoll

    I enjoyed your review, Gil! Everything about this restaurant reminds me of an Indian restaurant in my Silver Lake neighborhood of LA. It’s tucked in a nondescript shopping mall with signs on the windows touting their buffet. Indian food works very well at buffets because of all the long-cooked sauces and meats. I find that most Indian restaurants have owners who are omni-present and very thoughtful and kind toward their customers. Inside, tables are often set with white table cloths, wine is served and the food presented beautifully. (Loved your colorful photos, too!) Family members often wait tables and they make no secret of the fact that they want you to love and enjoy their food. You ordered everything I would have ordered, and the garlic naan and raita is always a must! You would enjoy my neighborhood restaurant, too! http://www.indiasrestaurant.net/ Thanks for your lovely review and for reminding me that it’s been much too long since I’ve had Indian cuisine!

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