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.
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.
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 off-the-menu entree quality offerings at buffet 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 accorded a rating of “23” for Curry Leaf, a rating heretofore not bestowed upon any buffet restaurant. As expected, that rating increased when we got to order off the menu (which isn’t available during the lunch hour: 11:30AM to 2:30PM daily).
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.
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.
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.
11 July 2020: My friend Schuyler likes to use the term “special kind of stupid” to describe behaviors that he considers beyond comprehension. Normally he reserves the term for drivers who lack the manual dexterity to use turn signals, but he’d probably also use it to describe such behaviors as dining on a restaurant patio on the record-breaking hottest day of the year. In our defense, Curry Leaf has a delightful shaded Dude-friendly patio and finally, I could order off-the menu (a concession the restaurant made during the Covid lockdown).
Curry Leaf still offers buffet dining, but diners are no longer allowed to waddle on over multiple times to the buffet table to serve themselves. Instead, buffet-goers are given a gleaming cafeteria-style metal tray and the amiable wait staff will make repeated visits to your table to fill every compartment on that tray. For my Kim, our server could have deposited a coop’s bounty of tandoori chicken and a few pieces of garlic naan and she would have been very happy. Your adventurous blogger was happy studying the menu in search of items I’d never before had.
11 July 2020: There are a number of such items on the appetizer menu including several Indo-Chinese options. After much deliberation and consultation with our server, I opted for the chilli chicken (marinated batter fried chicken sautéed with onions and bell peppers in a spicy chilli sauce). Popularly known as “desi chicken,” this distinctively bold, spicy and pungent appetizer is is made with lightly battered crispy chicken chunks lightly tossed in a spicy chilli (SIC) sauce. We discerned soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chilli, but there could have been other ingredients. At any regard, it’s the type of dish heat lovers will enjoy most, especially if they don’t necessarily want the sweet and sour elements so common with Chinese food.
11 July 2020: From a flavor perspective, my entree, the malai kofta (vegetable and cheese ball cooked in mild creamy sauce with cashews, almonds and raisins) was in diametric opposition to the piquant chilli chicken. The chilli chicken can peel the enamel off your teeth with its heat, while the malai kofta will make sweet, mellow love to your taste buds. What I found most intriguing about this dish is that all my previous experiences with kofta have been with minced or ground meat orbs mixed with spices or onions. Malai kofta is a vegetarian entree showcasing paneer and potato balls in a rich, creamy sauce. It’s one of the few vegetarian curries in Indian cuisine. It’s one I’ll have again.
11 July 2020: Curry Leaf’s homemade breads menu lists not only five types of naan, but roti, kulcha, poori and paratha, too. Everyone who loves Indian breads will be hard-pressed to decide just which one to enjoy. My current affections are directed at keema naan (freshly baked white wheat bread with delicately spiced ground lamb). Because the lamb is cooked with aromatics and Indian spices, those flavors are imparted to the naan. From among the chutneys with which you can pair keema, the raita (a classic Indian yogurt sauce) seems to work best.
As wonderful as the buffet is, savvy diners should also order off Curry Leaf’s menu which really opens up with spicy deliciousness unlike any you’ll experience in the Duke City. Now, if only Curry Leaf offered breakfast…
6910 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 July 2020
1ST VISIT: 1 October 2016
# OF VISITS: 4
BEST BET: Garlic Naan, Mango Lassi, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tiki Masala, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Pakora, Dosa, Chilli Chicken, Malai Kofta
21 thoughts on “Curry Leaf – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
“This is the best Indian buffet I have ever had. The saag is out of this world.” Spoken by my dining companion as he was polishing off his 2nd plate from the Curry Leaf buffet on our inaugural visit. His opinion is only slightly tainted by the fact that he was underwhelmed by the (heavenly) dosas, proclaiming the garlic naan to be far superior. 😉 Admittedly, it was a treat that the naan was served piece by piece on demand, not left to dry out on a steam table. But so were the dosas! Both very hot, fresh and tasty. The dosas especially worked well for sampling the various delicious chutneys on offer, and both breads came in handy for scooping up savory saag, korma and makhani. The buffet was a standard mix of mostly chicken and vegetable dishes (previously mentioned sauces as well as aloo gobi, channa masala, and a couple of aromatic soups new to me.) With the exception of the undercooked tandoori chicken everything was prepared excellently. The rice (basmati) was more moist and of a higher quality than I normally find in buffets, and I was happy to see gulab jamun as a sweet offering. (I like saying “gulab jamun” almost as much as I like eating it.) Although I also sampled the buffet, several tables around me ordered from the menu and I am anxious to return and do the same next time. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had read that the buffet was pricier than other restaurants, but I didn’t find it to be that much more. The overall quality and peaceful ambience of the Curry Leaf definitely outweighs the extra dollar or two. Not to mention the naan and dosa, fresh from the oven to your table. But I had to.
Curry Leaf is great, much better than Namaste, last time there we got food poisoning.
Behold the dosa! I had this last night with the lamb tikka masala instead of the garlic naan, which I usually have. While I agree with Gil’s assessment of Curry Leaf’s garlic naan, I didn’t miss it at all.
Is it possible something could be as good or better than chicken fried steak and pancakes, a shocking theory. I may have to go with Sensei and check it out…
What are dosas? Thanks…
Hi Sr Plata,
A dosa is a kind of very thin pancake make from a fermented batter of rice and lentils. The dosas can be filled with all sorts of things, but a potato curry dosa (masala dosa) is the most popular. I am going to be learning how to make dosas in June. I love them because they taste good, they have a crispy texture, and are gluten free. Here is a link to wiki which offers a great overview:
BTW, idlis are make from the same batter, but are little round “cakes,” that are popular for breakfast eaten with some sambar (lentil and vegetable soup).
Ohhhh, Sr. Plata, are you ever in for a treat! Dosas are delightful! You know how you always want pancakes with your chicken fried steak? Well, this is how you’ll feel about dosas with Indian food. I didn’t know Curry Leaf offered dosas with their buffet; that’s good to know. I’ve only gone for dinner. I haven’t had the masala dosa that Alonna mentioned, but the keema (lamb) dosa is to die for!
One of my favorite restaurants in ABQ! My husband and I were here for lunch buffet a couple of weeks ago and I discovered that you can ask for a dosa in addition to naan, to go with your meal. I love dosas!
Hi Alonna, evidently you’re not the only one crazy about dosa. Here’s a Youtube link demonstrating how to make dosas by Ruchi Bharani. The video has over two million views!
Alonna, I’ve been offered a plain dosa with the lunch buffet in the 10+ times I’ve dined here since ’18. I don’t know what happened with you.
(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.)
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.
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!
Nameste is one of the worst restaurants I have ever Dora’s. I wish someone would tell them what a disservice to Indian cuisine! Sadly! I love curry leaf, the garlic Naan and off course the Dosas.
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
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.
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.
Whoops. It’s after midnight. I meant yesterday.
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!