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SD Dish of the Month - October 2013 [Curry]

So why curry, you ask? Well, first of all, many people think there’s not much in the way of Indian food of note here in SD. But wait... perhaps there’s something unique, modern, and/or fresh floating around out there. Or some well-done classic dishes. Time for another try?

Also, of course, there’s a lot more to be had than Indian curry dishes, such as those from Africa, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. And the namesake “spice” itself, being a mix, has an essentially infinite range of variations.

My own game plan for the month is to try at least one curry dish that I haven’t had before, or if not that, then at least to have a familiar curry dish somewhere I haven’t been before. Or if not even that, then at the very least, to have a familiar dish at a place I haven’t been to in a long time.

Happy October to all!

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  1. I LOVE curry. Excellent choice. Fakey, Thai curries are one of the few dishes I will allow peas to be present.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dagney

      Yeah, we need to give peas a chance...

    2. I'd like to find some good Sri Lankin or Southern Indian sans the peas tripeler.

      1. I hope we get to refer to it as "a" curry.

        As in popped in for a curry.

        Stopped by for a takeaway curry.

        Hey- come on by and we'll go out for a curry.

        I'd never stand on line for a curry.

        I'd like to go there for a curry, but it's too loud.

        Let's get a Craft Beer and a curry.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Fake Name

          Yes, the term curry refers to a mix of spices that vary by region. Now craft beer, well that's an animal of another kind.

          1. re: Fake Name

            Sure. That's the way I'd say it, when speaking in general terms. Kind of the same as saying "I popped in for a burger", or "I'd never stand in line for a doughnut".

            Unless I had a specific dish in mind, in which case I'd say something like "I'm going to go over to Sab-E-Lee and have the red curry with chicken". (Which, by the way, is one of my favorites there. Yum.)

            Well, whatever. No rules on that.

          2. I popped in for a curry at Flavors of East Africa, an unpretentious small restaurant next door to Pomegranate on El Cajon. I’d been wanting to try this place for some time but never seemed to get to it, and curry seemed like as good a reason as any. They offer both chicken and lamb curry, and I opted for the lamb. Two side dishes come with the plate, and I ordered Sukuma wiki (collard greens) and ugali (corn mash). The server suggested a spicy ginger/herb/pineapple drink, which went well with the meal.

            The lamb was wonderfully tender, and pretty much fell off the few small bones in the generous portion. I think the meat had been slow-cooked with a mild curry. It came to the table plain, with just a faint yellow color. Very good. The finely chopped collard greens had been sautéed in a somewhat more pungent curry oil, and were a nice compliment to the lamb. The two curries didn’t compete. The ugali, which resembles grits in flavor and texture, but is stiff enough to make cutting with a knife the easiest way to eat it, gave balance. I added a few squirts of the Rwanda yellow chili oil (which looked deadly in the eyedropper-size container on the table -- had to try it) to the ugali, to “kick it up” a bit.

            A satisfying and flavorful, if simple, meal. I will most certainly go back.

            1. I went over to World Curry on Garnet this afternoon. This is another plain, unpretentious restaurant --and pure PB by my way of thinking. I had the chicken phall, an English dish, which is shredded chicken in a very flavorful, heavy, hot curry sauce. It had the unmistakable tropical fruitiness that comes from orange habaneros, although these and the other chilies must have been pureed (or perhaps powdered forms were used) because there were no visible pieces. It was very good, and came with a small, simple side salad consisting of chopped greens and cabbage, somewhat akin to a Spanish slaw. And rice, of course.

              I can definitely recommend this dish to those who appreciate the wonderful world of chili flavors that accompany intensely hot food, something that can’t be had any other way. This curry is a 10 on my personal hotness scale -- and I didn’t have to ask.

              The on-tap Ballast Point ale was very reasonably priced, as was the curry, and together they made my day.

              1. Pretty lonely on this thread.

                [Dictator yells "hello" and hears nothing but lots of echos...]

                Here we are half-way through October and only one person has posted about having had this month's "dish of the month". (That would be me.)

                Did I piss off the local Indian-food loving population with my initial comments? Is this too pedestrian of a dish? Is anyone there?

                [Dictator shouts hello again. Echos reverberate again...]

                6 Replies
                1. re: DoctorChow

                  Sorry DC. I can only speak for myself, and I am just not a curry fan.

                  1. re: DoctorChow

                    I don't dislike curry, but it's not something I actively seek out. It just doesn't float my boat

                      1. re: pine time

                        Concur..love curry and when I make it at home, I must admit, I rock in the curry department.

                        Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas is an exception.

                      2. re: DoctorChow

                        I made a "roast chicken with banana curry" dish I found on the web somewhere a couple weeks ago. The kids liked it alright, so I may do it again.

                        1. re: The Office Goat

                          Okay, now I got a restaurant curry in my count for the month:

                          Amarin Thai's Salmon Panang Curry (heat level "3" -- more like 0) to go.

                          Not bad (I got it because it was a safe bet the kids would eat it, too) although they could have given us a bit more rice with it.

                      3. Kari Ga- Chicken curry, Vietnamese.

                        At Pho Xpress, near Kaiser Hospital. It was very good, but my favorite Vietnamese curry is from the shop attached to Lucky Seafood Market.

                        1. I've had three curries in the past week, but all at home.

                          I did have Japanese curry sauce on a "Loco Moco" at Fathom Bistro.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: The Office Goat

                              Fathom is a great little spot. Note that the Loco Moco is only on their weekend brunch menu.

                              Loco Moco purists would probably turn their noses up at this one, but I found it quite tasty.

                          1. Does anyone know of a place with a good Japanese katsu curry? It's not easy to find it on a menu. I've had it at Tajima on Convoy, Kayaba inside Mituswa, and Niban on Claremont Mesa, but they all have flaws. The Tajima version is probably the best of those. Recently saw it on the menu at Ramen Yamadaya, but they couldn't make it because their deep fryer was broken.

                            Any other sightings?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ponder99

                              Izakaya Sakura has it normally on their lunch menu and it was good.

                              1. re: Ponder99

                                years and years ago I used to go to Chopstix on Convoy. When I had recently had katsu at Tajima it reminded me of Chopstix. Not very helpful for you I guess, but just adding it into the mix.

                              2. As is well-known and well-documented here on the old ChowHound, I don't know nuthin bout no food. And I continue to proclaim my ignorance about Indian food.


                                I've been enjoying the delivery service of KASI recently. I've had the Chicken Tikka Masala, the Chicken Curry, the Chicken Saag, the Saag Paneer and the Daal.

                                I enjoyed each dish [because I'm ignorant]
                                I'll order again [because I'm lazy]

                                Courteous on the phone, fairly prompt delivery (a little delayed during rush times) but I like it.

                                So there.

                                PS: I think I'll order again tonight...

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  I went to Kasi for the first time today. The one is Hillcrest. Biggest negative--parking. I know they do delivery so I will try that next time. Obviously, the atmosphere is pretty basic, but that is not the pint of this place. I had Chicken Tikka Masala and Aloo Gobi. Nice serving size for the combo plate and a great price. Tasty Chicken Tikka though I like mine hotter. My real reason for going there was that I saw Aloo Gobi on the menu. I did like it although the gobi was a bit overcooked and soft for me. Nonetheless, I will order again, given the free delivery (within two miles of the store).

                                  1. re: wrldtrvl

                                    Funny- I ordered the Chicken Curry and Aloo last night. Same experience- pretty good, enjoyable, and with delivery as a factor, GREAT!

                                    The Family Special is $19.95 for two entrees, rice, and naan.

                                  2. re: Fake Name

                                    Excellent recommendation, Sir Name. It made my night.


                                  3. Hey, I'm glad I shook the tree a little! It's good to see some posts to our DotM thread. All have been welcome.

                                    1. We tried the Goat Curry at Eight Elements in Mira Mesa and it was quite good. Newish place in the same strip mall as Pho Cow Cali, there is also a newer Indian grocery in the same center. Curry was well balanced, goat was tender and we asked for hot and it had some heat. Also tried the Biryani, a Jerra Palak Paneer and some Naan. All in all pretty good. The Biranyi was not as good as the early Copper Chiminy truck version but was pretty solid.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: stevuchan

                                        How did the dishes compare to Punjabi Tandoor (did you also have the goat curry at PT) ?

                                        1. re: honkman

                                          I have not tried the goat curry at Punjabi Tandor, but have tried many other dishes there and would say they are comparable in quality for a n=1 comparison. I will be headed back to Eight Elements and up sample population. I will also try the goat curry at PT.

                                        2. re: stevuchan

                                          The goat curry at Taste Of The Himalayas on Midway is quite good. It's not always on the dinner menu but shows up regularly as the lunch special. Good naan as well.

                                        3. I was intrigued by DaveMP’s comment (on another thread) about Goan-style fish curry being available at Monsoon, and so I headed downtown to check it out. I’d not previously been to Monsoon, but have been to a sister restaurant -- Bombay in Hillcrest. Although I’m not very impressed with Bombay, I figured sibling restaurants don’t always reflect on the others’ quality. And anyway, it’d been a long while.

                                          Monsoon is a heavy, dark-wood, old-style Indian restaurant with white-cloth tables (topped with heavy white paper). It felt kind of dreary, actually. Maybe it looks better at night. Maybe it was just me.

                                          The “fish” in this dish is mahi-mahi. I’m not sure what made it “Goan-style”, though. Perhaps the fresh ginger strips that were mixed into the curry along with the fish? Other than that, the sauce was pretty generic-tasting.

                                          The quality of the fish was variable. By that I mean, some of the pieces (there were several) tasted fresh, sweet, mellow -- the way I think of mahi-mahi. Others were a little tough and more than a little fishy-tasting.

                                          The server asked the usual “heat scale” question: I requested the usual 10, got the usual reaction, and received a 4 or 5, max. The server offered to change the heat level -- either way -- after the fact, but I never return food to the kitchen unless something is horribly wrong. So mild was fine. I just prefer hotter. And I was hungry.

                                          Frankly, there wasn’t anything -- not restaurant ambience, service, or food quality; not flavor, presentation, or food interest (other than the ginger) -- that made this curry worth the $19 price. Not for me, anyway. I know that fish is expensive and that downtown rents are high, etc., etc., but I’m unlikely to go back.

                                          1. Saffron

                                            Not exactly a board favorite, but I have had some of the best curries I've eaten in the area here.

                                            Five on the menu today: yellow with chicken, red with swordfish, beef penang, "Southern Thai" over chicken breast, and green with veggies. I've had them all, and they are all good.

                                            I could see people not being into the "Southern Thai" because it is just a chicken breast smothered in this curry, but the curries themselves are excellent. So, if you don't like the way Saffron incorporates their proteins, then their offerings may not be for you. But delicious a la minute curries aplenty here.


                                            1. I had the chicken curry Monday special at Saffron. I have had Saffron specials for lunch, off and on, many, many times through the years. The one I had Monday was not as good as some in the past. Less veggies. I remember one of Saffron's chicken curry dishes had sweet potatoes instead of or in addition to potatoes. Nonetheless, in a pinch (ie lunch break) the price is right and more convenient for me than the other nearby options.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: wrldtrvl

                                                Sweet potatoes? That's the Wednesday curry (which I like with their chutney).

                                              2. I was trying to go to Olga’s Filipino on Linda Vista yesterday to try to get some sisig, if they perchance had it, or if not that, then a few lumpia. But it was closed again, as it seems to be all of the time recently, at least every time I try to go there.

                                                So, since I struck out there I ended up at J&T Thai Street Food, which is down the hill near Rose Donuts. I ordered the panang curry with chicken, and a Singha.

                                                Food here is served in cardboard bowls/plates and with plastic spoons (much too small) and forks, on heavy, wood, picnic-style tables. A great setting for USD people, I suppose, and a nice-enough order-at-the-counter place for the rest of us. Quite small but apparently popular. I ended up sharing a table. Very friendly people working there, and nice-looking clientele. Ahem.

                                                The curry serving was generous and tasty, and came with plenty of rice. I ordered it spiced 10 and got a 6 of course. I think panang curry is supposed to be on the mild side anyway, so that was OK. Nothing really outstanding about the food, but it made for a good hearty meal.

                                                I’ll no doubt return sometime and try something else. But for about a dollar more I can go to Sab-E-Lee a mile or so up the road and get some of the best Thai food in the city, and there the food is served on real plates & bowls and with real, full-sized silverware. Unfortunately (for me) Sab-E-Lee doesn’t have beer, but they do serve very good Thai tea for $2.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                                  Youre aware you can BYO at SEL, right?

                                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                                    ... and, iirc, there is a liquor store in the same little parking lot, so you don't even have to make a separate trip to get it.

                                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                                      Now that you mention it, yes, I remember reading about that some time ago -- on this board, I think. I never remember it when I go there though, and in fact I can't recall ever seeing anyone drinking beer there. Maybe I'll try picking up a bottle at the liquor store next time, which (yes, you remember correctly, OG) is literally next door. Their Thai tea is really quite good though.

                                                    2. re: DoctorChow

                                                      I have been digging the green curry at Sab-e-Lee since they tweaked it awhile back (added eggplant? can't remember).

                                                      J&T is really odd....I like that it is quick and takes plastic (when I am too lazy to go to the ATM by Sab-E-lee) and generally like most of the dishes but they aren't consistent. I once had a duck soup that tasted ashy and smokey....hoping they burned it and it wasn't a disgruntled employees ashtray haha. Sometimes the soups and curries taste like they are made "too" fresh and are lacking depth...other times they are quite tasty.

                                                      1. re: MrKrispy

                                                        Seems to me it always had eggplant, but I can't positively remember either.

                                                    3. Went to City Heights for snails in curry at Que Huong earlier this afternoon, but chickened out at the last minute and had their goat curry instead. Que Huong is a simple, nicely appointed small restaurant just off 15 and University. Over half of the space is set up with round tables (including carousels) for groups of 8-10. No tables for one or two, but the place was almost deserted when I went.

                                                      The curry, actually a robust soup, was served in a good-sized bowl, and came with an ample amount of very fine rice noodles served separately on a a plate. The broth was smooth, mild, and flavorful, and there were lots of flavor bursts from tidbits at the bottom of the bowl, such as little ginger pieces. There were some wicked-looking dried ripe chilies floating on the surface, but they weren’t really very hot. Just tasty. The goat was tender, by Vietnamese standards, and there was quite a bit of it.

                                                      I enjoyed the food and would order it again. In addition to snail and goat, they also have a chicken curry, off-menu.

                                                      1. I had the Beef Curry at Village Indian, 9187 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. I am not an expert on Indian food by any stretch, but this dish was just okay. It did not taste bad, but it was kind of a glorified tomato sauce. Maybe this is correct though? In any event, not a complete disaster, but not amazing.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Dagney

                                                          Beef as the meat component in an Indian curry is rather unusual and they are often from the region of Goa. Do you know if it was from that region ? The only other Indian beef curry I ever saw was a beef karahi

                                                          1. re: honkman

                                                            iirc, Village Indian is halal. Also, no alcohol of any kind is allowed by the owners.

                                                            1. re: honkman

                                                              Beef is usually found in Muslim cuisines in India. The best bet for a beef curry in India is at a place serving Kerala cuisine. Goans use it, but beef biryani and beef curry is classic Kerala street food. Mayura in LA is the closest we got in San Diego.

                                                          2. I had the shrimp and clam pineapple curry for lunch today at Lotus Thai in Hillcrest, a tidy spot on 6th. I must say that while I like the restaurant, I didn’t care for this dish. There were three large shrimp and lots of clams in it, but in fact the latter was part of the problem. The number of sweet pineapple chunks didn’t adequately offset the strong clam flavor, which was then out of balance with the mild-flavored curry. The dish needed more sweetness, perhaps from another (or more) fruit.

                                                            More chili heat and flavor would have helped, too. I requested the dish “hot”, spicy-wise, and was then asked for more specificity via the 10-point scale. When I said “`10” the response was “really?”. The as-served level was five or six. Same old same old.

                                                            I’ll return to Lotus, as I’ve had some flavorful meals there in the past, but I can’t recommend this particular menu item.

                                                            1. So....SD Dish of the Month - November 2013?

                                                              7 Replies
                                                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                  Not bugs, please not bugs...

                                                                  Nor offal, that would be awful...

                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                    Darn, DD, you stole my thunder. On to the next one on my list...

                                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                                        Et tu, honkman? OK, next one on the list...

                                                                  2. Im late to the party, but what the heck!
                                                                    Hard to generalize curry, since this is associated with Indian cooking, but there isnt really such a thing as curry in India. Blame the Brits!

                                                                    My completely random list:

                                                                    North Indian:Any of the Makhani curries at Punjabi Tandoor. Since they prep the sauce and just add meat, veggies or paneer as ordered, it does matter what type of curry it is. Tangy, and buttery

                                                                    South Indian: Slim pickings, unfortunately. Had my hopes up for Chennai Tiffin, which replaced the old Madras Cafe, but it was underwhelming. I miss the Hyderabadi salaan that the extinct Copper CHimney truck served.

                                                                    Tibetan/Himalayan: The Nepali style dal served complimentary at Taste of the Himalayas. They serve it as a soup, but it is a curry. Yellow lentils. garlic. Cumin. All you'll ever need, really!

                                                                    Japanese: Kare raisu at Okan at lunch. Hinotez has a good looking katsu kare, but they use group pork, and Im vegetarian

                                                                    Thai: Penang at Sab-e-lee original location. That being said, I havent been in many months and I dont know if it is up to scratch

                                                                    Kenyan: The Sukuma Wiki at Flavors of East Africa. Curried greens can be tricky business. These guys get it right...and they use proper spice, not cheap curry powder

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ipsit

                                                                      Certainly agree about the Sukuma Wiki at Flavors of East Africa. For anyone who has a distaste for collard greens, this place will change your mind.