Curry Village

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Shammi kebab.

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Goat do pyaza.

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Baigan bharta.

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Onion naan.

When my sister and I traveled to India, we knew it was going to ruin us on Indian food once we returned to SF. And, well, it kind of did. I can’t even find a replacement for the shockingly good samosas we had at Cream Centre in Mumbai, or the paper-thin paratha with tomato and onion we had in Goa… but there is a Northern Indian place here in the city that I was happy to return to: ~CURRY VILLAGE~. When owners Kamal Barbhuyan (who is from East India) and Nimmi Bano (from Loucknow) had their place in the Tenderloin, Little Delhi, it was always the place I’d send people for really delicious Indian food. Sadly, they had to leave that location, and all was dark in the kingdom (sob). After some prolonged time away, they finally found a place in the Inner Sunset where they could reopen and get Kamal back behind the stoves.

Now, there are four other Indian places within a two-block radius, but this quality place is the spice hut you should beeline too. Don’t be deterred by the tattered sandwich board out front, and once you’re inside, the Indian videos and musical entertainment on the TVs will (hopefully) be at a manageable volume. The large dining room is a bit eclectic style-wise, but really, let’s get to the important stuff: the vittles. If you eat beef, the shammi kebab ($4) appetizer is such a score. Spiced (halal) beef and lentils are minced and cooked into the smoothest texture, loaded with flavor from garlic, chili, ginger, and spices, and then topped with spiced scrambled eggs and minced red onion. It also comes with Kamal’s spicy red sauce that you drizzle on top—I actually had the house pack up the rest of the sauce for me to take home, and I put it on everything that week. It’s a unique dish, and I think a stronger choice than the fried samosas and pakoras that I found too doughy and oily. The sheek kebabs ($5) are also delicious appetizers—the ground meat is spiced and seasoned, and maintains a nice juiciness and smokiness once it comes out of the tandoor and off its skewer. (I want these in a wrap.)

The food can take a little while to come out, but that’s because they’re making your order from scratch, yo. (Just nibble your complimentary pappadums and trio of chutneys and chill.) And do not act all Rambo and order your food spicy, because the kitchen is not messing around. They will pummel you with chilis, violently and mercilessly, so unless your tongue is made of asbestos, exercise some restraint and order it medium spicy. For reals. If things get too hotsie totsie, cool off your maw with a salted lassi.

Sure, you can order some tikka masala, a much-adored and over-ordered dish in this wonderful world of ours, but variety is the spice of life, man. How about some goat? Go for the goat do pyaza ($10.99), which sports a complex sauce that will transfix you with its sweet undertones against its spice, with the flavors of mint, garlic, and a rich mouthfeel. The meat is flavorful and tender (my first-time goat-eatin’ friend gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up), and the meat is a savory match with the tomatoes in the sauce. There’s also an excellent lamb vindaloo ($9.99), a rich and decadent (and spicy!) dish, with tender cubes of lamb and potato, with hints of lemon in the sauce. Kamal has a balanced touch with his wonderful and wicked sauces.

The menu is extensive, with enough different executions that you’ll have plenty to explore; the vegetarian section includes dishes with their homemade paneer, and some lesser-seen dishes, like okra ($8.99). I love the complexity of the baigan bharta ($8.99), studded with tomato, carrot, and green peas. Its creaminess begs to be sopped up with some naan ($1)—which comes a bit thick here. The onion naan ($2), styled with herbs, has a lacier texture—and be watchful of the garlic version, which has so much raw garlic in it that it can overwhelm whatever you’re eating.

At this point, you should be getting rather full. The servings are quite huge, very generous, so be prepared to bring home some leftovers unless you’re in a party of four (I would totally come here with a big group). The biryanis are special here, one of Kamal’s specialties (and passions). The chicken Hyderabadi dum biryani ($9.99) was a favorite—with a dark and dusky color, hinting at its fullness of seasoning and flavor—but I learned it’s sadly off the menu now (Kamal said customers didn’t care for its richness—a shame!).

It’s doubtful you’ll have room for dessert, but in case you do, you can get pistachio kulfi ($4) (or mango if you want something sweeter). You might be able to get a taste of what they served at the lunch buffet that day as well—sometimes sweet fruits or rice puddings. Speaking of the lunch buffet, sadly I have not been able to make it over for lunch, but I hear it’s quite the spread, and only $8.99 Mon-Thu, and $9.99 Fri-Sun. (At the time of this review, they were also just launching a dinner buffet for $13.99 Sat-Sun.) Beer and wine has also just been added. And you should know that when you return (and you will), Kamal and Nimmi are quick to adopt their regular customers like family, happy to welcome you back with a piping hot mug of chai or a mango lassi, asking, “Where have you beeeeeen?”

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1386 9th Ave. San Francisco
(at Judah St.)
415-731-2388
$$
Kamal Barbhuyan, chef

Cuisine

  • Indian

Features

  • Good for Groups
  • Kid Friendly
  • Lunch